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Radical Chapters: Pacifist Bookseller Roy Kepler and the Paperback Revolution Hardcover – September 27, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 427 pages
  • Publisher: Syracuse University Press; 1 edition (September 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0815610068
  • ISBN-13: 978-0815610069
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #386,674 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

America’s sudden involvement in WWII made life more than difficult for pacifists, especially those who did not have strong religious ties undergirding their positions. Brothers Earl and Roy Kepler steadfastly maintained their antiwar beliefs, but Earl soon found himself in prison and Roy in a make-work program for conscientious objectors. Earl died in a fire, but Roy endured multiple internments throughout the war’s course. A gulag-like experience in Michigan led Roy to near rebellion against inhumane treatment. After assuming an active role in postwar pacifism and then turning to radio broadcasting, Roy married and founded Kepler’s Books, in Menlo Park, California, a gathering spot for radical students and a focal point for sixties counterculture. There Kepler helped popularize a new format for distributing serious literature: the paperback. Doyle’s revealing narrative of the often overlooked saga of American conscientious objectors during WWII may be the book’s most lasting contribution. --Mark Knoblauch


In generous, elegant prose, Doyle traces Kepler's life and times from World War II, as a radical pacifist, antinuclear activist during the Cold War and antiwar activist from the Vietnam War to his death in 1994. But as Doyle asserts, his creation-one of the most influential bookstores in American history-has a life all its own that continues today. Doyle also chronicles in a dozen profiles the entire sociocultural history of California from the 1950s to the present a sort of populist manifesto with a notable cast of counterculture characters from Joan Baez and Ken Kesey to Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. It s a breathtaking read, worthy of the singular bookstore. --San Francisco Chronicle Review

In Kepler's you could find a pre-Grateful Dead Jerry Garcia playing the guitar in the back room or Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak shopping for engineering books, writes Washington journalist Michael Doyle in his scholarly Radical Chapters (Syracuse University, $29.95). Less an ode to the San Francisco Bay Area bookstore than an authoritative biography of its iconoclastic owner, Radical Chapters opens with Roy Kepler's years as a conscientious objector in World War II and focuses on the 1960s, when Kepler managed Joan Baez s finances and taught a new generation how to protest. Doyle, who visited Kepler's as a boy and interviewed the owner before his death, believes that Kepler saw the bookstore mainly as a means to support his family, but pacifism was his mission. Alas, the health of its owner and the business started to decline. Kepler died in 1994 , and the last of his three stores closed in 2005 three months after the chain s 50th anniversary. But the Menlo Park store has enjoyed an unlikely resurrection , thanks to community investors who have reopened the doors and turned the lights back on. Today, it's future remains as uncertain as any independent bookstore's, Doyle writes in an epilogue, but here s hoping it and all the rest of the nation's indies enjoy a new chapter. --The Washington Post

The book's text is enhanced by Doyle's skill in melding the voices of Kepler and his colleagues to tell the story of the peace activist and his bookstores. A superbly researched and written book. --Journal of American Culture

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By takingadayoff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I read Radical Chapters for the story of Kepler's bookstore and the book business over the past sixty years. It covers that, but the bulk of the book is the story of Roy Kepler. He ran a good bookstore, but Roy's real focus in life was the pacifist movement. Running a bookstore was the best way he could think of in the fifties to earn a living and still have time to devote to peace activities.

It's impossible to separate Roy's political life from the bookstore. Many of his friends in the movement hung out at Kepler's, and others who were just hanging out ended up joining the anti-war protests.

The strength of Radical Chapters is Roy's biography. The history of the paperback revolution in the Bay Area, when paperbacks changed publishing and book buying in a way very similar to the ebook revolution of today, has been told in an excellent documentary called Paperback Dreams. The books that Radical Chapters author Michael Doyle draws on to explain the part of the story about the business of bookselling are two of the best on the subject - Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption by Laura J. Miller, and Two-Bit Culture: The Paperbacking of America by Kenneth C. Davis.

The story that hasn't been told until now is that of Roy himself.
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Format: Hardcover
My bias should be clear from the beginning. I came of age in Roy Kepler's bookstore. I bit the apple. The life of the mind became exciting to me in that bookstore, where people and worlds collided, often with delight. Talented souls of all sorts bumped into each other in the aisles -- Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter, Joan Baez, Jeff Shurtleff, computer geeks, pacifists, publishers, Zen Buddhists, Stanford faculty, film fans from the Guild Theater, and locals alike. The bookstore welcomed all comers at all hours. How lucky to have been there. This affection leads me to love this book. No apologies.

The author managed to interview many people, and as a result was able to build a balanced view of Roy Kepler and the place he created. Indeed, a balanced but affectionate perspective is the author's gift to those who read this book. Warts and all, you'll find the mid-Peninsula melting pot comes alive. The author tells the story of this human, messy, marvelous place.

The mid-Peninsula Free University section is especially true to life. Psychodrama leaders on the fringe of Carl Rogers, mixed with neo-Maoist devotees of Bruce Franklin's Revolutionary Union. No wonder the John Birch Society members were so alarmed.

Like "The Milagro Bean Field Wars," this work recreates a time and place that is worth documenting and remembering. Unlike "The Milagro Bean Field Wars," it is a work of non-fiction. Thank goodness.
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By Author on November 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The San Francisco Chronicle praises "Radical Chapters" as a "breathtaking read" that is written with "generous, elegant prose." See the full review here:[...]
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