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There are by no means sufficient books… or bookstores

My sister Alyce and her husband, Ben, gave me an incredible birthday current the opposite day: a present certificates to a bookstore. I am hooked on books and bookstores. It was like giving a gambler a stack of fortunate chips.

It gave me an excuse to prowl the aisles of favourite shops, decide a e book by its cowl, decide up a brand new e book, learn a web page or two and put it again. I used to be no atypical browser. I used to be an actual buyer, armed with a card good for an expensive hardback for gratis to me.

I’ve all the time preferred bookstores. I just like the look of them: books stacked to the ceiling, shiny, new, unopened. I just like the odor of latest books, the sharp scent of ink. Or the musty odor of used bookstores, information coated with mud. Typically I hunt for bargains—remainered books, best-sellers that by no means had been, or biographies of the virtually well-known. As soon as I stumbled on the lifetime of King Zog of Albania, marked down for fast sale. You by no means know.

The King Zog e book was on the e book sale on the Pals of the San Francisco Library at Fort Mason. I do know individuals who would await the annual Pals sale and are available out with procuring luggage stuffed with books. However I’m solely mildly addicted.

“I suppose there are by no means sufficient books,” John Steinbeck mentioned as soon as. However he by no means noticed my basement, which is filled with books and different dusty stuff. Or my occasional compulsion to exit and get extra, particularly if they arrive as birthday presents.

San Francisco has all the time been a bookish metropolis, from Mark Twain and Frank Norris to Lemony Snicket. San Francisco has a giant essential library and 27 branches and dozens of bookstores. An actual cultural asset. Typically we neglect.

Chances are you’ll bear in mind the large e book superstores, Borders and Barnes & Noble. They did not survive in San Francisco, however huge and small bookstores did.

The grandest of all, after all, is Metropolis Lights, in North Seashore — based by Lawrence Ferlinghetti — a literary landmark of the primary magnitude. It’s so well-known, so eminent, I typically really feel a bit intimidated there.

So I began my e book quest at two of the smaller ones—Adobe Books and the previous Alley Cat Books, now known as Drugs for Nightmares, two hole-in-the-wall locations inside a number of blocks of one another on the Latino stretch of twenty fourth Road within the Mission. Each are vigorous little locations with artwork galleries connected.

Not a mile away, in Noe Valley, is Folio Books, at 3957 twenty fourth St., a neighborhood bookstore in a really completely different neighborhood.

The Mission additionally has the marvelously named Canine Eared Books on Valencia Road, with books spilling out on the road.

I all the time preferred neighborhood bookstores: BookShop West Portal, Inexperienced Apple on Clement within the Richmond and in addition on Ninth Avenue within the Interior Sundown, and Booksmith on Haight. Books Inc, which traces its historical past to the Gold Rush, has two neighborhood shops: within the Laurel Village procuring heart and one other on Chestnut Road within the Marina. The Books Inc. retailer at Opera Plaza on Van Ness Avenue is what I consider because the flagship of an 11-store chain.

Bookstores are like eating places. You possibly can’t go to all of them, however you may have favorites.

Listed below are half a dozen. For probably the most unique I vote for Kinokuniya in Japantown, a department of a Japanese chain. Moreover the usual bookstore fare, Kinokuniya has Japanese books and magazines, Japanese and English-language manga and items. You are feeling for a second that you’re in Japan.

When everybody labored in downtown places of work, I might often sneak out for a protracted lunch hour. However not for meals. For a go to to the Alexander Guide Co. on Second Road. A positive place for looking: three flooring of books — 50,000 of them, reductions on best-sellers, additionally playing cards and different great things. And a superb assortment of African American books, novels, essays and materials not discovered elsewhere. There may be additionally a wide selection of mainstream cut price books.

I hand around in Marin so much and have three favorites north of the Golden Gate: Stinson Seashore Books, a small store in a seashore city; Level Reyes Books, a cultural outpost in a wildly stunning space; and Sausalito Books by the Bay, on the sting of Richardson Bay.

The view from there may be solely surpassed by the Guide Passage retailer in San Francisco’s Ferry Constructing. The within is filled with books, after all. And out of doors is the blue bay, and a positive view of the Bay Bridge. Ships and ferry boats coming and going are the backdrop, a moveable feast.

My present card was good there. After practically an hour of looking, I bought “The Revolutionary Samuel Adams,” a hefty e book of historical past. And I ordered one other e book as effectively. There are by no means sufficient books.

Carl Nolte’s columns seem in The San Francisco Chronicle’s Sunday version. Electronic mail: cnolte@sfchronicle.com

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