Tuesday, July 21, 2015

City Lights - San Francisco, CA

City Lights - San Francisco, CA
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This is a nationally renowned independent bookstore that has been setting a high bar since 1953.  The history of this store is well-documented and can be found in several sites on-line.  It began as an all paperback bookstore and publishing company, the epicenter of the San Francisco counter-culture.  This is not a warm, cozy, cuddly bookstore.  This is a bookstore and that's what you get.  There is no pretense here and it doesn't dress itself up and try to fool you into something it isn't.  If you want whoopee cushions or hand-buzzers you'll have to go elsewhere.  They offer some City Lights souvenir items which are pretty much the only non-book extras.  If you're a serious reader looking for serious, well-written literature, you're in the right place.

This is a 3-level store with many genres of books, some of which I don't even know what they are.  Obviously, books of counter-culture and extreme left politics can be found here.  There are books you can find here that other indies won't have.  The store was founded by two poets, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin, so the poetry collection is particularly strong.  You'll find this section on the 2nd floor and that's where they host some of those author events.  The main floor has bookshelves on wheels so they are able to clear more space for larger gatherings.  There aren't as many author events in the summer months, however, due to the extreme business in the store.

If you visit City Lights, consider your transportation: walking, public transportation, or car.  If you're driving, look for public parking available on an off street from Columbus Ave.  There are meters with 2-hour limits on Columbus but I would not park there because the street is quite busy.

I had the good fortune to meet and chat with Andy B., the store manager, during my visit.  He told me a bit about the store and I'm glad he could take the time to do so since the store was very busy on the week day morning of my visit.  I would've enjoyed visiting with some of the booksellers while there but they just weren't visible at the time during my visit.  The store attracts a healthy influx of tourist traffic, which coupled with local customers sustains this indie quite well.  The location of the store and its legendary status are an incredible benefit for its business and its ability to draw customers.

You're not going to find Nora Roberts on these shelves.  But if you're a serious reader, you need to move this place to the top of your list.  It's a leader in the industry and you'll thoroughly enjoy your time here.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God, Etgar Keret.  Meh.  Collection of short stories that are peculiar, odd, amusing, and occasionally a bit warped.  As with all collections, some of these you'll enjoy more than others.

CURRENTLY READING:  Good Night, Mr. Tom, Michelle Magorian.

A great view from across the street, Columbus Ave.  

A wonderful front window display.  

This should be the sign in every indie.  Abandon all despair because you'll be getting a few books!  

View as you enter the store.  This small space you see was the original City Lights.

Plaque of recognition.  

Looking into the room from the right of the entrance.  This room is larger than what you can see.  

A few of the magazines and journals you'll find here.  

A nice place to sit down and look at a few books.  

Translated into English by City Lights.  

Just a few of the books you'll find here of local interests.  

Looking back into the spacious first floor room.  

Follow the sign...

...and this is where you'll arrive on the 2nd floor.   

Follow this sign to the large area downstairs.  

Partial view of the downstairs area.  

A nice sentiment for all indies.  

You might not find this section in other indies but you'll find it here at City Lights.  

With the fine store manager, Andy B., on the right.  Thanks for a great visit.  

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