Thinking about a great read.

Open: Tues. - Sat. 10 AM to 6 PM

3645 C Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, CA, 94549

(925) 385-3026

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Reasonable Books is an independent bookstore in the East San Francisco Bay Area located in Lafayette, California. We are here to serve as a general bookstore with an emphasis on thoughtful and important subjects for the interested and discerning reader.

While we strive to make available illuminating materials you may not even realize you want to read, we also believe that the mind benefits from rest and healthy distractions. You will find books that can help you relax or escape for a well-deserved break here.


26 October 2020: Thanks to the patrons asking for gift certificates! We now have them available in a variety of amounts.

20 October 2020: We are very pleased to have books released recently by local authors. One is "Say Goodbye to Plastic: A Survival Guide for Plastic-Free Living" by Sandra Ann Harris. Sandra's book will help you live more sustainably in your daily life.

We are also happy to carry copies of "Meet the Principal: My Journey Beyond the Curriculum" by Jane Blomstrand, a veteran of public school leadership in California. Jane's stories will inspire and educate anyone with an interest in the important institiution of education for the young.

17 October 2020: Do you know that the "Read" link above takes you to a bite-sized selection of public domain reading material that updates occasionally? The latest selection may help set the tone for Halloween season.

16 October 2020: A fallacy is an invalid pattern of reasoning, that is, a form of argument whose premises do not imply its conclusion (which may be true or false). For example, TU QUOQUE or APPEAL TO HYPOCRISY: Denying or excusing guilt by attributing it to the accuser.

15 October 2020: Shopping locally is an important way to help make up for the shortfall in local sales tax revenue, and doing so helps local businesses struggling during the public health emergency. You can find alternatives to online shopping by consulting the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce Member Directory. Thank you for considering your local businesses!

2 October 2020: It is a pleasure to open the store each day and meet everyone who visits. Even short conversations about books and the love of reading are special. For those wondering, "Reasonable LLC" uses the word in this sense: fair, commonsensical, rational, practical and polite.

30 September 2020: The bookcases have been delivered and are now in place! This means we will be reorganizing the new and used books shortly, and expanding our selection. A number of visitors have asked for books we did not have, and we have copies of them now. We'll gratefully take any suggestions for good titles we lack.

24 September 2020: It has been a pleasure meeting so many visitors during our first two weeks! The topic of used books has come up on occasion. Currently, we are accepting used book donations and will try to find them a home, either through the store or with outside non-profit organizations. We hope to have a credit policy in the future, as space and time permit.

19 September 2020: What a week!

18 September 2020: Not making much noise about this, but... we are open for browsing, counter service and pickups. Still waiting on bookcases, so the inventory is tucked away in the back of the store. It has been nice to meet so many people during the quiet opening. The chairs in front are for anyone to use; we're thinking about how to put some reading material there for friends, neighbors and visitors. :)

13 September 2020: Thanks to our friends for all the work on the sign! Next: some chairs, tables, plants, bookcases. We will require safe practices for visitors, and hope to welcome you very soon :)

9 September 2020: An alpha version of our in-store inventory is available here.

7 September 2020: The latest work has been twofold: sorting and preparing new books for display on shelves arriving in the next week, and getting the new signage ready for installation next weekend. Once the sign is up, we have an eager crew ready to prepare the storefront with book displays and other elements to make an inviting shop. We will adhere to current safety precautions diligently while being ready to welcome visitors in numbers of three or so, safely distanced.

An online service via email should be straightforward since the kids have helped to create a database of all the current inventory. You will see a rough-and-ready list of everything we have soon, and please feel free to send comments. Soft-open will be the week after the sign is installed (this is an aspirational statement). Thanks for all the good wishes so far, Lafayette!

3 September 2020: Most of the new book inventory has arrived, and there are sizable offerings in the following areas: Current Fiction, Classic Literature, History, Philosophy, Humanities, Young Adult. The new sign will be delivered this Sunday, and after a week of preparation, painting and lettering, we intend to install it the following Sunday. We intend to soft-launch Reasonable Books the following week, with some work left to do :)

26 August 2020: That's a lot of boxes of books and it's only halfway done.

25 August 2020: The initial used book inventory has been moved to the store, and for now these books are living on our repurposed library shelves (we are fairly certain these came from the Alameda County Public Library). The timing on this is good, since the new book inventory will begin delivery tomorrow and continue through the rest of the week.

The store signage will be a challenge as it involves a full rebuild of the sign and installation over a sizable awning. We're keeping our fingers crossed that this will happen within a week or so.

10 August 2020: The build out of our space continues at the former Papyrus storefront at 3645C Mount Diablo Boulevard, in the West End Shops near Trader Joe's. This was the second Papyrus store and will feel familiar even after it has been repurposed for books. Stationery and children's books are already served in Lafayette, so please visit our neighbors as the holidays approach.

So far, a lot of the messy work is done, including patching, painting and cleaning, with flooring up next, and then installing shelving and stocking the initial inventory of books. This has already been fun as well as hard work, and it has been a pleasure to meet so many people. More updates are forthcoming :)

Retail restrictions related to public health circumstances are a challenge in addition to those one would already expect of a new independent bookstore, and we appreciate your understanding and thank you for your input as we launch Reasonable Books to serve the residents of Lafayette, and the greater Lamorinda and East Bay Areas.

Work is in progress to provide online and delivery services locally. This may begin with email orders and personal deliveries in accordance with required safety protocols. It will be great to meet you however we can.


Reasonable is owned and operated by Rudy and Betty Winnacker. Email:

(Public Domain)



Through the windows of Jim Daly’s saloon, in the little town of C----, the setting sun streamed in yellow patches, lighting up the glasses scattered on the tables and the faces of several men who were gathered near the bar. Farmers mostly they were, with a sprinkling of shopkeepers, while prominent among them was the village editor, and all were discussing a startling piece of news that had spread through the town and its surroundings. The tidings that Walter Stedman, a laborer on Albert Kelsey’s ranch, had assaulted and murdered his employer’s daughter, had reached them, and had spread universal horror among the people.

A farmer declared that he had seen the deed committed as he walked through a neighboring lane, and, having always been noted for his cowardice, instead of running to the girl’s aid, had hailed a party of miners who were returning from their mid-day meal through a field near by. When they reached the spot, however, where Stedman (as they supposed) had done his black deed, only the girl lay there, in the stillness of death. Her murderer had taken the opportunity to fly. The party had searched the woods of the Kelsey estate, and just as they were nearing the house itself the appearance of Walter Stedman, walking in a strangely unsteady manner toward it, made them quicken their pace.

He was soon in custody, although he had protested his innocence of the crime. He said that he had just seen the body himself on his way to the station, and that when they had found him he was going to the house for help. But they had laughed at his story and had flung him into the tiny, stifling calaboose of the town.

What were their proofs? Walter Stedman, a young fellow of about twenty-six, had come from the city to their quiet town, just when times were at their hardest, in search of work. The most of the men living in the town were honest fellows, doing their work faithfully, when they could get it, and when they had socially asked Stedman to have a drink with them, he had refused in rather a scornful manner. “That infernal city chap,” he was called, and their hate and envy increased in strength when Albert Kelsey had employed him in preference to any of themselves. As time went on, the story of Stedman’s admiration for Margaret Kelsey had gone afloat, with the added information that his employer’s daughter had repulsed him, saying that she would not marry a common laborer. So Stedman, when this news reached his employer’s ears, was discharged, and this, then, was his revenge! For them, these proofs were sufficient to pronounce him guilty.

Yet that afternoon, as Stedman, crouched on the floor of the calaboose, grew hopeless in the knowledge that no one would believe his story, and that his undeserved punishment would be swift and sure, a tramp, boarding a freight car several miles from the town, sped away from the spot where his crime had been committed, and knew that forever its shadow would follow him.

From the tiny window of his prison Walter Stedman could see the red glow of the heavens that betokened the setting of the sun. So the red sun of his life was soon to set, a life that had been innocent of all crime, and that now was to be ended for a deed that he had never committed. Most prominent of all the visions that swept through his mind was that of Margaret Kelsey, lying as he had first found her, fresh from the hands of her murderer. But there was another of a more tender nature. How long he and Margaret had tried to keep their secret, until Walter could be promoted to a higher position, so that he could ask for her hand with no fear of the father’s antagonism! Then came the remembrance of an afternoon meeting between the two in the woods of the Kelsey estate--how, just as they were parting, Walter had heard footsteps near them, and, glancing sharply around, saw an evil, scowling, murderous face peering through the brush. He had started toward it, but the owner of the countenance had taken himself hurriedly off.

The gossiping townspeople had misconstrued this romance, and when Albert Kelsey had heard of this clandestine meeting from the man who was later on to appear as a leader of the mob, and that he had discharged Stedman, they had believed that the young man had formally proposed and had been rejected. But justice had gone wrong, as it had done innumerable times before, and will again. An innocent man was to be hanged, even without the comfort of a trial, while the man who was guilty was free to wander where he would.

That autumn night the darkness came quickly, and only the stars did their best to light the scene. A body of men, all masked, and having as a leader one who had ever since Stedman’s arrival in town, cherished a secret hatred of the young man, dragged Stedman from the calaboose and tramped through the town, defying all, defying even God himself. Along the highway, and into Farmer Brown’s “cross cut,” they went, vigilantly guarding their prisoner, who, with the lanterns lighting up his haggard face, walked among them with the lagging step of utter hopelessness.

“That’s a good tree,” their leader said, presently, stopping and pointing out a spreading oak; when the slipknot was adjusted and Stedman had stepped on the box, he added: “If you’ve got anything to say, you’d better say it now.”

“I am innocent, I swear before God,” the doomed man answered; “I never took the life of Margaret Kelsey.”

“Give us your proof,” jeered the leader, and when Stedman kept a despairing silence, he laughed shortly.

“Ready, men!” he gave the order. The box was kicked aside, and then--only a writhing body swung to and fro in the gloom.

In front of the men stood their leader, watching the contortions of the body with silent glee. “I’ll tell you a secret, boys,” he said suddenly. “I was after that poor murdered girl myself. A d---- little chance I had; but, by ----, he had just as little!”

A pause--then: “He’s shunted this earth. Cut him down, you fellows!”

* * * * *

“It’s no use, son. I’ll give up the blasted thing as a bad job. There’s something queer about that there tree. Do you see how its branches balance it? We have cut the trunk nearly in two, but it won’t come down. There’s plenty of others around; we’ll take one of them. If I’d a long rope with me I’d get that tree down, and yet the way the thing stands it would be risking a fellow’s life to climb it. It’s got the devil in it, sure.”

So old Farmer Brown shouldered his axe and made for another tree, his son following. They had sawed and chopped and chopped and sawed, and yet the tall white oak, with its branches jutting out almost as regularly as if done by the work of a machine, stood straight and firm.

Farmer Brown, well known for his weak, cowardly spirit, who in beholding the murder of Albert Kelsey’s daughter, had in his fright mistaken the criminal, now in his superstition let the oak stand, because its well-balanced position saved it from falling, when other trees would have been down. And so this tree, the same one to which an innocent man had been hanged, was left--for other work.

It was a bleak, rainy night--such a night as can be found only in central California. The wind howled like a thousand demons, and lashed the trees together in wild embraces. Now and then the weird “hoot, hoot!” of an owl came softly from the distance in the lulls of the storm, while the barking of coyotes woke the echoes of the hills into sounds like fiendish laughter.

In the wind and rain a man fought his path through the bush and into Farmer Brown’s “cross cut,” as the shortest way home. Suddenly he stopped, trembling, as if held by some unseen impulse. Before him rose the white oak, wavering and swaying in the storm.

“Good God! it’s the tree I swung Stedman from!” he cried, and a strange fear thrilled him.

His eyes were fixed on it, held by some undefinable fascination. Yes, there on one of the longest branches a small piece of rope still dangled. And then, to the murderer’s excited vision, this rope seemed to lengthen, to form at the end into a slipknot, a knot that encircled a purple neck, while below it writhed and swayed the body of a man!

“Damn him!” he muttered, starting toward the hanging form, as if about to help the rope in its work of strangulation; “will he forever follow me? And yet he deserved it, the black-hearted villain! He took her life----”

He never finished the sentence. The white oak, towering above him in its strength, seemed to grow like a frenzied, living creature. There was a sudden splitting sound, then came a crash, and under the fallen tree lay Stedman’s murderer, crushed and mangled.

From between the broken trunk and the stump that was left, a gray, dim shape sprang out, and sped past the man’s still form, away into the wild blackness of the night.

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