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Queer romance novels displayed at Meet Cute in this undated photo.
Courtesy of Robin Dayley
Queer romance novels displayed at Meet Cute in this undated photo.

San Diego Book Crawl returns, bigger than ever

The San Diego Book Crawl returns this week for its sixth year, filling three days with prizes, special events and author signings (and of course books) at 13 indie bookstores throughout the county (view a map here). That's an increase of two new bookstores this year: Joyride Bookshop and Meet Cute.

The Book Crawl is organized collectively by all the local indie bookstores, falling on the weekend of the national Independent Bookstore Day, Saturday, April 29 through Monday, May 1.

According to one of the founding organizers of the Book Crawl, the Library Shop's Scott Ehrlig-Burgess, this year's growth reflects a culture of support for independent bookstores locally — and everywhere.

2023 San Diego Book Crawl map

"When we started the Book Crawl, I think we had seven independent bookstores that were ABA — American Bookseller Association — members," Ehrlig-Burgess said. ABA membership is the main eligibility to be a store in the book crawl.

"We also have a whole bunch of other bookstores in town that are flourishing as well. But we went from seven that first year and this year we're up to thirteen. It's definitely a part of a national trend of independent bookstores kinda having a second life, which is super inspiring," Ehrlig-Burgess said.

New additions

One of the new additions, Joyride Bookshop, is the only dedicated children's bookstore in the crawl. It started out as a mobile bookstore, housed in a tiny, turquoise mini-truck, but recently moved into a permanent storefront in Liberty Station. Joyride will also be taking over operation of the New Children's Museum gift shop later this spring.

The Joyride Bookshop mini-truck is shown in an undated photo.
Courtesy of Joyride Bookshop
The Joyride Bookshop mini-truck is shown in an undated photo.

Locations and Book Crawl hours

Bay Books: 1007 Orange Ave., Coronado. Hours: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday.
Bluestocking Books: 3817 5th Ave., Hillcrest. Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday.
DIESEL: 12843 El Camino Real, Suite 104, Del Mar Highlands Town Center. Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday.
Joyride Bookshop: 2750 Historic Decatur Rd., Ste. 104 (Barracks 15), Liberty Station. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
La Playa Books: 1026 Rosecrans St., Point Loma. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Closed Monday.
Libélula Books & Co: 950 South 26th St., Barrio Logan. Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
The Library Shop: 330 Park Blvd., downtown (inside the Central Library). Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Monday. Closed Sunday.
Meet Cute: 4048 30th St., North Park. Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday.
Mysterious Galaxy: 3555 Rosecrans St. #107; Sports Arena/Point Loma. Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday.
The Book Catapult: 3010-B Juniper St., South Park. Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday.
UC San Diego Bookstore: 9500 Gilman Dr., UC San Diego (in Price Center). Hours: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday. Closed Sunday.
Verbatim Books: 3793 30th St., North Park. Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday and Monday.
Warwick's: 7812 Girard Ave., La Jolla. Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Monday; 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

One of Joyride's owners, Susie Horn, said she and co-owner Katie Turner have long been devotees of the local indie bookstore scene.

"So to be able to join a community that we so admire really means so much," Horn said.


The shop features primarily board books through a small young adult selection. Horn is excited to meet new book lovers participating in the Book Crawl — particularly the younger ones — and they've cultivated a selection of books they hope will build life-long story lovers.

"We want all children who come to our store to be able to see themselves, their family, their culture reflected on our shelves. We believe that children deserve that. And at the same time, we want to provide stories that they've never encountered before, that get them thinking and questioning and curious and building empathy for other people in other situations that are different from their own. And we believe that books can do that in a beautiful way," Horn said.

Another new bookstore in the crawl is Meet Cute, a shop in North Park dedicated to the romance genre — one of just a handful of romance-focused bookstores in the entire country.

Meet Cute's owner Becca Title said she's excited to share their shop with more people in San Diego's "bookish crowd," as well as seeing their familiar customers on the weekend-long party. It comes at a time when reading feels more essential than ever.

"With book bans gaining traction across the country, it will be wonderful to have the opportunity to celebrate our love of indie bookstores with readers and indie bookstore friends," Title said.

Other 'firsts'

Barrio Logan's Libélula Books & Co joined the crawl for the first time last year, and will return for their second crawl this weekend. But the in-person collaboration with other bookstores was a new, welcome addition for co-owner Jesi Gutierrez this year, because most of the planning took place virtually last year.

"That just felt beautiful and exciting, especially exiting the height of the pandemic. So that felt really good to be able to be amongst fellow book nerds, kind of talking shop and dreaming about the possibilities of the return of the Book Crawl," Gutierrez said.

Libélula Books pictured from the sidewalk, with a yellow door and two carts of books outside.
Courtesy of Libélula Books
Libélula Books and Co. in Barrio Logan in San Diego, Calif. is shown in an undated photo.

Libélula has been a strong champion of San Diego-based writer Lizz Huerta's debut novel, "The Lost Dreamer." Huerta is the first official Book Crawl Ambassador, and her book is the crawl's first book club pick.

Author Ambassador Lizz Huerta appearances:

Saturday, April 29:
10 a.m.: Diesel Bookstore
Noon: Warwick's
3 p.m.: Mysterious Galaxy

Sunday, April 30:
10 a.m.: The Book Catapult
Noon: Libélula Books
3 p.m.: Meet Cute

Monday, May 1:
10 a.m.: Verbatim Books
Noon: The Library Shop
2 p.m. Bay Books Coronado

"The Lost Dreamer" is a young adult fantasy novel informed by Mesoamerican history. A lineage of women known as "dreamers" can see a deeper truth. Libélula's Gutierrez said Huerta has "created something very magical."

"We see representation as integral in our ideals and our intention every day when we open up the shop, so the book is just highly celebrated by us as a little community in Barrio Logan. Being from a brown Chicana, indigenous queer author, that's in total alignment with our kind of representation in our ideology as a shop," Gutierrez said. "To top it off, like the beautiful cherry, of course, is that the book is phenomenal."

Huerta will make a series of appearances throughout the crawl.

"An aspiration was always to get local authors more involved with the crawl, because they're such an important part of supporting our local independent bookstores in town," Ehrlig-Burgess said. "We really have a lot more published authors than I think people realize. You know, LA is such a huge literary center, people just sort of assume that we don't have that culture down here — but we really do."

Though the crawl runs Saturday through Monday, not all bookstores are open each day and hours vary. See the list here.

To receive prizes, book crawlers can collect stamps on their official San Diego Book Crawl Passport as they shop at different participating bookstores, while supplies last.

The prizes include special stickers and tote bags designed by Burn All Books' Manda Bernal, and the annual special edition enamel pin designed again by San Diego-based illustrator and artist Susie Ghahremani.

Julia Dixon Evans writes the KPBS Arts newsletter, produces and edits the KPBS/Arts Calendar and works with the KPBS team to cover San Diego's diverse arts scene. Previously, Julia wrote the weekly Culture Report for Voice of San Diego and has reported on arts, culture, books, music, television, dining, the outdoors and more for The A.V. Club, Literary Hub and San Diego CityBeat. She studied literature at UCSD (where she was an oboist in the La Jolla Symphony), and is a published novelist and short fiction writer. She is the founder of Last Exit, a local reading series and literary journal, and she won the 2019 National Magazine Award for Fiction. Julia lives with her family in North Park and loves trail running, vegan tacos and live music.
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