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Reading Room: Sunrise Bookshop

on February 23, 2009

Scott Weitz has been manning the counter at Sunrise Bookshop, a “metaphysical bookshop” at Telegraph and Dowling, for fifteen years. Weitz has shoulder-length marble-colored hair and wire-rimmed glasses, and has a Tolkein-esque air about him.

Today, he’s wearing a sweatshirt that reads “So Many Books . . . So Little Time” and is talking about his favorite book in the store, The Book of Thoth: A Short Essay on the Tarot of the Egyptians. It’s about an ancient Egyptian tarot deck that’s said to be “hidden inside a golden box, which is contained in a silver box inside a box of ivory and ebony encased in a sycamore box which is found in a bronze box contained in an iron box.”

A lot of what’s available at Sunrise falls along these lines. It opened in 1974 (Weitz is an employee) and is one of the oldest shops in the Bay Area specializing in books on metaphysics, spirituality, the occult—subjects that scream “Berkeley” to anyone familiar with the area, basically. But Weitz says Sunrise is among the last of its kind. Shambhala Booksellers at Telegraph and Dwight closed in 2003, in a big blow to the crystals-and-sutras set. Sunrise absorbed a lot of their unsold product (along with their handsome hand-lettered signs for book sections).

It’s a shaky time for independent booksellers, but, as Weitz says, indies are already used to living on the razor’s edge. And Sunrise has at least one unbeatable thing going in troubled times, beyond its extensive tarot deck collection: The shop’s mood oozes with calm. It’s comforting to be surrounded by titles like “The Life of the Soul” and “Living in the Infinite,” and away from alarming headlines, for a few moments.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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