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Summer Reading

A Guide to SF Bookstores

It’s not officially summer yet (hello, June 21!), but there is never a bad time to find a great book to get lost in. While the San Francisco Public Library is wonderful, there is something special about walking into a bookstore, sinking into a comfy chair and losing yourself for a few hours then taking home something precious to nosh on later.

With so many amazing bookstores in San Francico, it’s easy to support independent businesses while indulging your literary urges. Here are a few to get you started.

Pirates for Literature and the Children
Founded by author Dave Eggers and educator Nínive Calegari in 2002, 826 Valencia is not your conventional bookstore. In fact, it’s much more than a bookstore; pirates populate nooks, crannies and bins alongside local students’ writing compilations, ’zines and books. 826 is dedicated to improving the writing skills of students ages six through 18 and helping teachers get their students excited about writing.

It’s also “San Francisco’s only independent pirate supply store,” with items like glass eyes, eyepatches, pirate dice, wax letter seals, spy glasses and more. All proceeds go to the Writing Center and programs! Let’s see… shopping for pirate supplies and literature to support children’s writing? What’s not to love!

Foodies and Lovers of All Things Gastronomic
Head over to Omnivore Books to fill up on tasty titles; this delectable shop offers “everything from 19th Century agricultural guides to how to start a kitchen garden in a 21st Century apartment.” In addition to signed first editions from the likes of Julia Child and James Beard, Omnivore hosts free gastronomic events featuring chefs and authors. Upcoming events include Elizabeth Falkner (pastry chef extraordinaire/owner of Citizen Cake and Orson) & Barbara Lynch (James Beard Award-winning chef-owner of Boston’s No. 9 Park); Kate Moses, author of Cakewalk: A Memoir; and Temra Costa, author of Farmer Jane: Women Changing the Way We Eat.

All About Pulp
Kayo Books is the place to go for all of your pulp needs. Eleven years and going, this gem is still peddling vintage paperbacks and pulp titles from the 1940s to 1970s. Perhaps precursor to the trashy romance novel, the pulp genre provides endless entertainment and titillation from racy cover artwork to suggestive scenes of lasciviousness. Required visiting for connoisseurs and aficionados of classic sleazy exploitation genres, pop culture, and art. It offers mysteries, science fiction, nurses, westerns, “Hippies and Drugs”, “Bizarre Non-Fiction,” and more.

Beatniks, Artists, Politicos
Any guide to San Francisco bookstores excluding City Lights isn’t worth a damn! Enlightening readers since 1953, this historical independent bookstore/publisher is well known for its association with the Beat Movement. Whether you’re after the lyrical poetry of Pablo Neruda, a graphic history of the Beats, classical or latest political writings on just about any topic, or none of the above, the “nation’s first all-paperback bookstore” is a must-visit. Plus, it’s open till midnight every night in case you feel the urge to read after a meal/debauchery in North Beach.

A San Francisco Tradition
Founded in 1967 by 25-year-old Richard Savoy, Green Apple Books continues to bring visitors unquantifiable pleasure from the Richmond district and well beyond. Today, this beloved bookstore spans 8,000 square feet — ten times its original footprint. New and used books, CDs, records, and DVDs await discovery. Trade in your old LPs, CDs, DVDs and books for new material! In August 2009, Savoy turned over ownership to three long-time employees with little noticeable change. This is a perfect place to get lost for hours.

Pre-Travel Destination
Preparing for an upcoming vacation or need some inspiration to plan your next getaway? Look no further than Get Lost Travel on Market Street. The ample book collection ranges from topics of travel to cultural, social commentaries on places far and near, and just about any reading material to transport you whether you’re traveling or not. You’ll also find luggage, bags, money belts, journals, passport holders, maps and much, much more.

Comics, Graphic Novels Galore
Stop in at Isotope: The Comic Book Lounge for a feast of comic books and graphic novels. Having just celebrated its 9th birthday, many devout comics fans swear by Isotope for all their needs. The posh layout is perfect for sitting a spell to catch up on your favorites and discover new titles to salivate over. Also, be sure to check out Isotope’s growing collection of artist-illustrated toilet seat lids, aptly named the Comic Rockstars Toilet Seat Museum.

Culture Explosion
Despite including Kinokuniya Bookstore in just about every holiday/favorite store roundup I’ve written, it would be remiss to exclude it from this one. Located in the Japan Center, Kinokuniya is a haven for Japanese culture: philosophy, history, politics, cooking, animation/manga, children’s books, art, fashion, design — find it all here. Many of the titles are imported directly from Japan.

826 Valencia
826 Valencia Street
Cross: 19th Street

Omnivore Books
3885a Cesar Chavez Street
Cross: Church Street

Kayo Books
814 Post Street
Cross: Levenworth Street
San Francisco, CA 94109

City Lights
261 Columbus Avenue
Cross: Broadway Street

Green Apple Books
506 Clement Street
Cross: 6th Avenue

Get Lost Books
1825 Market Street
Cross: Octavia Street

Kinokuniya Bookstore
1581 Webster Street
Cross: Geary Boulevard

Isotope Comics
326 Fell Street
Cross: Gough Street