Our Proud History

In the days when the Great Depression didn’t allow for shopping sprees, Vernon Wahrenbrock impulsively spent $16, his family’s life savings, on three truckloads of books. His dream, a used bookstore in San Diego’s downtown was soon realized when he opened Wahrenbrock’s Book House in 1935.


Through the years, his love of books and special way of training his employees not only inspired many of his workers, but also his grandson, Craig Maxwell, who kept his grandfather’s dream alive by opening his own used bookstore in San Diego, Maxwell’s House of Books, in La Mesa in 2003.

Mr. Wahrenbrock was an industrious man, appearing to make his inventory ever new by rearranging the bookshelves daily so that browsers would see something they hadn’t previously noticed. In order to fill his shelves, Mr. Wahrenbrock would lay some books flat, leaving others upright.

He dabbled in rare books, specialty books, and everything in between, and always said that both poor and wealthy book buyers would find a place in all of his used bookstores in San Diego. Wahrenbrock’s Book House saw many changes through the years, including the addition of several locations that were all within two blocks of the original store.

When asked about his grandfather, Craig Maxwell likes to say, “I like to tell people I inherited the Wahrenbrock biblio-gene. We talked about books constantly. When I was a little kid I would make trips up to his bookstore in San Rafael and up and down the coast.”

“It’s hard to characterize someone as complex as my grandfather,” Maxwell says. “He was a larger-than-life personality. Although he was formally educated, he owed most of his erudition to the books he read.”

Craig is always happy to discuss the legacy of his grandfather. He proudly carries on a tradition that is almost 80 years in the making. Stop in to Maxwell’s House of Books today where you’ll find a friendly atmosphere, one of the largest selections of used books in San Diego, and a history built upon the love of the written word.