Longtime bookseller Nick Setka died on Friday, August 26, of cancer. He was a manager at Book Passage in Corte Madera and San Francisco, California.
“Nick was the consummate independent bookseller. He listened carefully to all customers and then gently helped them happily discover that perfect book,” said Book Passage co-owner Elaine Petrocelli. “He was vitally interested in politics and history. We all marveled at the breadth and depth of his knowledge, but it was his kindness and love of his customers and fellow booksellers that made working with Nick such a joy.”
Setka previously worked at the University of California Press and at Berkeley’s Cody’s Books and Black Oak Books; he moved on to Book Passage when the original Black Oak closed. He was also a former president and board member of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association.
In 2015, Setka was one of 87 independent booksellers to receive a holiday bonus from author James Patterson.
Sue Elliott and Kate Larson, Setka’s colleagues at Book Passage, also shared their remembrances of their friend and coworker:
“This is the Nick I knew: A man with a depth of knowledge on an extraordinary range of subjects, from ancient history to current batting averages,” said Larson. “A plumber. An electrician. A carpenter. A nice guy who knew how to fix stuff. A finder and seller of books, of course. A mentor. He didn’t judge people. He listened.”
Elliott noted that Setka served as a kind of guide for her at the bookstore. “I looked forward to coming to work in the evenings and learning from him. Any problem one had, Nick could work it out, answer the question, find the book, get the register to work again. All with the most amazing kindness and humor.”
A celebration of Setka’s life will take place on September 11, his birthday, in the form of a tailgate party in the parking lot of the Oakland A’s stadium, starting at 10:30 a.m.