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.
Oakland, Berkeley + El Cerrito
Walden Pond Book Store is a neighborhood gem that's provided Oaklanders with reading material for over 40 years. About 60 percent of Walden's more than 100,000 books are used and affordably priced, and the store gladly buys back novels from its customers. The bibliophilic staff is very helpful and can guide you among the teetering piles of fiction, non-fiction, and specialty books to help you find what you're looking for or make a recommendation. Walden's Pond also maintains a rare book collection in an upstairs storage room that once hosted readings by Isabel Allende and other literary greats. // 3316 Grand Ave. (Oakland), waldenpondbooks.com
A clever, book-inspired name isn't all you'll get at this local bookstore. It's a small space, but filled to the brim with books of every genre. Plus, there's a frequent buyer's club, as well as monthly book clubs for those who like to gush about novels after reading them. Once you'd made your selection, grab a treat at the XOXO truffles store just a few stores up the block. Opt for the hot chocolate and truffles, and snuggle in. // 6120 La Salle Ave. (Oakland), ggpbooks.com
Founded in 1970 (when it was stocked with newspapers as well as books), Pegasus has become an East Bay staple with locations in both Berkeley and Oakland. Amy Thomas, who bought Pegasus in 1995, has served as the president of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association as well as on the board of the ABA's American Booksellers for Free Expression. Needless to say, the people here know what they're talking about. Plus, you can sell or trade in your old books. // 5560 College Ave. (Oakland); 2349 Shattuck Ave. (Berkeley); 1855 Solano Ave. (Albany); pegasusbookstore.com
If watching Beauty and the Beast as a kid ever made you want to find a hole-in-the-wall bookshop with floor to ceiling books and rolling ladders, look no further than Owl and Company. With rare finds and first-edition books, this store will awaken your love for leather-bound covers and vintage postcards—and the smell of dusty old pages that comes with it. // 3941 Piedmont Ave. (Oakland), owlandcompanybookshop.com
Moe Moskowitz became a Berkeley icon when he opened a bookstore on Telegraph Avenue in 1959, right in the midst of the Free Speech Movement and the political chaos that sparked throughout Berkeley. Now an emblem of Telegraph in the '60s, the store may not have the signature presence of Moe charmingly sweeping through the shelves with his cigar, but it does still have four stories of used and new books—and the coolest half-tote bags for bringing home your new collection. // 2476 Telegraph Ave. (Berkeley), moesbooks.com
Yes, this bookshop has 11 stores all across the Bay, but you can't beat a location right in the heart of the Gourmet Ghetto. Books Inc. traces its history as an independent bookseller all the way back to 1851, and with all the newest and local bestsellers—and author appearances pretty much every week—you're sure to strike gold. // 1491 Shattuck Ave. (Berkeley), and multiple locations, booksinc.net
Drink from the ocean of knowledge at University Press Books, where tomes from all over the globe make their way to the shelves of this homey bookshop. The sophisticated selection finds a humble home in this cozy store, equipped with carpeted stairs and a backroom set up like a dining room. // 240 Bancroft Way (Berkeley), universitypressbooks.com
With an extensive children's section for the little ones and a full-blown gardening section (yes, it even has indoor succulents hanging overhead) for mum and dad, this store is a must-stop in Elmwood. The book connoisseurs who work there are as friendly as the soothing green walls, and when the store isn't acting as a safe haven to wandering travelers, it's prepping for one of its many literary events sprinkled throughout the month. // 2904 College Ave. (Berkeley), mrsdalloways.com