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Berkeley’s commercial district is mainly comprised of small, independently-owned shops; there’s actually a city law that caps the number of chain stores that can do business here.  I’ve spent many afternoons wandering in and out of shops on Telegraph or Shattuck browsing their curious wares, always looking for that dusty hidden treasure nestled in a corner somewhere.  Some of the best shops in Berkeley to peruse are its bookstores, which buy and sell new and used books of all kinds.

Moes Books makes an appearance in The Graduate when Dustin Hoffmans character travels to Berkeley.

Moe's Books on Telegraph makes an appearance in The Graduate (1967) when Dustin Hoffman's character travels to Berkeley.

“Moe’s moved to Telegraph Avenue just in time for the Free Speech Movement.  During the Vietnam protests, Telegraph became the flashpoint for numerous run-ins with the police and national guard. When curfews were called by the authorities, Moe would refuse to close his doors, saying people were free to walk on the streets. An occasional tear gas canister would roll down the street and many protesters took refuge in the store.”

Moe’s Books

I still pass Moes on my way to class every morning.  Next year will be their 50th year of business.

I still pass Moe's on my way to class every morning. Next year will be their 50th year of business.

While Moe’s gets top marks for having four floors of books on virtually any subject you can think of, and is certainly a Telegraph Avenue landmark, Half Price Books on Shattuck is my favorite bookstore in Berkeley to buy books from.  Although HPB is a chain store (I was quite sad when I found out), it is the literature equivalent of Berkeley Bowl, with quality books at shockingly low prices.  HPB is housed in the historical Kress Building on the corner of Shattuck and Addison.

The Kress Building in 1933.

The Kress Building in 1933.

Today, the Kress Building houses Half Price Books, a jazz school, and a theare company.

Today, the Kress Building houses Half Price Books, a jazz school, and a theare company.

Today, the Kress Building houses Half Price Books, a jazz school, and a theatre company.

I always go into HPB with an open mind and come out with a great find or two.  A few buys I’m particularly proud of:

$5.00.

America, The Book. Hardcover. Retail: $24.98. HPB: $5.00.

$7.00.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. Hardcover. Retail: $15.99. HPB: $7.00.

The Godfather. Paperback. Retail: $15.00. HPB: $4.00.

$3.50.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Paperback. Retail: $7.99. HPB: $3.50.

HPB’s stock is discounted because it’s usually overstock or very, very gently used books.  Most of the time, you can’t even tell they’ve been read, and adding an inexpensive book is a great way to personalize a gift.  I’m a bookworm, though, so most of the books I buy here are for me.  I go about once a month, and treat myself to any one book I want.  Getting a new book can make a bad day better, and a little literacy never hurt anyone.

Well, almost never.

Well, almost never, according to this Threadless shirt.

Half Price Books

2036 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 526-6080

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Today is brought to you by the number 42.

Why is 42 so important today?  Sure, it’s the answer to life, the universe, and everything.  But I bet you didn’t know that 42 is also the number of days until the 2008 General Election.

Depending on your age, this may be the first presidential election in which you are eligible to vote, and you are of course doing your civic duty by doing everything a young voter does to be as educated as possible about the issues at hand.  You’ve watched The Daily Show’s coverage of Indecision 2008.  You’ve seen the YouTube You Choose candidate debates.  You keep up with projections on fivethirtyeight.  You’ve observed the venerated and unbiased political arena that is Digg.  You’ve become a member of the Facebook group of the candidate you most support.

The Best F***ing News Team Ever

The Best F***ing News Team Ever

In all seriousness, though, you might be forgetting something important.  You’re probably going to college outside of the county in which you registered to vote.  Have you registered to be a vote-by-mail voter in November’s General Election?

Fear not.  I have collected all of the necessary URLs for you to strip away the last of your excuses not to vote in three easy steps.  If you’re not a California resident, you’ll need to look up the equivalent forms for your state.

  1. Fill out a very short application to recieve vote-by-mail voter status for this election. You can also check a box to become a permanent vote-by-mail voter (voter-by-mail?), but if your college address keeps changing, I’d advise against it.
  2. Mail the application to your county elections office.
  3. Start reading up on this year’s propositions. You’ll get an official voter information guide in the mail as well.  Think you don’t care about state propositions?  Think again.  Do you care about a high speed rail system spanning across the state?  Do you care about the treatment of farm animals?  Do you care about abortion for minors?  Do you care about whether same-sex marriages will continue to be recognized?

If you’re not registered to vote, but you are a United States citizen who will be at least 18 years old on November 4, 2008, and you are not a felon or legally mentally incompetent, shame on you!  You can’t let all of the money both campaigns have spent on influencing our highly prized and elusive 18-25 demographic go to waste.  Besides, there are hungry kids in Africa who wish they had your ballot to cast.  Fill out a registration form online here.  They really can’t make it any easier for you people.

Registered to vote?  Submitted vote-by-mail status?  Awesome.  We now interrupt this program to bring you a nonpartisan message from Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton.

Click to see the SNL Palin/Hillary Open from SNL last week.

"I believe that diplomacy should be the cornerstone of any foreign policy." "And I can see Russia from my house!"