SF is chock full of interesting Bookstores. Perhaps City Lights is the most famous (infamous). But if you're a lover of livres, this is the place for you!
Founded in 1953, this is one of the last remaining independent bookstores. For fans of the genre it's essential to keep an eye on the website to be familiar with the steady stream of interesting events that happen weekly. You'll also want to visit the website for the virtual tour of the City Lights bookstore and it's history.
Open daily 10 am til midnight.
Located near the corner of Columbus and Broadway in the North Beach District, City Lights Booksellers is a grand tradition of contemporary book publishing and selling that focuses upon the international thought, world of poetry, literature, arts, and progressive politics. Started in 1953 by poet %lLawrence Ferlinghetti (whose own poetry makes him easily the most famous San Franciscan poet during the Beat Generation), and Peter Martin, the store encourages everyone to come and browse for hours. The bookstore claims to have been the first all paperback bookstore, although now hardback books are also sold there. Another claim to fame by the bookstore and publisher is production of banned books and an extensive stock of hard to find books from smaller publishers. The bookstore website also recounts that Ferlinghetti's publication of Allen Ginsberg’s "Howl & Other Poems" in 1956 led to his arrest on obscenity charges, and the trial that followed drew national attention to the San Francisco Renaissance and Beat movement writers. (He was overwhelmingly supported by prestigious literary and academic figures, and was acquitted.) This landmark First Amendment case established a legal precedent for the publication of controversial work with redeeming social importance. Ferlinghetti was also a writer of plays and other literature, and a painter.
On our way back from Washington square to the center we noticed the famous bookstore City Lights that was opened in 1953 from the poet Lawrence Ferlingheti. The bookstore became famous because it publishes several books about SF culture like Allen Ginsberg’s poem Howl & Other Poems (1956). The bookstore is mentioned in all the guide books so it’s no surprise many people visit it in our days. There is a room with a lot of poetry but you can also read books about the Beatniks, anarchy and politics, history books in general, psychology etc
It is open daily 10.00-00.00 but you also order online from their official site.
This place has such a great history. Look it up sometime. The great part is they are such a huge part of the community. There are signs encouraging you to sit down and grab a book. The people here truly know what they are talking about and are happy to help you find something.
What to buy: Books.
What to pay: average
First opened in 1953 by co-founders Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin, City Lights has been part of SF for half a century. It's not only a bookseller, but an independent publisher as well. Both the store and the publishers became known to masses because of the trial for publishing Allen Ginsberg's influential Howl and Other Poems in 1956 (it was a poem celebrating the Beat generation and attacking what he saw as the destructive forces of materialism and conformity in the United States at the time).
It was made an official historic landmark in 2001. The 1st time this had been granted to a business, rather than a building - for "playing a seminal role in the literary and cultural development of San Francisco and the nation."
City Lights is a San Francisco institution, the place that supported people like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg when others all over the US were trying to have their works banned. The store still gives much support to struggling poets, and has a section upstairs which commemorates and underlines its link with the 'Beat' movement.
It's one of the best places in the entire US to get books with a left-wing political slant. It also has exceptional sections with the works of authors from across the globe: if you want books by authors from Africa or Asia, this is the place to go. You could get lost for hours among books that you've never seen before - and now desperately want to buy!
I love good bookstores and the North Beach landmark definitely fits the bill. Prices are average and the service is well, just serviceable, but it's a cool place to browse, with a few interesting nooks and crannies and plenty of books about the glory days of the Beat poets.
What to buy: Jack Kerouac books, of course.
City Lights has to be one of the city's gems of stores. It fits perfectly in with the non-conformist edge of the city with the books that it sells. Over time it has been a hotbed for controversy by selling banned and controversial books that you wouldn't exactly find in Borders or Barnes & Noble. Their selection is for people with brains. If you want romance novels or fluff fiction, seek it elsewhere. This is a place to stretch your mind.
Cool bookstore that's started with the Beat Generation.
What to buy: I didn't have to look very hard for something ecclectic. I accidentally happened upon Charles Bukowski and decided that now was a good time to purchase some of his writing. He has many books, but I finally decided upon "Tales of Ordinary Madness" because it is a collection of short stories and I like stories and "The Captain" because it was illustrated by R. Crumb.
What to pay: $30