Chelsea Book Shop (637 Irving
near 8th Ave). High prices, mildly quirky selection. Open late, which
like, and it's got a cafe next door.
ReJoyce Books (1040 Hyde). I
love this place. It's right between a thrift store and a costume shop,
both which are wonderful. A good, cheap Chinese take-place is on the
corner and the Red Door Cafe is nearby. I like this place more than my
own store and the staff will treat you like family. In many ways, this
is San Francisco's best.
Alexander Book Co. (south of Market on Second Street downtown). Very pleasant to hang out in. To hell with books.
McDonalds (48 Turk). A sight to behold. An adventure to be undertaken. Rickety shelves stacked to the rafters with old books and magazines in a very seedy neighborhood. McDonald's is rigorously organized but it is not alphabetized. Nonetheless, the prices are excellent and you can bargain here. There is a lot of junk, which we kind of like. It reminds us of home. Approach from Market rather than from the Tenderloin. You'll risk your life getting there and risk your life once you're there, esp. if there's an earthquake, but it's worth it.
Kayo Books (814 Post). Pulp
vintage paperbacks, etc., staffed by two very knowledgeable owners and
a very friendly dog. They specialize in "uncollectables." This is John Waters' favorite bookstore in the entire world. The
prices are very good. You can find priceless, one-of-a-kind books here.
Visiting Kayo Books is a reason to visit San Francisco.
A Clean Well-Lighted Place For Books at Opera Plaza (610 Van Ness Ave between Golden Gate and Turk, 415-441-6670, http://www.bookstore.com). A good general selection of books, and a helpful staff. Has one of the most knowledgeable mystery buyers in the business, Lorraine Petty. Customers should feel comfortable that she won't steer them wrong. She also hosts, quarterly mystery events in association with Sisters in Crime to which the public is invited.
Books & Company (1323 Polk near Bush). This is a cramped, low-ceilinged place, painted blood-red throughout, with books overflowing every imaginable horizontal surface. Classical music wafts through the air as does the faintest aroma of the bookstore cat. There are oriental rugs on the floor, the better to cushion the fall of all those precariously-perched books, and a rather curmudgeonly appearing proprietor, who becomes an absolute sweetheart with the slightest provocation. If you peek behind the piles of current titles, you'll find all kinds of used treasures on the shelves. And new titles are heavily discounted--at least 40% off the list price. Its hours are rather eccentric so call first if time is important to you.
Carroll's Books (633 Vallejo at Columbus Ave.) We like Carroll's but we know many who don't. Those who don't happen to dislike Carroll's for odd reasons so forget you ever heard of anybody not liking this nice store. We visit frequently.
Abandoned Planet Bookstore (518 Valencia, next door to Valencia Books). Used books, mostly paperbacks. Specializing in arts and literature. Great cushions to lounge in the window corners but often occupied by snobbish cats. Prices are nice and low.
Green Apple Books (506 Clement). Remotely situated in the Richmond district under perpetual fog. Cool/quaint neighborhood, depending on your politics. The upstairs has the largest selection of used books in all of San Francisco. The prices, however, are disappointing.
Solar Lights (Union St). This might be our number one favorite bookstore to visit. There's a resident cat who has a midwestern disposition just like the friendly owners and employees.
Tall Stories (2141 Mission between 17th and 18th, third floor). Check out this place. This shop is a cooperative of about 20 dealers. A few dealers are also on the second floor.
Forever After Books (1475 Haight near Ashbury). Small, but with every available space packed with used books. The staff is very agressively helpful, probably because they know how hard it could be to find something here.
Bound Together, the Anarchist Collective Bookstore (1369 Haight near Masonic). An odd collection of new and used books, plus small press stuff. It has some strange left-wing anarchist literature, but it also carries quite a bit of other material, which might loosely be classified as "weird": lesbian poets, Tesla Coils, early issues of "REsearch," and so on. An accidental browser wrote at length of his dissatisfaction. "Rude staff possibly inclined toward petty, knee-jerk self-gratification." But If you were a left-wing anarchist, would you be in a good mood?
Stacey's (581 Market near 2nd http://www.staceys.com). The oldest and the largest independent bookstore in San Francisco but we like them because they host authors most afternoons. This is a great place to browse for new books. Really, I have spent entire afternoons in this place and every time I do, I don't regret it. You'd be amazed to see how many new books that come out that you never hear about. And though this store is large and is not run by hippies, it has a good feel. I like the yellow. I like the carpet. I like the earthquake retrofitting. And if you ever want to see the Chinese New Year Parade, go to the top floor. The windows are big. You can sit in a chair and see it all. Caution: They close the bathrooms on this evening and they shut the store before the parade is over. But hey, this store is a treasure. If they ever close it or move, I'm going to weep.
The Magazine (920 Larkin St). A used magazine store. It carries both mainline and pornographic magazines, including physique magazines from the 1950s. Worth at least one visit to see the classy wood paneling.
Phoenix Books & Records (3850 24th at Vicksburg.) Has some nifty chairs!
Modern Times Bookstore (888 Valencia near 20th Street; next door to Cafe Beano). A good selection of books along the lines of contemporary urban/liberal thought; lots of political stuff. Doesn't just have the tracts on Central- American politics, but also books in Spanish. Many prefer Modern Times over City Lights.
Cafe de la Presse (352 Grant). Mostly a restaurant with a small section of books and magazines.
Henry Hollander, Bookseller (55 New Montgomery Street, Suite 317, third floor of the Sharon Building, http://www.hollanderbooks.com). Specializing in Judaica and books on Africa.
Argonaut Book Shop (786 Sutter at the corner of Jones, 415-474-9067, http://www.argonautbookshop.com). Used.
The Bookstall (570 Sutter btwn Powell and Mason). Used. High-priced antiquarian and used dealer, no bargains here, though a good selection.
Fantasy Etc. (808 Larkin between Geary and O'Farrell. SF and mysteries. The owner is quite knowledgeable.
San Francisco Opera Shop (2nd floor of the War Memorial Opera House, Van Ness at Grove). Open every night an opera is given; features opera-related items which are sometimes hard to find elsewhere.
Fields Bookstore (1419 Polk, across from Acorn Books, 415-673-2027). Good esoterica/New Age selections. Stay away from the other stores in the area.
City Lights (261 Broadway and Columbus, http://www.citylights.com). We used to like City Lights more a long time ago, probably before we were born, but the same can be said about most of San Francisco. One nice thing about City Light is they let us post our index cards. And we are friends with some of the employees. (Two with bad teeth. One young woman with short, short blond hair who wears a green T-shirt and who's always smiling.) But evil lurks there -- so watch out. Watch out especially for thin men with Van Dykes.
Richard Hilkert, Bookseller (333 Hayes, near the Performing Arts Center). Has good book signings from time to time.
Drama Books (134 Ninth St, two or three blocks off Market). We like this place.
Marcus Books (1712 Filmore between Post and Sutter, a few doors down from the Kabuki Theatre complex). African and Black history and issues since 1960.
Naked Eye (533 Haight St near Filmore). Newstand and video rental place. A weird magazine selection, with some nice touches like "The Skeptical Inquirer" on display next to the UFO magazines.
Great Expectations (1520 Haight near Ashbury). Very small place, but a surprisingly good collection of general literature. Lots of T-shirts and things, largely on 60s nostalgia themes.
The Booksmith (1644 Haight between Clayton and Cole, http://www.booksmith.com). Has a quirky and always interesting sale table, excellent science fiction and music sections, magazines, poetry, kids books and lots of great fiction--both new releases and backlist. Lots of counter culture titles.
Laissez-Faire Books (Howard Street). Some general philosophy, but strong classical liberal flavor.
Limelight Film & Theatre Bookstore (1803 Market). The Limelight has more scripts, but Drama Books also stocks used books, and more about the history/techniques of theater.
San Francisco Mystery Bookstore (4175 24th between Diamond and Castro, Noe Valley) It's one of the oldest mystery specialty stores and is owned by an icon in the mystery world, Bruce Taylor.
Small Press Traffic Literary Arts Center (3599 24th Street at Guerrero, 415-285-8354). SPT is a non-profit literary arts center, not a bookstore, but they sponsor reading series of new and experimental writers, a multicultural reading series, and writing workshops in poetry and prose. It's a gathering place for poets and writers.
La Latina (2548 Mission between 21st and 22nd, 415-824-0327). Spanish-language books. Alex likes this place.
Meyer Boswell Books, Inc. (2141 Mission between 17th and 18th, third floor, http://www.meyerbos.com). Specializing in antiquarian rare and scholarly law exclusively. To search their entire inventory, connect to their web site.
Bolerium Books (2141 Mission between 17th and 18th, third floor, http://www.bolerium.com). Antiquarian. Specializes in social and radical movements, such as labor, women's rights, gay and lesbian issues, and African-American materials. We love this place and we love the people who run it.
La Moderna Poesia (2122 Mission). Spanish-language books. Nice.
Znanije (5237 Geary). A Russian bookstore. It's down towards Golden Gate park, not towards downtown. I think the cross street is 16th.
West Portal Books (111 W Portal Ave). Good prices for solid literature, since I think lots of San Francsico State students sell their books there.
Russian Hill Bookstore (2234 Polk). Used bookstore, specializing in religion, philosophy, history, art and sports; also general subjects. Next door to the Gateau Boutique which, though little-known, has some of the best fancy pastries in San Francisco.
Aaben (1546 California btwn Polk and Larkin, http://www.aabenbooks.com). Specializing in fiction, mystery, film, SF, and counterculture.
Elsewhere (260 Judah and 8th Avenue). SF and mysteries. An excellent collection of collectibles. Prices are fairly high, but I always have been able to find a rare book in fine condition that I haven't been able to find elsewhere. Frequently closed.
Book Passage (51 Tamal Vista Blvd). This is an interesting place. Can you imagine over 9000 sq. ft. of books? Book Passage's great strength is its travel section. It also carries titles in French, Spanish, and German, and has a cafe in the back. They have a pay lending library of books, audiocassettes, and travel videocassettes. There used to a lot of those around about 60 years ago. They also now have "Book Passage University," a series of writing and language classes. This bookstore tries hard and does well but some of our good friends hate it.
The Bookstores at 49 Geary:
Brick Row Books (49 Geary, Suite 235, http://www.brickrow.com).
Jeffery Thomas Fine and Rare Books (49 Geary, Suite 230, http://www.jeffreythomas.com.)
Thomas A. Goldwasser Rare Books (49 Geary, Suite 244, http://www.goldwasserbooks.com/).
Robert Dagg, Rare Books (49 Geary).
John Windle, Antiquarian Bookseller (49 Geary). Open by appointment.