Viewpoint - August 11, 2010

Letter: Legacy of Book Rack will live on

Thanks so much to The Almanac and reporter Sandy Brundage for the cover story on community treasure Nancy Kiesling, owner of the recently shuttered Book Rack bookstore. As you mentioned in your article, the store has closed due to a fire — but Nancy was scheduled to close it at the end of this year as business slowed.

The article did a fine job of singing Nancy's praises, but I also wanted to point out how loyal a friend Nancy was and is to the other merchants in the area. When Kepler's almost closed a few years ago, we rallied at the Book Rack to figure out ways to keep it open.

I also wanted to say a bit more about the community readings that Nancy organized and funded on her own at her store — paying performers such as the late Dr. Al Jacobs, theater and literature professor at Menlo College. Nancy also provided refreshments at her own expense, and sometimes our neighbors brought homemade desserts.

Community members of all ages gathered at the Book Rack once a month to read Shakespeare, share poems, and present original works. People would walk by the clean, well-lit store on summer evenings, carrying ice cream cones from Baskin Robbins next door and stop to look in. For a few hours each month, Nancy gave high-tech Silicon Valley a Norman Rockwell feel.

Dr. Al Jacobs died in February 2008 and now the Book Rack is closing. But the community created by Nancy and Al continues through Salon Menlo, a book/film discussion group founded at a memorial service and reading that Nancy hosted at the Book Rack that February.

Through a nonprofit fund administered by the Friends of Menlo Park Public Library, Salon Menlo has raised over $5,000 and continues to provide free community programs on topics ranging from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein to the civil rights movement in California.

Community members of all ages are invited to join us for our next free program — a discussion of Shakepeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream" on Sunday, Aug. 22, starting at 1 p.m. in the Fireside Room of the Menlo Park Recreation Center. Menlo Park reference librarian and filmmaker Nick Szegda will be showing film clips from different versions of the film. There will be a "Midsummer" scene reading with puppets performed by a local technology executive. And in the tradition started by Nancy Kiesling, a free brunch will be served and old and new friends will have a chance to bond over great literature. Please join us.

Lauren John, co-founder, Salon Menlo


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