Best in the West

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Laguna Beach Books_credit Ashley Ryan
USA Today’s recently named Laguna Beach Books one of 30 “cool indie bookstores” in the country. | Photo by Ashley Ryan

Jane Hanauer, owner of Laguna Beach Books, reveals how she felt when her store was named one of the best in the country, which titles she’s currently loving and more.

By Ashley Ryan


The fabric of Laguna Beach is a unique one: Instead of chain stores and popular restaurants, our artistic beach town is filled with one-of-a-kind gems run by Laguna locals. One such spot—Laguna Beach Books, the only bookstore in town—was recently recognized for its distinctive charm.

In mid-September, USA Today’s named Laguna Beach Books one of 30 “cool indie bookstores” in the country. The shop, which is owned by Laguna resident Jane Hanauer, opened in 2006 and, despite the fact that it is Hanauer’s first foray into running a business, the bookstore has enjoyed great success thanks to locals and tourists alike.

Hanauer has long been an avid reader. Her father, John Boyle, was a talented writer who worked as chief of foreign correspondents for Time magazine; he and her mother both surrounded Hanauer with an endless stream of books that the family poured over regularly. This influence led to her desire to own a bookstore, a dream realized when her husband, Joe, renovated the Old Pottery Place: Laguna Beach Books was the first lease he signed at the updated center, and they haven’t looked back since.

Laguna Beach Books is a pivotal part of Laguna Beach, with sections dedicated to fiction and nonfiction alike—plus cooking, children’s books, self-help and more. The shop is known not only for showcasing bestsellers, but also maps of nearby regions, greeting cards and novels written by locals as well. Plus, the bookstore plays host to a number of events, from discussions with authors and signings to book club meetings, workshops and poetry nights, making it a gathering place for all members of the community.

Hanauer and her staff maintain that their customers feel like a part of their family—a family they hope to continue to serve for years to come.

Read on to learn more about Hanauer’s mission, her goals for the future and how locals helped support Laguna Beach Books during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Jane Hanauer left and Lisa Childers
Jane Hanauer (left), owner of Laguna Beach Books, with Lisa Childers, the store manager

How did you feel when you heard the news that the bookstore was named one of the best in the country?

Jane Hanauer: Thrilled and amazed!


What do you think makes Laguna Beach Books so unique?

JH: Laguna Beach Books has many different titles for a store our size and an extremely knowledgeable staff who will order any book not [available] in the store.


Why do you think Laguna Beach Books has survived in a time when many turn to online retailers or big chain stores for their book purchases?

JH: Although we were closed from March 17 to the end of May [in 2020], we survived due to an outpouring of online orders during that time. Our customers also drove into our alley and picked up books they had ordered. Now, we are reopened and continue to offer personalized service and recommendations for some excellent but less well known books. Free gift wrapping is a big plus as well.


What are some of your favorite new releases?

JH: “Matrix” by Lauren Groff, “The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois” by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers, “The Sweetness of Water” by Nathan Harris, “Beautiful World, Where Are You” by Sally Rooney, “The Madness of Crowds” by Louise Penny and “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” by Taylor Jenkins Reid; “Fresh Water for Flowers” by Valérie Perrin and “Shuggie Bain” by Douglas Stuart.


What are some of your favorite moments or memories since opening the store?

JH: A favorite moment? When Rick Springfield performed “Jessie’s Girl” in the store. His book had just been released. Another is when local favorite chef Jeff Gordinier came to speak and sign his book “Hungry: Eating, Road-Tripping, and Risking It All with the Greatest Chef in the World.” We also had a few wonderful online events while the store was closed with Louise Erdrich and Sue Miller.


What are some of your favorite local small businesses to support?

JH: Cock & Tail Home, 7 Roots, Vertigo [Home] and The Shoe Box


Is there anything you’d like to do in regards to the store that you haven’t done yet?

JH: Our goal is the same as all small businesses—and that is to stay in business.

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