Best Independent Bookstores in San Francisco

book lot on table

Browsing through the book shops is a wonderful way to spend a day. Who knows what treasures you may uncover and although we are used to accessing the internet for our knowledge and entertainment, you can’t beat the allure of an old fashioned book for the complete experience.

Luckily, there are loads of independent bookstores in San Francisco so let’s check out some of the best in the city and in alphabetical order!

Aardvark Books on Church Street has been in operation since 1978 and carries an awe inspiring number of books both used and new. Whether you are looking for an obscure cookery book, poetry, classic literature or anything else, you can probably find it on the shelves at Aardvarks. Luckily the staff who work here seem to have an encyclopediac knowledge so will help if you are searching for a specific title.

Adobe Books:  Nothing to do with printing, this bookstore is a co-operative run by volunteers since 2016 and is a centre for arts literature and alternative entertainment. You can find Adobe at 3130 24th Street and it’s a great place to settle down and read, enjoy live entertainment and connect with like-minded artistic types.

Bird and Becket is also a book shop come entertainment center and this time it’s jazz. Named in homage to jazz musicians Samuel Becket and Charlie “Bird “ Parker , enjoy some reading and channel those cool jazz vibes in the same location. You can find Bird and Becket at 653 Chenery Street.

Book Passage was founded in Marin County in 1976 before moving to the Ferry Building in 2003. This book store is known for live literary events and there are also groups for aspiring new authors as well as book clubs. You can find Book Passage at 1 Ferry |Buildings and at 51 Tamal Vista BLVD Corte Madera.

Books Inc is described as the oldest independent bookstore in the world and the fact that it was founded in the Gold Rush era makes us believe this claim could be true. It’s gone through several changes of ownership and location but has still maintained its roots. Ideal for children’s events, Author readings and literary events, you can visit Boot Inc at 601 Van Ness Avenue, 3515 California Street, and 2251 Chestnut Street.

The Booksmith on 1644 Haight Street has been in operation for over 40 years and specialises in new exciting authors and cutting edge literary events including Shipwreck described as San Francisco’s premier literary erotic fan fiction event. It’s probably best to leave the kids at home for this one!

Borderlands is known for sticking it to the man and has campaigned against Amazon, the smoking laws and more. The bookstore keeps running thanks to their $100 dollarship sponsor option which includes numerous freebies including movie tickets and more. You can find Borderlands at 866 Valencia Street.

Dog Eared Books has a fantastic selection of new and used books as well as maps and other ephemera. Fascinating and full of great bargains you have a choice of two stores at 900 Valencia Street or 489 Castro Street.

Green Apple Books was founded in 1967 at the height of the hippy explosion and the store still retains some of the old hippy ambience. In addition, Green Apples is the largest independent bookstore in town and will ship for a flat rate 99 cents making it a great alternative to Amazon. You can find green Apples at 506 Clement Street.

To check out all the independent book stores in San Francisco and keep up with all the issues and events in the area check out SFIST to keep informed.

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