For Elizabeth Cook-Romero and Lee Romero, owners of Books of Interest, business is personal. "We're readers and artists, so we buy things in areas that we know," says Cook-Romero, one sunny morning at her shop on a leafy block in Sante Fe. "That's why we call it Books of Interest—they're the books that interest us."
"It's very much a personal experience," a friend told us about shopping at Books of Interest before we left for our trip. "They're sharing a passion."
So, what kinds of things do the co-owners get excited about? Everything from highly collectible boxed sets of art books to rare novels that have come to define the region they call home. (They are so excited by them, in fact, that they've come out of retirement—twice!—to get back into bookselling.) Their eclectic collection of books makes for a delightfully labyrinthine shop that you'll want to set aside an afternoon to explore.
Below, Cook-Romero shares a few of those very special things.
1. Leo Romero's Poetry
Shop owner Leo Romero is also a poet, and signed copies of his books are available for purchase in the shop. If you want to immerse yourself in the writing of a local artist, this is the place to start.
2. A Rare Photo Book
"This is a first edition from 1955 with a cover by Joan Miró. This book is not in perfect condition—if it were, it would be worth a couple thousand dollars. It's a little banged up, but the inside is perfect," says Cook-Romero. "It used a printing technique that's not done anymore. It has these super-rich blacks. The presses that did this printing were sold off as scrap a few years ago, so there's just nothing like this being produced today."
3. The Southwest Section
"This section of the store is really good—there are rare books in here but there are also books like Desert Solitaire, which is a Southwest classic that everyone who lives here actually should read," says Cook-Romero. "This is a brand new copy, and it's half-price. We have collectible things, and we also have books at really reasonable prices."
4. Elizabeth Cook-Romero's Jewelry
Cook-Romero is a silversmith, and the shop features a small glass case with a handful of her pieces for sale. "These hand-forged earrings were made using a technique that very few people know. They're all hammered," she says. "I own, like, 30 hammers, some of them handmade by blacksmiths—they're my most precious possessions. Leo says other women buy shoes, and I have my hammers."
5. The Literature Room
"Because we're both readers and creative people, we have this whole room of literature. It's not so much best sellers; it's for serious readers. We have a few holes right now becuase some good customers have been in," says Cook-Romero. "The literature and the poetry are what Leo really, really knows."
Note: Books of Interest will be moving to a new location at the end of the summer. They are currently located at 311 Aztec Street and will be moving to 1333 Cerrillos Road (just a five-minute drive away). Call 505.984.9828 or visit booksofinterestsf.com to confirm the current address before visiting.