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City Lights Booksellers and Publishers

Home > San Francisco > Books and Writing | Free | Literary | Shopping
Published November 30th 2012
Lighting the way for book lovers since 1953

Welcome to heaven book-lovers. If you think you'll be sorry that you've died just take a look around and realise that being dead isn't so bad if City Lights Booksellers and Publishers is what awaits you.

This charming sign begs what we've all been waiting for - a bookshop where you feel that trying before you buy is not only allowed but welcomed. The selection of books on offer is incredible too, so I challenge you to tell me you can't find something that looks worth reading - go on I dare you.

I could spend years here, and that is not an exaggeration, or if they wouldn't let me stay there forever then I could certainly take more than half the shop home with me. When I was planning my visit to San Francisco a trip to this place was high on my list.

Speaking of high however, it's worth noting that a strong odour of what is certainly not your regular kind of tobacco does lurk about several of the customers in the store.

I admit, part of me was probably seduced by the fabulous history of the spot. City Lights has been around since 1953. It's an independent bookstore that specializes in world literature, the arts, and progressive politics. It was founded by beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin. It's famous for all of its associations with the beat era of literary history.

While this era isn't even my particular thing I do find it inspiring that City Lights stands as such a fantastic legacy to what while may not be my cup of tea is certainly an important part of literature.

Books available vary wildly, and you'll come across classics, things you've never heard of before, new releases and books published by City Lights themselves.

The strong independent nature of the shop almost seeps into you when you wander about. There's a sign at the door instructing you to forget about your sell phone (their spelling, I assume deliberate) and 'be here now'. There are signs about businesses not being people and (like the one I've featured above) crying out for the press to be freed from corporate owners.

It's always great to see places like this stand the test of time and thrive - it's proof that a stand can be made against huge corporations and that people can and do care enough about books to support independent stores. City Lights stands as a beacon to bibliophiles. I thoroughly recommend having a browse if you're in this neck of the woods.
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Why? For the love of books
When: Open daily 10 am to midnight
Phone: (415) 362-8193
Where: 261 Columbus Avenue at Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133
Cost: Free to browse but you'll most likely be tempted to spend...
Your Comment
Absolutely loved this place when I was in San Fran (thanks to lonely planet recommendation) - great article and pictures! Wish I could be there!
by Julian Groneberg (score: 3|1802) 1937 days ago
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