Story and Photos by Emily G. Peters
Is reading is a dying art? Some statistics would say so. According to a 2015 Pew Research study, one in four Americans never even got around to reading a book. That same year, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences found the average amount of time Americans spend reading had steadily dropped over the last ten years. Fortunately for us, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel—and it’s twinkling in the window of Century Books in Pasadena.
Owned by Judith and Steve Marosvolgyi, this charming independent bookstore officially opened in 2012 on New Year’s Day. The husband-and-wife team were already familiar with self-employment, previously founding a custom greeting card company that they still design for today. Avid readers, they stock hundreds of gently-used books of every genre, with history, science, classical literature and children’s books as their most popular selections. It’s a place that Judith Marosvolgyi views as a “sanctuary” in the midst of a word-starved community.
“Being surrounded by books, you are surrounded by knowledge,” said Marosvolgyi. “I believe all bookstores are sanctuaries, and as such, they are irreplaceable.”
Many would agree. Named by Real Simple Magazine and Yelp as the best bookstore in California, Century Bookshop is one of a handful of remaining indie bookstores standing sentinel in Pasadena. To stay relevant in an era of internet retail, the couple has dug deep to identify and feed the interests of their readers.
“We’re always working very hard to build a cultural community center,” said Marosvolgyi. “We have a small art gallery, where many local artists exhibit and where we have cultural events, from live jazz and classical concerts to lectures on different topics. The wonderful people participating in these events have helped us build a community. ”
Their latest offering is a brilliant custom subscription box service, loaded with books hand-picked by Century Books staff. Subscribers can choose from 24 categories, spanning everything from Shakespeare to vintage children’s literature to Nobel Prize-winning authors. They’ll even touch base with you before the box arrives to ensure you don’t already have one of their selections in your library.
“In small bookshops, you get a taste of the bookstore owner’s life and personality. There are no two alike, and in our case both American and Hungarian cultures influenced us, and our selection reflects that,” said Marosvolgyi. “We do our best to get to know what our customers’ interests are so we can find unique titles for them.”
Though shops like Century Books are a rarity, they represent a necessary corner of the market. Though digital readers have become popular over the years, a 2016 Pew study showed that about 65% percent of Americans had still opted to read a good old fashioned print book—nearly double the percentage who had reached for their kindle. Moreover, leading universities have uncovered that reading print books can actually increase your comprehension of abstract concepts, reduce stress and even extend the length of your life.
In short: paper books are good for what ails you. Yet as Century Books settles deeper into its vital role as literary sanctum, Marosvolgyi sums up the stats in a single sentence:
“Bookstores are magical.”
1, 3, 4 – Rated the “Best Bookstore in California,” Century Books is keeping art, music and printed content relevant in the community.
2 – Co-owners of Century Books husband Steve and Judith Marosvolgyi always dreamed of opening their own bookshop.
5 – Century Books new subscription service will deliver a box of hand-picked selections to your doorstep on a monthly, quarterly or yearly basis.