Ever pop by Sundog Books? Chances are you unknowingly interacted with our beloved Bob White, co-owner with his wife, Linda, of the bookshop.
Since the humble beginnings of this iconic independent bookstore in 1986, most days you could find Bob at the front table rearranging each book stack to precise ruler measurements, likely an excuse to greet customers with a hearty, “Let me know if I can help ya!” paired with his trademark Mississippi accent that dripped with charm.
Without a doubt, one of his greatest joys was recommending reads to customers and engaging with those who sought the prize of a good story. And boy, were they in the right spot, because Bob White had a nose for sniffing out the best authors.
Down-to-earth and easy to talk to like any good Southern boy, Bob was utterly delightful with that dry sense of humor he possessed. Customers, staffers, friends and family alike recount the countless times Bob uttered a riotous line, with a twinkle in his eye, that left them rolling on the sandy wooden floors. And Bob loved it when that happened — he absolutely lived for that reaction.
It’s safe to say that Bob saw himself as much more than just a bookshop owner or a bookseller — but as a steward of these incredible stories and a door to the world of literature.
Their many staffers, who count him and Linda as mentors, dear friends and the family they choose, regularly walked into the bookshop to find Bob’s personal books waiting for them, with their names attached and a quick scribble of “I think you will really like this!” This was the mark of a read that will knock your socks off. It meant that you had less than seven days until he started dissecting plot points with you, so you better read fast.
Linda and Bob were always the first to throw up their hands to anyone in need, on staff or within the community. The charity work, countless donations and silent outreach conducted over nearly four decades from this bookshop is a credit to the couple’s generous spirit. The full impact of their combined legacy within our town’s extended footprint will never be fully known because so much of what they have done for others has been a whisper. From a single mother needing support to donating thousands of books to prisoners in need of literature to every other circumstance you can think of, they are the kind hearted, silent heroes who rarely make the news.
Next time you’re at Sundog Books, be sure to look at Bob’s Staff Recommendation Shelf. Pull a book or two from it — don’t worry, the staff replenishes his picks. Bob would want you to read his selections. Then, if he were still with us, he would put his arm around your shoulders and in his honey thick Southern accent, he’d tell you exactly why this particular book is the read — just for you, just for this moment — all with a twinkle in his eye.
Bob, we’ll continue to honor you always at Sundog Books. We’ll keep your memory alive within these walls and pass on your book recommendations just as you would want us to. We love you dearly.
Bob’s Best Book Recommendations
Selected by longtime Sundog Books’ staffers Bryan Beasley of 20 years and Jay Ramsey of 10 years
“Razzmatazz” by Christopher Moore
San Francisco, 1947. Bartender Sammy "Two Toes" Tiffin and the rest of the Cookie's Coffee Irregulars — a ragtag bunch of working mugs last seen in “Noir” —are on the hustle: they're trying to open a driving school; shanghai an abusive Swedish stevedore; get Mable, the local madam, and her girls to a Christmas party at the State Hospital without alerting the overzealous head of the S.F.P.D. vice squad; all while Sammy's girlfriend, Stilton (a.k.a. the Cheese), and her "Wendy the Welder" gal pals are using their wartime shipbuilding skills on a secret project that might be attracting the attention of some government Men in Black. And, oh yeah, someone is murdering the city's drag kings and club owner Jimmy Vasco is sure she's next on the list and wants Sammy to find the killer.
Meanwhile, Eddie "Moo Shoes" Shu has been summoned by his Uncle Ho to help save his opium den from Squid Kid Tang, a vicious gangster who is determined to retrieve a priceless relic: an ancient statue of the powerful Rain Dragon that Ho stole from one of the fighting tongs 40 years earlier. And if Eddie blows it, he just might call down the wrath of that powerful magical creature on all of Fog City.
Strap yourselves in for a bit of the old razzmatazz, ladies and gentlemen. It's Christopher Moore time.
“Lark Ascending” by Silas House
With fires devastating much of America, Lark and his family first leave their home in Maryland for Maine. But as the country increasingly falls under the grip of religious nationalism, it becomes clear that nowhere is safe, not just from physical disasters but also persecution. The family secures a place on a crowded boat headed to Ireland, the last place on earth rumored to be accepting American refugees.
Upon arrival, it turns out that the safe harbor of Ireland no longer exists either — and Lark, the sole survivor of the trans-Atlantic voyage, must disappear into the countryside. As he runs for his life, Lark finds two equally lost and desperate souls: one of the last remaining dogs, who becomes his closest companion, and a fierce, mysterious woman in search of her lost son. Together they form a makeshift family and attempt to reach Glendalough, a place they believe will offer protection. But can any community provide the safety that they seek?
“Lark Ascending” is a moving and unforgettable story of friendship and bravery, and even more, a story of the ongoing fight to protect our personal freedoms and find our shared humanity, from a writer at the peak of his powers.
“Crossroads” by Jonathan Franzen
Jonathan Franzen's novels are celebrated for their unforgettably vivid characters and for their keen-eyed take on contemporary America. In “Crossroads,” Franzen ventures back into the past and explores the history of two generations. With characteristic humor and complexity, and with even greater warmth, he conjures a world that resonates powerfully with our own.
A tour de force of interwoven perspectives and sustained suspense, its action largely unfolding on a single winter day, “Crossroads” is the story of a Midwestern family at a pivotal moment of moral crisis. Jonathan Franzen's gift for melding the small picture and the big picture has never been more dazzlingly evident.
“Nightcrawling” by Leila Mottley
Kiara and her brother, Marcus, are scraping by in an East Oakland apartment complex optimistically called the Regal-Hi. Both have dropped out of high school, their family fractured by death and prison. But while Marcus clings to his dream of rap stardom, Kiara hunts for work to pay their rent — which has more than doubled — and to keep the nine-year-old boy next door, abandoned by his mother, safe and fed.
One night, what begins as a drunken misunderstanding with a stranger turns into the job Kiara never imagined wanting but now desperately needs: night crawling. Her world breaks open even further when her name surfaces in an investigation that exposes her as a key witness in a massive scandal within the Oakland Police Department.
“The Actual Star” by Monica Byrne
David Mitchell’s “Cloud Atlas” meets Octavia Butler’s “Earthseed” series, as acclaimed author Monica Byrne (“The Girl in the Road”) spins a brilliant multigenerational saga spanning two thousand years, from the collapse of the ancient Maya to a far-future utopia on the brink of civil war.
“The Actual Star” takes readers on a journey over thousands of years and six continents — collapsing three separate timelines into one cave in the Belizean jungle.
An epic saga of three reincarnated souls, this novel demonstrates the entanglements of tradition and progress, sister and stranger, love and hate. The book jumps forward and backward in time among a pair of twins who ruled a Maya kingdom, a young American on a trip of self-discovery, and two dangerous charismatics in a conflict that will determine the fate of the few humans left on Earth after massive climate change.
In each era, age-old questions about existence and belonging and identity converge deep underground. Because only in complete darkness can one truly see the stars.
Book descriptions provided by Goodreads.
“I only read fiction, because I can’t handle the truth.”— Bob White, in response to someone asking for a non-fiction recommendation.
“If you’re having trouble getting into literature, just focus on reading one page a night. Start small.” — Bob White
“Bob, though you have shuffled off this mortal coil, your spirit lives on in the magical temple to books you helped create. Thank you for everything. You brought the world to us, dear friend.” — Micah Davis, president of Seaside Community Development Corp.
“Neighborliness makes places like Sundog Books work; we, Bob’s neighbors, celebrate his vision and his achievement. Sundog will always have a place in this neighborhood that he helped pioneer, and Bob, himself, will always have a place in our hearts.” — Robert Davis, co-founder of Seaside
“Time spent with Bob was just easy. It was a moment to let your hair down, someone you could be your authentic self with, no judgment. Because Bob was his true self through and through, always. I treasure every morning spent side by side helping customers together. He made working for the bookshop an absolute joy. He was the best of the best.” — Michelle Hayes Uhlfelder, longtime friend and Sundog Books staffer for five years
“As a bookshop employee, Bob always stood up for us if there ever was an impolite customer. He was a wonderful man to work for.” — Kathy Clemmons, staffer of Sundog Books for seven years
“I had the honor of interacting with Bob almost every day for the last 35 years. I always enjoyed his sense of humor, his perspective on life, and the time spent building our businesses side by side together over the years. I will miss him dearly.” — Charlie Modica, owner of Modica Market
“Robert and Daryl Davis allowed my father and mother (the Modicas) and Linda and Bob White to create their dreams in Seaside. A market. A bookstore. A community. Bob was a part of my daily life as store neighbors. He was always full of laughter and vibrant. I affectionately called him “Uncle Bob” and of course, I never read enough for his liking.” — Carmel Modica of Modica Market
“Bob’s voice in our community was a voice of intelligence, brilliant humor and rebelliousness. Always there for a fascinating conversation; politics first and foremost, and pretty much anything under the sun. Bob will certainly be greatly missed, but we can take comfort in the certainty that every time we step into Sundog Books, his spirit will be in the folds of every page. I know I won’t be able to walk through those doors without thinking of him.” — Dave Rauschkolb, owner of Bud & Alley’s Waterfront Restaurant