An Interview with Dennis Wills of D.G. Wills Books

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A veritable one-of-a-kind, it’s easy to see why D.G. Wills Books is a true charm in La Jolla. What is more, in our contemporary, progressively and increasingly impersonal, digital society, the attention paid to personalization and the sheer aesthetics of text is simply inspirational and stimulating.

Dennis began advertising with the La Jolla Blue Book back in 1979 when La Jolla was yet the budding seaside beauty of a community it has grown into. Wills has a complete understanding of what it means to construct a business from the ground up, which is precisely what he set out to do and achieve on La Jolla Boulevard the same year he began advertising. Moreover, his community roots in La Jolla complement the little store’s enduring allure and charisma

The diminutive edifice began on a shoestring budget and with an idea born of love. With a couple of borrowed hammers, a rusty old saw, a few friends that believed in his vision, and a smattering of lumber, work began in 1979. Wills began to craft bookshelves from scratch with painstaking dedication and attention to detail. And with his visualization entrenched in his mind for the La Jolla community, he began to stock the store with various books he located and or stumbled upon at area garage, yard and estate sales.

The dream grew quickly and the bookstore came to be a serene haven for lovers of books, intelligentsias and academics, and rankly, right down to the local who was merely seeking an unobtrusive place to sit and peruse a tome or novel away from the noise pollution life often brings.

Dennis’ undying devotion and commitment to knowledge has drawn various scholars, literary critics, myriad students, and professors from universities from around the contiguous United States. With authors such as Plato, Shakespeare, Darwin, and the Bronte sisters, Wills’ rests assured that he stocks a most inimitable selection of books in the literary world. Indeed, the old, antique and difficult to locate books one may find in his store are certainly not carried by the impersonal chain and corporate stores that pander to frivolity. Perhaps best of all is the place he maintains in the hearts of his clientele, those thousands upon thousands who have found this La Jolla niche and veritable treasure trove, and who have had occasion to interact with him on a personal and intellectual level.

We had the pleasure of speaking to Mr. Wills about his remarkable bookshop.

The genesis of D.G. Wills Books is really interesting. Did you ever imagine it would become what it is today?

Well, one is never sure when opening a business how long or to what extent it might last; but that said, I chose La Jolla specifically to be near UCSD and the Salk Institute on the premise that the educated community’s interest in scholarly books would make it more likely that we would survive for thirty-six years now;  and that good libraries from retired professors would emerge. We were lucky and honored, for example, to have acquired Nobel Laureate Francis Crick’s library.

Out of all of the literary celebrities who have spoken at D.G. Wills Books, do you have any personal favorites?

Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer and Christopher Hitchens were clearly the most entertaining and witty. Francis Crick and Freeman Dyson were the most brilliant scientists here. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins was the most entertaining poet, although Allen Ginsberg drew the largest and most chaotic crowd, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti was the funniest. Playwright Edward Albee’s appearance was like attending a graduate seminar on theater. Pulitzer Prize journalist Maureen Dowd and Jill Abramson, then Managing Editor of the “New York Times,” were a brilliant team when they appeared here together.

Some may argue that the printed word is dying due to all of these technology advancements. What keeps your passion alive for what you do?

While Kindle and other e-book options have their use, many also continue to prefer to handle the printed page. The passion ever remains as we continue to discover the wonders of knowledge and mystery contained within books.

For people who have never been to your store, what should people know before going to D.G. Wills Books?

We carry new, used and antiquarian books, mainly within academic categories, and “backlist titles” that have passed the test of time, like Shakespeare, Darwin or Isaac Newton.

Is there anything special coming up at D.G. Wills Books that you’d like to mention?

Our Thirty-Eighth Annual St. Patrick’s Day Open Reading of Irish Poetry and Prose is coming up, on 17 March 2017, from 7 P.M. until it ends.

What is one piece of advice you would give to aspiring writers today?

My advice to aspiring writers is to read, read, and read; then practice, practice and practice with your revisions, constantly fine tuning.

D.G. Wills is open from Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Be sure to drop in at D.G. Wills, give Dennis a whispered holler, and see for yourself why indeed you’ll want to come back time and again seeking those hard to find gems, as well as enjoy the tranquil atmosphere.

For more information on D.G. Wills Books, Click HERE

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