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Best Literary Mine Los Angeles 2008 

Book Cellar

Tucked along the far backside of the Santa Monica Mountains, there, among the native oaks and tall ash trees, just off a freeway frontage road that looks more like a state scenic drive, is the greatest and hardest-to-find used bookstore in Los Angeles or Ventura counties. Book Cellar, hidden in the basement of the Agoura Hills Library, has so many impressive titles — beautiful hardbacks and trades are a specialty — that the small space literally overflows with riches.

Cozy, with reading chairs, a children's table and a customary plate of free cookies, the Cellar is packed each Saturday — the one day each week it opens to the public. It gets so many great book donations that each year its sponsor, Friends of Agoura Hills Library, sends about $30,000 worth of books upstairs, to the shelves of the ivy-covered, Craftsman-style public library. (The friends have also created and regularly restock a prison library within the Ventura County jail system; other recipients of their donated books include New Orleans and towns in Iraq, Ghana and Armenia.)

But hey, this isn't about those do-gooders at the library, like manager Diane Haupt, who, each week, stuffs her Sequoia to the brim with several thousand donated books and knows every title on the shelves. This is about you. Go because it's a beautiful and easy drive west of Los Angeles, through rolling grasslands and hills to the cutoff at Kanan Dume Road. And go because there are so many $1 treasures to be had: art books with full-color plates, hard-to-find cookbooks, a dozen or more books about horses (it's a local thing), and always a fine selection of history, biography, self-help, home decorating/fixing and several shelves of recently released trade novels you'd hate to spend $15 on.

Naturally, they've also got a huge collection of paperback best-sellers, murder-mysteries and romance novels, and at 50 cents per paperback, the price is right.

—N. Jenssen

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