Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Pat Cody, co-founder of Cody’s Books, dies

I just saw this announcement and wanted to share it before running off to work. I have taken a few paragraphs from the Berkeleyside edition (please click on the link for the full article) by Frances Dinkelspiel.

Pat Cody, who along with her husband Fred, built one of Berkeley’s most beloved institutions, Cody’s Books, died Thursday, Sept. 30 at 87.

Pat, who was born in New London, Connecticut in 1923, was getting her master’s degree in economics at Columbia College when she met her husband, Fred. The pair married in 1946 and lived in England and Mexico City, where they were part of a lively expatriate community.

“They attended social gatherings at the home of Frieda Kahlo and Diego Rivera, and met luminaries like Pablo Neruda, who declared that Pat’s lemon meringue pie was the best he ever had!” according to her son, Anthony Cody.

The couple moved to Berkeley in 1956 and opened Cody’s Books in a small storefront on the north side of campus. They later moved it to a gleaming modern store on Telegraph and Haste on the south side of campus. Cody’s, along with Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, was one of the first bookstores to carry a large selection of affordable paperbacks. Most stores at the time only held expensive hardcover books. Cody’s became immensely popular with students and grew into an informal cultural center that brought together authors, activists, cutting-edge speakers and readers.

When the National Guard clubbed and tear-gassed UC Berkeley students protesting the Vietnam War in 1968, Cody’s served as a first aid station for the injured.

Cody’s Book can be purchased at Powells Books. The first time I saw the book was when I went one evening to the store on 4th Street just before it closed down. We weren’t planning on buying, rather it was a pilgrimage, an opportunity to pay our respects to an icon of literary streets of Berkeley.

Cody’s Books, and all that it grew to optimize is sadly missed. So will those who pioneered their way. There will be a public memorial service Saturday, Oct. 30, at 2 p.m. at the First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way.

Perhaps another way to pay tribute to Pat’s work and vision might be to go to your local independent bookstore and buy a book on October 30. Think of Pat when you do. Please click here for a list of independent bookstores in the Bay Area.

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area.

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4 thoughts on “Pat Cody, co-founder of Cody’s Books, dies

  1. And so competing is all she needs until the day Cody discovers what Ali has been hiding so well. Economics Books

  2. Pingback: Lecturer (Accounting)

  3. It’s so sad that yet another bookstore, and one that clearly was an important presence in the neighborhood, has bitten the dust.

    But your idea of a way to memorialize it by visiting an independent bookstore is right on. And while we’re there, we should try to buy a book.

    A book bought at a bookstore might some day be an artifact.

  4. I recently had a guest from England visiting me in the Bay Area. They were so impressed with our malls, our chains which were big, clean and had great bargains.

    I wonder if the independent business is more common across the Atlantic, while here it is an endangered species?

    Have a great weekend,

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