Q&A Aggie Zivaljevic

Words by Sheri Baer

Kepler’s buyer and inventory manager shares what surprises people about Menlo Park’s iconic bookstore, a plot twist that truly shocked her and what she collects (which won’t come as a surprise).

Given that Kepler’s Books dates back to 1955, what most surprises people about the store’s history?
After 68 years, which included two near-death experiences, many people continue to be surprised that Kepler’s is still in business. We like to quote Mark Twain: Rumors of our demise are greatly exaggerated.

What does it take to make the cut as one of Aggie’s “Monthly Picks”?
I was raised reading classics, and my monthly picks are usually books I want to read and reread again and again. As many bookworms will attest, books pick me and not vice versa.

What was memorable about where you grew up?
I was born and raised in Sarajevo, Bosnia, the city now infamous for being under siege for 1,425 days during the break-up of Yugoslavia, the longest siege of a capital city in modern history.

What’s your go-to Peninsula restaurant?
I love Cafe Borrone next to Kepler’s. My favorite dish is their seasonal salad with the best raspberry vinaigrette in the world.

What do you consider a must-do on your bucket list?
Finish writing my novel-in-progress: You Are My Country Now.

What do you collect?
Not surprisingly, I collect books and even have different editions of some of my favorite books.

What do you consider to be the best and worst book-to-movie adaptations?
My favorite is Remains of the Day (after Kazuo Ishiguro’s book) with Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins. My pick for the worst is the recent Netflix adaptation of Rebecca with Lily James and Armie Hammer (lovely actors, but it didn’t work for me).

Where do you go on the Peninsula that recharges your batteries?
My favorite weekend pastime is hiking Russian Ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains and having a picnic under the centuries-old trees (the Ancient Oaks Trail).

What’s a book with a plot twist that truly shocked you?
The recently published The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese. Something so shocking happens at the end of that book, and I never saw it coming!

What is your most cherished possession?
My mother’s notebook with her handwritten recipes.

What’s the last thing you do before you go to sleep?
Most nights, I read in bed for one or two hours. I have a big pile of advanced copies of upcoming books on my night table. Ann Patchett’s new book comes out in August!

What’s your favorite quote?
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.” —James Baldwin