Bookseller Spotlight: Green Apple Books, An Interview with August Edwards

We caught up with August Edwards, the founder of the music journal Albuquerque Green Room and the nonfiction and art editor for Fourteen Hills. She’s also a bookseller at Green Apple Books in San Francisco! She told us more about Green Apple Books and her favorite additions to the 33 1/3 series.

Interview conducted by Jane Townsend.

What do you think draws people to Green Apple Books?

Green Apple Books has been around since ‘67 – it’s now officially a Legacy Business in San Francisco, which means we’re a stitch in the city’s history and identity, and we “foster civic engagement and serve as a valuable cultural asset.” I think we’re really known for our curation of used books. Our used book buyers are some of the most intelligent, inspiring people I’ve ever met. They are writers and readers, comedians, musicians, historians, and lovable ruffians. They teach me something new every time I see them, they make me a better person. Across the board, the Green Apple staff is hellacious, and I’m proud that I can say we work together. Maybe that’s my favorite thing about working here. I deeply appreciate the camaraderie – my bookselling, book-reading community.

The exterior of Green Apple Books in 1979. People gather outside to browse the used books laid out on tables outside the store front.
Green Apple Books, 1979

What’s the most memorable interaction you’ve had with a customer?

I used to work at an all used bookstore in Albuquerque, New Mexico called Title Wave Books. On my very second day, a customer came in to return a book, which he placed on the counter with some aggression. I noticed that there was a Q-Tip tucked in the middle of the book like a bookmark. My boss asked why he wanted to return the book, and he said he said the pages were printed wrong. My boss gently took the book from him, flipped it open to the marked page, swiftly shut it, and told him, “Oh! Sorry, we can’t take this back.” The Q-Tip inside, touching the pages, was bloody. I think about that man and his bloody Q-Tip a lot. It was my first clue that bookselling could be dirty business. I thought it was cool.

What’s your favorite 33 1/3?

My favorite book from 33 1/3 is How to Write About Music. When I was 20, having seen a show so life-altering that it made me want to share it with the world, I found this book (after Googling exactly “how to write about music”). It opened the door to a community and way of life that I didn’t know could’ve ever existed. How to Write About Music made the future I sought seem vast and welcoming. I have not looked back since. (I love Patti Smith’s Horses by Phil Shaw and Blondie’s Parallel Lines by Kembrew McLeod, too.)

What 33 1/3 would you like to see added to the series?

I would love to read a 33 1/3 on Sleigh Bells’s album Treats. The album was lauded – rightly so – and I think the duo inspired many other bands. I find Sleigh Bells kind of fascinating. They came to me at the “right” time in my life. I remember seeing them live on SNL in 2012 when I was in high school, and in 2018 I saw them open for Weezer and Pixies. For a duo, they take up a lot of space sonically and physically. It would be a blast to read more about how they fit in the context of their contemporaries as well as their predecessors.

Which books in the series are Green Apple Books customers most drawn to?

At our store people are keen to pick up Madvillain’s Madvillainy by Will Hagle. The loss of MF DOOM remains heavy in our hearts. So I think when people see it on our shelf, it tugs on that deep internal sense of loss, and I don’t see that going away anytime soon – just like how we will continue to hear his influence in music. “Enigmatic” is a word that’s been used to describe MF DOOM. That characteristic compels us to go learn more. And I can’t think of another accessible book about Madvillain or MF DOOM.

What types of reactions do customers have to the 33 1/3 series?

After 20 years of 33 1/3, the series contains a staggering amount of titles – almost 200. I’ve heard people express astonishment that such a series exists in the first place. And really, it does feel too good to be true. Each addition means that somebody’s favorite band or album is written about, and sometimes it’s a preliminary work. I think even the most casual of readers find value somewhere among the titles, because a 33 1/3 is a pretty personal experience.

August Edwards is the founder of the music journal Albuquerque Green Room and the nonfiction and art editor for Fourteen Hills. You can find her work in Word West Revue Vol. 1, Hard Noise, Mulberry Literary, and elsewhere.

Green Apple Books, located in San Francisco, is a cherished independent bookstore that has been a literary hub since 1967. Known for its diverse selection of new and used books, this beloved establishment embodies the essence of community, culture, and the enduring love of literature in the city.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top