For bookworms with a soft spot for the nostalgia of independent shops, the Bay Area delivers.
Though small, local bookstores seems to be going the way of dinosaurs, our region is still a bibliophile's mecca for indie purveyors, where the shelves are stocked with old leather-bound books as well as modern paperbacks, and community programming still includes author readings and signings.
Here are some of our favorite, quirkiest, and coziest book nooks in the Bay Area.
Founded in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin, book lovers from across the country and around the world come to browse, read, and just soak in the ambiance of alternative culture's only "Literary Landmark." The nation's first all-paperback bookstore, City Lights now offers three floors of both new-release hardcovers and quality paperbacks with an impressive range of titles from smaller, harder-to-find, specialty publishers. It's a completely unique San Francisco experience, and a must for anyone who appreciates good books. // 261 Columbus Ave. (North Beach), citylights.com
Richard Savoy founded Green Apple Books in 1967 with a stock of used books, comics, and National Geographic magazines. These days, they've modernized with a music and DVD collection as well, but it's hard to find a better-stocked bookstore. // 506 Clement St. (Inner Richmond), greenapplebooks.com
When pro chefs, home cooks, and foodies go searching for vintage and modern cookbooks, they walk their Crocs over to owner Celia Sack's Noe Valley shop where, since 2008, a stock of new and antiquarian books covering all things culinary has been ripe for the plucking. Here you can pick up a copy of the latest It cookbook from your favorite chefs and restaurants (look for Chris Cosentino's Offal Good and Elizabeth Pruiett's Tartine All Day), as well as geekier manuals on everything from roots to pickling. SF foodies also love Omnivore for its cookbook launch parties and readings. // 3855 Cesar Chavez (Noe Valley), omnivorebooks.com
Book Passage has served the Bay Area for more than 30 years, providing the community with an array of author events, writing and language classes, and highly respected annual conferences. You can see everyone from Presidents and prelates to Nobel Prize–winners and first-time novelists speak within their walls, and they average more than 700 author events every year! Book Passage also has a unique program of in-store classes designed for people who want to learn more about writing and the book business, as well as three annual writing classes. And oh yeah, there are tons of books, too. // 1 Ferry Building (Embarcadero), bookpassage.com
Specializing in science fiction, fantasy, and horror (in fact, that's all they sell), Borderlands has been supplying the nerds of SF with good literature for over a decade. Plus, they have one of the best selections of small-press genre titles in the country with a stock of nearly 14,000 titles. No big deal. // 866 Valencia St. (Mission), borderlands-books.com
A neighborhood gem, Booksmith was founded in the '70s, and though people held their breaths when it was remodeled in 2007, it's been over 10 years and the store still captures Haight-Ashbury's counterculture ambiance as vibrantly as ever. Between boycotting controversial publishers to occasionally giving out books at the counter that mysterious benefactors bought out, the store is a total community hub. // 1644 Haight St. (Haight-Ashbury), booksmith.com
Adobe Books, local champion of SF's art scene from the literary to the musical, is back and better than ever after falling on hard times last year when they were forced to move from their longtime Mission home. Stop by to peruse the great selection of books, peek into the back gallery where local artists showcase masterpieces, or just hang out with owner Andrew McKinley. // 3130 24th St. (Mission), adobebooks.com