There’s a book talk series in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood that has been the antidote to the virtual Zoom book talks which book lovers have been getting used to the past two years.
The Milky Way Restaurant’s summer book series has been a hit for both the bestselling authors and the book-lovers in attendance.
Even with a steep price of admission ($125, which includes a prix fixe dinner and a signed book), the series has sold out the 50 seats for its June and July events.
“It’s a little bit like an after-dinner talk,” author Mitch Albom told the Journal after his July book talk at The Milky Way. “Plus, I always felt that post-dinner conversations are my favorite form of communication.”
The Milky Way hosted Albom’s reading and book talk on his seventh novel, “The Stranger in the Lifeboat.” After a reading and discussion with Rabbi Erez Sherman of Sinai Temple, Albom answered questions on his new book and career.
The Michigan-based writer has sold over 30 million books, most prominently “Tuesdays with Morrie” in 1997. Small settings for book talks such as The Milky Way are a welcome respite for bestselling authors like Albom who are used to speaking to thousands of fans in large theaters.
“It’s very intimate, first of all, and you can see everybody—you’re literally almost at their table, which is not the same as being on a stage or being out under a spotlight.”
– Mitch Albom
“It’s very intimate, first of all, and you can see everybody — you’re literally almost at their table, which is not the same as being on a stage or being out under a spotlight,” Albom said. “So you can see people’s reactions, you see the look in their faces or when they’re laughing or whatever.”
And the feeling was mutual. The audience could see Albom, a sports journalist by trade, get choked up as he recalled the inspirational story of sprinter Derek Redmond from the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona.
“I love to talk after we eat, so this for me was perfect,” Albom said. “You just eat, and then just talk. I did most of the talking unfortunately, but I’m very comfortable with it.”
The restaurant was founded in 1977 by Bernie and Leah (Spielberg) Adler. That was the same year Leah’s son Steven directed the film “Close Encounters of The Third Kind.”
Leah was a fixture at the restaurant, always there to form bonds with the patrons. The walls are still adorned with photos of her family — it’s more of a family living room motif mixed with a proud celebration of her family’s success in the film business. When Leah passed away in 2017 at the age of 97, The Milky Way shut down for two years. The family reopened the restaurant in 2019 with a renovated dining room, a new kitchen and a menu that reflects Adler’s vibrant spirit.
Flash forward to June of 2022 when the restaurant’s summer book talk series kicked off with Noa Tishby — author, actress and Israel’s Special Envoy for Combating Antisemitism and the Delegitimization of Israel. Tishby was promoting her 2021 book, “Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth.” The event was hosted by Leah’s daughter, filmmaker Nancy Spielberg.
As the book talk began, Tishby remarked how much the restaurant channels the Spielberg matriarch’s spirit. “It feels like we’re sitting in [Leah’s] living room.”
The intimate reading, discussion and question and answer session was enjoyed by both the bestselling author and her fans. During the dinner portion of the evening, Tishby met a young fan named Bonnie who told her that she wanted to do her family birthday dinner at the book talk.
Tishby was clearly moved by this and gave a birthday shout out to Bonnie while thanking the crowd for coming.
Bonnie said back to Tishby from her table, “I brought my own book!” The young reader’s voice carried throughout the quaint restaurant with minimal effort, which was met with an eruption of laughter and applause.
The next book talk at The Milky Way is on Thursday, August 25th at 6:30pm, featuring actor Josh Peck promoting his new book, “Happy People are Annoying.” Tickets can be purchased on Resy: https://bit.ly/3cehkk3