Snapshot: Doris Moskowitz, owner, Moe’s Books

By Pete Rosos

Doris Moskowitz was born in 1966, the youngest daughter of Moe and Barb Moskowitz. After graduating from Mills College 1990 with degrees in English and Music, she began working with her dad, Moe, at the legendary Berkeley store he founded in 1959 on Telegraph Avenue. Now it is Doris who owns and operates Moe’s Books, keeping her father’s legacy alive. In 2003, she and her husband, Johnny Williams, opened Boss Robot Hobby on College. Their son, Eli Williams, is a freshman at Berkeley HIgh. She is a proud resident of Berkeley, graduate of Griffin Preschool, Walden School and Berkeley High, and a member of an elite class of those who attended the Berkeley Co-op’s popular “Kiddie Corral.”

When did you arrive in Berkeley?
I was conceived in Berkeley on McGee street. I was born at the French Hospital in San Francisco because my dad, Moe, wanted to be a part of my birth on his birthday in 1966. I grew up on the most beautiful street, Lewiston, near College and Woolsey.

What’s your ‘hood?
I am most often found on The Ave or in the Elmwood… where I grew up.


As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
For a while a wanted to be a vet, but I don’t handle blood very well. Then a forest ranger. Then a great writer. Then a torch singer. I still wish this were true!

Where and when are you happiest?
I am happiest singing, walking on the beach, or talking to children.

What living person do you admire most?
Actually, I deeply admire Dave Eggers and The Dalai Lama. I find them brave and strong and kind.

What drives you mad?
Child abuse

If you could change something about yourself, what would it be?
I would like to be less driven, less attached to the outcome of things, more easy going. I don’t know if I could do what I do if I were, but I might be more present. I’d like to live “in the now, man.”


Who, or what, is the love of your life?
My husband Johnny Williams from Oakland, CA, and my awesome kid, Eli.

What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Besides traveling alone to Europe and Morocco when I was 18, actually, getting married seemed crazy to me. I was completely swept up and happy. As scary as it was, it was the best thing I have ever done, besides being a mom.

What three things would you take to a desert island?
Fresh water and a hat and a boat!

What does Berkeley mean to you?
To quote Wordsworth, in Berkeley “The child is the father of the man.” Here children run free and we follow our passions and strive towards tolerance. I especially appreciate that people in Berkeley eagerly welcome every available means of self-education. That is why used bookstores, which cater so readily to the autodidact in all of us, thrive here.

If you didn’t live in Berkeley, where would you live.
By the sea or in Paris, if I could.


Berkeleyside’s “Snapshot” column, inspired by the Proust Questionnaire, is an occasional series by Pete Rosos in which we take a moment to get to know some of Berkeley’s most interesting people. Rosos is a freelance photographer, husband, and father of two who lives in south Berkeley. Previous Snapshots include Urban Ore founder Dan Knapp and Jessica Williams, owner of Brushstrokes Studio. Let us know in the Comments who you would like to see featured here.