Thanksgiving Part I: The Great San Francisco Bookstore Tour

November 26, 2014

Greetings from Starbucks, the only spot I've managed to find (somewhat) reliable Wi-Fi so far this trip!

My boyfriend and I spent the first two days of our Thanksgiving vacation visiting a good friend from college who currently works in San Francisco. We thought we’d stop through to see her on the way up north to his family in Oregon.

My friend is as book-obsessed as I am and was perfectly content to take us on, as she called it, “the bookstore tour of San Francisco.” Throughout our 20+ miles of walking around the city, we managed to hit four different shops, each wonderful in its own way.

Image source - Tin House
First up was Borderlands Books, a charming little bookstore and café in Mission Dolores. Their specialty is science-fiction, fantasy and horror, along with a prized selection of rare books (behind the counter, ask before you take a look!). From what I could tell, they support up-and-coming authors—I'm fairly sure I overheard an author dropping off a copy of his book to the owner, who told him, "So glad you finally got this published!" Bonus points. I spent a good deal of time drooling over the selection here, including a beautiful, new copy of House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, before deciding I’d already brought enough books with me. This determination went out the window later, as you’ll see. My boyfriend picked up a copy of Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy. I’m excited to snag it when he’s done, as I loved, loved, loved He, She and It.

Image source - Travels of Adam
Next came Dog Eared Books, another shop in the Mission District specializing in new and used books of all genres, including a small press/independent section. This was where my resolve broke down, as I found new copies of The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde and Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (both on my Classics Club list) for $10.83 total. It was hard to leave with only two, as half the shop was taken up by overflowing sales tables—they were practically giving away some fairly new stuff. The size of my purse was definitely the limiting factor here.

Image source - me!
The next day brought us to The Booksmith in the Haight. This was the most aesthetically-pleasing of all the stores we visited, as well as the only place I actually remembered to take pictures. I’d describe it, but, really, just look at it. The entire place looked like this. The store wasn't enormous, but it had a wonderfully curated selection and beautiful, book-nerdy decór. Despite the relatively small size, I could have easily spent hours browsing the shelves and various literary knick-knacks (including an inspired Literary Map of San Francisco jigsaw puzzle, which was a struggle not to buy). Prices here were more in line with mainstream stores ($10-20 for paperbacks, more for [gorgeous, gorgeous] hardcovers), which made it much easier to restrain myself and keep my wallet safe. Not by much, though.

Image source - Black Clock

Last on the tour was Green Apple Books, a sprawling, two-storefront spot in Inner Richmond—fiction and records in one, nonfiction in the other. We were in rush to meet friends for dinner before my boyfriend and I caught our train north, so we only spent ten minutes or so here. If we didn’t have somewhere to be, I’d probably still be there now, poking around the never-ending stacks. Before we had to dash, I managed to find a used copy of Neuromancer by William Gibson on one of their bargain carts that came to $2.18. My justification: it can only weigh a few ounces, right? And it totally fits in my bag.

I arrived in San Francisco with four books and left with seven. Thanks, SF, for the sunny days, delicious food and fantastic book deals! I’ll definitely be back.

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  1. Sounds lovely. Looks like you are having a wonderful time. San Fran is a place I'd love to visit, I think we'd fit in well there, different like me and my husband. :) Too damn expensive tho. Have a blast!!

    1. It's definitely an awesome place, but you're right - WICKED expensive. I felt fortunate just to find affordable books. ;)

      Happy Thanksgiving to you and your hubby!

  2. I've made fleeting visits to SF, and so never had a chance to do much shopping. Thanks for the great bookstore recommendations, and thanks also for linking up with spread the love linky party :)