January 1st, 2018

bookstore // dark carnival.

One of the greatest benefits to living in the Bay Area has been discovering all the hidden bookstore gems. There’s nothing more fun than a quick adventure to a new-to-me bookstore, followed by tea at a cafe. Most recently, I spent an afternoon checking out Dark Carnival in Berkeley, a store focused primarily on fantasy, science-fiction and thriller/mystery and named after Ray Bradbury’s short story collection of the same name.

Dark Carnival has the feel of an ancient bookstore hermetically sealed in time; a portal to the past. But, fear not, the stock ranges from current releases to highly obscure British imports and out-of-print or signed editions. They also have some very interesting nonfiction sections, including headers such as: Arthuriana, Celtic lore and faeries.

The bookstore itself is small and dark with a distinct smell of old pages — don’t go in expecting a well-lit, Barnes and Noble-esque experience. There is not an entirely discernable method to the organizational madness, it’s what I would describe as “almost alphabetical.” It’s definitely cluttered, but in a charming way, and I look at that more as an opportunity to lose myself in another world for a little while.

As you descend deeper into the first floor depths of the store, you find piles of books, truly stacked to the ceiling, for your rummaging pleasure. The caddy-corner nooks and unexpected vestibules are lit with lamps of varying wattages. Ascending the stairs brings you to yet another floor of genre selections and kitschy toys. Plastic ravens peek out at you from the shelves as you browse. It was here that I discovered a couple of titles I had been hunting for a while and my partner found a 90’s collectible toy of The Confessor.

Overall, this is definitely a local store I will continue to support. Personally, I like the vibe more than the similarly stocked Borderlands in San Francisco, though I acknowledge it may be easier to find a specific title there. The Dark Carnival staff was quiet, but helpful if you had questions. Additionally, if you are using credit, you will have to pay next door at Escapist Comics — but, that just gives you an excuse to pick up a graphic novel too, right?