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—even during the Covid-19 pandemic, when book launches and author conversations have all gone virtual.
More than 600 small bookstores nationwide will be hosting in-store and online events for Independent Bookstore Day on Saturday, August 29th. See which of your local shops have something special planned, or just celebrate all things literary by sending love to our favorite, quirkiest, and coziest book nooks around 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 this 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. During the Covid-19 pandemic, City Lights nearly went dark forever, but San Franciscans stepped up, raising nearly half a million dollars to keep this unique SF experience shining bright. Until IRL event return, check out their regular virtual readings. // Open daily noon to 8pm, 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 no matter which location you visit. Look out for Book of the Month recommendations and online events. // Open 10am to 8pm daily (till 9pm at Clement St.), 506 Clement St. (Inner Richmond); 1231 Ninth Ave. (Inner Sunset); and Browser Books, 2195 Fillmore St. (Pacific Heights); 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. Follow Omnivore on Instagram for their latest rare and kitschy finds. // Open 11am to 6pm Monday through Saturday and noon to 5pm Sunday; 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. In pre-Covid times, you could see everyone from Presidents and prelates to Nobel Prize winners and first-time novelists speak within their walls, with an average of more than 700 author events every year. During the pandemic, Book Passage is hosting online conversations with authors. You can register for the series and also watch archival interviews. And oh yeah, they have tons of books, too. // Open Friday through Sunday at 1 Ferry Building (Embarcadero) and 10:30am to 4pm daily at 51 Tamal Vista Blvd. (Corte Madera), 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 20 years. 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. // Open 11am to 5pm daily; 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, 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. // Open 11am to 2pm daily with curbside pickup until 6pm; 1644 Haight St. (Haight-Ashbury), booksmith.com
Adobe Books is a longtime local champion of SF's art scene from the literary to the musical. 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. As of Summer 2020, Adobe is also home to the City's first community fridge, so feel free to bring fresh groceries for donation next time you stop in. // Open noon to 7pm daily; 3130 24th St. (Mission), adobebooks.com