What are the best bookstores in San Francisco?

Answers from Our Experts (2)

Kimberley Lovato

San Francisco hasn't avoided the large chains, but the independent-minded city favors the neighborhood gems and homegrown haunts.  Here are a few of my personal favorites.

Books, Inc. is a locally-owned and operated independent bookstore carrying new release titles. There are several branches around San Francisco. Check out their active events calendar that brings out local authors.

Founded in 1953, City Lights is one of the most iconic bookstores in the city, dare I say, in the United States. A true literary landmark that was the epicenter of San Francisco's "beat" movement. It specializes in world literature, art, and progressive politics.

Called "The Bay Area's Livliest Bookstore,"  Book Passage has been supporting local and international authors, writers, and likeminded folks for over 30 years.  The main store is in Corte Madera (Marin County) and daily writing and enrichment classes are popular with local. There's also a small Book Passage outpost in the Ferry Building. Their prolific events calendar is one of the best in the area.

Another longtime resident among San Francisco's independent booksellers is Green Apple Books, founded in 1967 by a 25-year-old army veteran with a love for the written word. Fast forward 46 years later and the business is still going strong, under new ownership, but with the same vast collection of new and used books, and enduring commitment to serving the local community.

Located in the Fort Mason Center on the San Francisco waterfront, Readers Bookstore (formerly Book Bay) features a staggering variety of new and used books and media at rock bottom prices. Stock changes almost daily, so check in often. There's also a café on site and proceeds from book sales benefit  the San Francisco Public Library.

Katie Sweeney

Walk the main neighborhood streets of San Francisco and you'll discover a variety of wonderful little book stores. Perhaps the biggest and most well known is Chronicle Books. The San Francisco publishing house has made its name with delectable cookbooks, crafty DIYs, and distinctive stationery. While you can find the books Chronicle publishes in practically every bookstore, when in SF, it's worth it to take a visit to one of their flagship boutiques. There's three: one at the Metreon, another on Union Street in Cow Hollow, and a final one downstairs from their corporate headquarters on Second Street in South Beach.

Book's Inc. is another favorite book shop with locations throughout San Francisco. It's the West Coast's oldest independent bookseller and often hosts fun and interactive events with authors.

City Lights in North Beach is a famed bookstore and literary landmark. They also publish books in world literature, the arts, and progressive politics. City Lights was founded by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti in 1953 and is a place that book lovers are sure to enjoy.

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