Milane Christiansen, who opened Book Works in San Diego County in 1976 and built it into a destination point for authors such as Gore Vidal, Joyce Carol Oates, Amy Tan, Armistead Maupin, and Julia Child that lasted for 30 years, died on April 21 of complications from ALS.
Christiansen brought a distinctive style to her store, moving her grandmother’s upright piano into the space and hanging an antique carousel horse from the ceiling. Artifacts such as old Buddhas, vintage jewelry, and Bauer pottery blended in with her thoughtful selection of books, journals, and unique greeting cards. Because of her love for India, where she lived for two years while working in the Peace Corps, Christiansen always carried the latest works on India and held an enduring love for that country.
For greater San Diego, the Book Works was a unique, warm space to gather within a community of shared literary interests. Christiansen believed it was her responsibility as a bookseller to support serious writers both established and new, and to expand readers’ literary horizons. In addition to readings and lectures, the Book Works also sponsored jazz recitals, book discussion groups, and writing workshops.
Christiansen sold the Book Works in 2006 (which closed in 2011) and went on to work at a gallery in the Del Mar area that sells and promotes the arts of India and directly supports their craftsmen. In 2011 she co-founded, with Nina MacConnel, the “Good Earth/Great Chefs” series, which hosts well-known chef-authors at the Chino Farm in Rancho Santa Fe. Chefs such as Nancy Silverton and Alice Waters have sold an unprecedented number of books at each of these events, which will continue.
Those who were in contact with Christiansen during her illness were struck by the courage, humor, and strength she showed as her disease progressed. A memorial service will be held at the San Diego Botanical Gardens in Encinitas on Tuesday, May 21 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. A scholarship at University of California, San Diego has been established to commemorate Christiansen’s love of literature.