If you’ve been as brainwashed by advertising as I have, the title of this post should bring something like this to mind:
On a recent trip to San Francisco, I didn’t find a lot of Rice a Roni, but I did find a plethora of independent bookstores to satisfy literary cravings. If you like spending hours upon hours getting lost between the shelves of a welcoming bookstore, San Francisco will not disappoint.
First stop—City Lights Books
Co-founded by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, City Lights is not only a great bookstore, but it is also a literary landmark. The store was founded in 1953 and became a hub for the Beat movement. Today, you can still find a sizable section devoted to the Beats upstairs, along with a large general poetry section. But this store offers so much more than Beat lit. The main floor and the basement are filled with scads of other books to suit every taste, with one exception. Due to the store’s anti-authoritarian stance, do not come here looking for the latest business book—unless you’re looking for a scathing criticism of all that big business traditionally holds dear. City Lights not only sells books, it also publishes them. Check out their selection at the store and take one home with you for the perfect (non-tacky) San Francisco souvenir.
Next stop—Books Inc.
This regional chain calls itself “The West’s Oldest Independent Bookseller”. I visited the location in the Marina District and it was bright and friendly, complete with handwritten staff reviews nestled in stacks of favourite books. I even overheard the man behind the counter passionately recommend City of Thieves by David Benioff to a few customers, which is a book that I have also been compelled to recommend to others. As I was leaving San Francisco at SFO Terminal 2, I was delighted to find another outpost of the chain operating under the name Compass Books. Long story short, this bookstore is not trying to be cooler than you. If the essence of a much-needed hug from a non-judgemental friend could be distilled into a bookstore, Books Inc. would be that store.
Last stop—Book Passage
Another regional chain, Book Passage seems to be event and book signing central. At least that’s what I gather from the newsletter I picked up at the Ferry Building outpost. Unfortunately, I did not experience any events first hand, but as I flip through the (32 page!) newsletter, I get the feeling that community building is very important to Book Passage. If you’re planning on spending any time in the SF area, check out the Book Passage website to make sure you’re not missing your favourite author, live and in person.
During my short trip to San Francisco, I was only able to spend a bit of time book shopping. There are many independent booksellers in the city and if you’re interested in exploring them, I recommend the following link: