It all started with a blog. Remember those? Seth Marko’s love for reading inspired the Book Catapult, a blog he founded in 2006 where he reviewed the titles he was reading each week, an online diary of sorts. He gained a large following after San Diego’s local radio station KPBS interviewed him about his 117-day reading of a James Patterson novel, an attempt to solve the mystery of why “JPatt” was so popular. Marko concluded that you can “read a chapter in one of [JPatt’s] books during a commercial break on American Idol…. [His readers] kind of read by convenience, you know, rather than looking for real literature.” After 10 years of blogging about literature, Marko wrote a final post to announce that the Book Catapult would become a store. He envisioned it as a place “where you can handle/sniff/flip-through all the books you want…discover books you didn’t know you needed to read, maybe have some literature-related conversations.”

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of Alta Journal.

Today, the Book Catapult is that and more. Located in San Diego’s South Park neighborhood, the shop provides a so-called third space—home and work are the first two—vital to nurturing creativity. It is where neighbors meet to converse and to keep informed of local goings-on and where they always feel welcome. It is where local author Susie Ghahremani painted an owl, a squirrel, a sparrow, an opossum, and a raccoon on a colorful mural framing the shelves of the children’s section. Longtime regulars, including fans from the days when the Book Catapult was merely a blog, often come by to laugh and gossip alongside newcomers who stop in while visiting the neighborhood’s historic Craftsman homes.

the book catapult, san diego
San Diego’s the Book Catapult is known for its broad selection of fiction and nonfiction with an emphasis on nature.
Charlie Neuman

Such activities came to a halt during the pandemic, but both the community and the shop’s staff proved their loyalty. Marko and his wife and business partner, Jennifer Powell, say that their business doubled even though the store’s front doors were closed to the public. Staff members took online and phone orders and hand-delivered purchases around the neighborhood more quickly than Amazon.

This spring, author events and other in-store gatherings resumed, including the Book Catapult’s participation in the popular San Diego Book Crawl, which took place over the last weekend in April and coincided with Indie Bookstore Day. It was an important milestone in the shop’s return to normalcy, and Marko and Powell look forward to opening their doors for more celebrations.

Marko likes to say, “If you can find it in an airport bookstore, you probably are not going to find it at the Book Catapult.” Instead, you will find such riches as literary fiction, independent-press releases, works in translation, and nonfiction with an emphasis on nature.

In other words, no JPatt.•

The Book Catapult

3010-B Juniper St., San Diego,

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Amy E Wallen is the author of How to Write a Novel in 20 Pies: Sweet & Savory Secrets for Surviving the Writing Life, When We Were Ghouls: A Memoir of Ghost Stories and MoonPies & Movie Stars