The Hungry Mind bookstore in Manhattan Beach is a place to start and to finish. To start a morning walk with a caffe latte , an apricot croissant and newspapers spread across the indoor counter. To finish an afternoon bicycle ride with a few minutes' browsing, a tour of the magazine racks and a cup of cold fruit juice at an outside table.
Just a few blocks from the brand-new Manhattan Beach Pier, the Hungry Mind has a lot worth recommending. The sociable staff serves a variety of pastas and quiches. Surfers (boards checked at the door) mingle with less salty shoppers. An "Award Winning" section promotes the best of fiction and nonfiction. Breakfasts are good, there are plenty of children's books and the people-watching is excellent. It all feels homey.
Repeat visits, though, reveal that bright concepts can be dimmed by poor execution.
Several weeks back, for example, the Hungry Mind ran a first-line quiz: Opening sentences to several books were written out on the chalkboard behind the cashier. Identify the author and title of any, and receive a second drink free. A pretty good idea--if you happened to be packing binoculars. The handwriting was so small you'd have had to climb over the counter for a clear look. And there on a shelf not 10 feet away stood a book of collected great first lines, including some of the would-be stumper phrases. It actually was too easy to pass up.