Saturday, October 2, 2010

City Lights Bookstore

Todd and I were in San Francisco for a brief vacation, and I discovered the historic City Lights bookstore. City Lights is also a publisher and it was here that the Beat movement flourished. Among its publications are works by Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac.

The bookstore is in a building as unique as its history. Located at the edge of San Francisco's Chinatown, the building is triangular in shape and features a large Zapatista mural on one side. Inside, it has what I'd expect from a good independent bookstore: thoughtful staff recommendations, an eclectic mix of books on a variety of subjects and a feeling of being totally surrounded by many, many books. While it is refreshing to walk through a spacious and orderly Chapters or Borders store, there's nothing like going into a place where books are jammed into every square inch possible, and there's something interesting and perhaps unexpected to catch your eye every time you turn around.

I was tempted to pick up some beat poetry but I ended up getting a mystery novel by Arnaldur Indridason, set in Iceland. The latter is more my style, but I left the building with a greater appreciation of what this bookseller/publisher had contributed to American literature.


  1. Hi! I saw you on the Read-a-Thon list and checked out your blog. I'm going to be in San Francisco next week, and will definitely try to go to that bookstore! I love to check out independent bookstores wherever I travel. Which Arnaldur Indridason novel did you get? A few years ago, I gave my husband Silence of the Grave, which won the 2005 CWA Gold Dagger award. I haven't read it yet, but it's on my list (oh, so long...)

  2. Sounds like an interesting store. Great find.

  3. Sherry Ann, I got Jar City and it'll be my first by Arnaldur Indridason.