I’ve had opportunity to go hiking with archaeologists, geologists, biologists and botanists and it’s always a special experience.
Each sees the landscape with eyes very different from mine, discovering something new and surprising at every step and inevitably infecting me with his or her enthusiasm and passion. Recently, I experienced that same stimulation of excitement and wonder while wandering the shelves of Guadalajara’s La Perla Bookstore with owner Gerry Smith.
In one room he showed me his “Culinary Arts” section with some 300 books on cooking and food. In the next I found literature.
“Here are some great books by Willa Cather,” he said, “and over there I’ve got Upton Sinclair.” He handed me one of the volumes by Sinclair. “Albert Einstein said If you really want to understand the history of the first half of the 20th century, read the Lanny Budd series by Upton Sinclair. These are the books to read. I love them. I think I’ve read them five times.”
As you must have already guessed, the books in this shop did not land on its shelves by accident, but were picked with understanding, care and, I would say, love. “This next section is ‘Western Americana,’” Smith went on. “Most of these come from my personal collection.”
La Perla Books and Records is located on Pedro Moreno near Chapultepec. The entrance is small and unassuming, but as you climb the stairs you are greeted by the faces of Bob Dylan, Crosby, Stills and Nash and other rock legends. These posters and album covers make it clear that La Perla is both a record and book store, reflecting the expertise and preferences of its two owners, Gerry Smith and Ernesto “Bola” Domene. While Smith fills his rooms with good books, Domene’s collections reflect his expertise in rock music. “Bola was the drummer for Mexico’s hottest rock band of the 1990’s, La Lupita,” Smith told me. He continues on today as a member of the rock-pop band “Rostros Ocultos.” La Perla has around 10,000 new and used disks for sale. Vinyls are a specialty, but they also sell CDs and even a few 8-tracks.