Bookseller and ardent reader Nancy Salmon was an institution within a Menlo Park institution. For 17 years at Kepler's independent bookstore, Ms. Salmon would talk books with people interested in reading and buying them. As a critical reader, she was popular with authors, publishers and publicists.
Ms. Salmon died on March 12 at the age of 70. A memorial is set for 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 25, at St. Raymond Catholic Church at 1100 Santa Cruz Ave. in Menlo Park. A public reception celebrating her life will follow at the bookstore at 1010 El Camino Real.
Ms. Salmon was "first and foremost a reader across many genres," including memoirs, mystery thrillers, narrative nonfiction and literary fiction, Kepler's manager Amanda Hall told The Almanac. "If she liked a book, she told you why. If she didn't like a book, she told you why."
One of her favorite books, Ms. Hall said, was "Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics," by Daniel James Brown. "She just loved the book, and our customers bought the book," Ms. Hall said. Mr. Brown sent her a personalized signed copy and a thank-you note, she added.
Along with authors, book publishers and publicists knew of Ms. Salmon and appreciated her critical reading and her love of books, Ms. Hall said. She would read advance copies four to six months ahead of publication and be ready for inquiring customers. As for publishers, her participation mattered in that they "want their books to hit the ground running, so to speak," Ms. Hall said.
"I have always believed that the human element is important. It's why I believe in independent businesses," Ms. Salmon wrote in a January 2016 letter to Kepler's when she went into semi-retirement. "I believe in Kepler's as a cultural hub in this area and one of the peninsula's great assets.
"We are not an algorithm. We are individual resources who actually know the product we sell. We read the (New York Times) book review and we know what's on our tables. Our customers expect that of us, and they come back to us because of it."
The people who sell books in Kepler's spend a good part of their days talking about books, Ms. Hall said. "Because of the breadth of her reading, (Ms. Salmon) was a true asset of ours because she could reach so many readers," she said. "You could disagree with her about a book, but it was still a great conversation."
Ms. Salmon went out of her way to talk about authors whose books she loved, but who did not have much of an audience," Ms. Hall said.
Ms. Salmon's shelf – Kepler's booksellers each have a shelf of their favorites - was "well shopped," Ms. Hall said. She did eventually back away from reviewing local authors out of concern for her friendships with them, she said.