It’s common knowledge that bibliophiles are always looking to expand their ever-growing personal libraries with the help of well-curated bookstores. Luckily, for the Bay Area bookworm, S.F. is a hotbed of literary nooks buzzing with good reads, great company, and a gung-ho flying-solo spirit of independence. And we’re all about hailing indie bookstores as one of this city’s national treasures. Just thinking about their transcendence from the once-dominant big-box chain stores, like Borders, is enough to get us giddy.
To this day, they’re putting up a fighting chance to co-exist alongside e-readers like the Kindle and Nook, and e-book-store juggernaut Amazon. So, which local bookstores boast the best page-turners? Read on for our picks of standout indie tome havens found right outside your door!
This bookstore is a real floor-to-ceiling trove for sci-fi, fantasy, and horror titles, new and old. Everything from Chabon to Stross, Gaiman to Gorey, Ballard to PKD — you won’t find them anywhere but here, along with rare DVDs and hosted author events. Pick up a book here to take to Borderlands Coffee next door, where you’ll sip java, peruse a rack of vintage-pulp postcards, and browse art galleries. Also make sure to pet its ultra-adorbs shop cat-cum-mascot on your way out!
Borderlands Books, 866 Valencia Street (between 20th Street and Cunningham Place); 415-824-8203.
Pulp fiction, anyone? This is your source for out-of-print vintage paperbacks, from hard-boiled crime of the ’40s and ’50s to psychedelic counterculture lit from the ’60s and oddball sleaze from the ’70s. Most of these are true collectibles in first-edition print. To sweeten the pot, these titles go for insanely cheap prices — try $ 1 to $ 5 a pop! Another rad thing: The shop’s hilarious shelving system. Books and ephemera are arranged into mad categories like Catholic Guilt, French Zest, Sex On the Moon, and Literature Hobos.
KAYO Books, 814 Post Street (between Leavenworth and Hyde streets); 415-749-0554.
Dog Eared Books
Outside, you’ll find the shop windows littered with loads of author and artist sketches. Inside, you’ll find a laid-back joint with worn, lived-in interiors, along with high ceilings and open spaces with lots of natural light and room to browse all used titles. Zines, CDs, fiction and non-fiction books, coffee-table tomes, and other ephemera — you’ll find ‘em all here. Want to make some extra dough? Dog Eared allows you to sell your gently used books for trade and cash.
Dog Eared Books, 900 Valencia Street (between 20th and Liberty streets); 415-282-1901.
William Stout Architectural Books
If you like to combine your love for books with eye candy, you’re in for a visual feast when you hit up this shop just a block away from the Transamerica Pyramid. While most of the books here are for serious pupils and enthusiasts of architecture, you can scoop up a huge selection of coffee-table books on design, fashion, photography, and home porn. Like a good book, you can definitely get lost in this store, perusing all the titles stacked wall to wall, sideways, and spiral ways!
William Stout Architectural Books, 804 Montgomery Street (between Gold and Jackson streets); 415-391-6757.