Bookstore Spotlight: City Lights (San Francisco, CA)

As part of our newest series, TSHS members have been traveling far and wide looking for must-see independent bookstores.

Being in San Francisco, you’ll feel rewarded for your diligence as a writer.  The sidewalks are often paved with quotes from poets, words from ancient languages, and occasionally a nude biker or two (or 80), who will definitely get you unstuck from any block you might be having.  More importantly, for those of you in Bay Area, you might already be aware of the famous City Lights bookstore, a half-century old establishment founded by Peter Martin and poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Shakespeare Street!

Photos by Patricia Brodeur of

While the website totes the fact that City Lights was “the nation’s first all-paperback bookstore”, it is even more notable for enticing beatniks and booklovers to peruse the shelves.  Eventually the store would not only be a meeting place of literary giants, but also a publisher of over 200 titles.

And, while many independent bookstores are duly proud of their poetry sections (often at best a wall of poetry), the third floor of City Lights is massive.  Like Alice, you follow the signs to a poetry Wonderland, completely devoted to the art of verse and its criticism.  Seating areas are perfectly situated for the shock and nearly reverent sense of grace while in the steeple of the bookstore, surrounded in a room completely devoted to that archaic and pervasive medium that maintains its necessity in our lives.

Grab some Deem Sum at Yank Sing, find the Crème Brulee Truck (or cart), and head over to City Lights, prepared with a tote  and the knowledge that you will want to buy more than you can carry.

Location: City Lights Books, 261 Columbus Avenue at Broadway (North Beach), San Francisco, CA

Have suggestions of great independent bookstores?  Comment and let TSHS know!

1 Comment on Bookstore Spotlight: City Lights (San Francisco, CA)

  1. I just love it, when it’s a “stay indoors” kind of day and you’ve got a wonderful book open and you’re lost in world of excitement, thought and reflection.

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