Resources for a Fruitful Life

Monday, March 29, 2010

San Francisco Area Bookstore Tour

I've been out of town for about a week and a half, supposedly attending the San Francisco Garden Show.  What I was REALLY doing, as evidenced by the following pictures, was visiting EVERY SINGLE INDIE BOOKSTORE in the greater SF Bay area.  Shhhhh. Don't tell.

A lot of people say to me "Books are books, yes? Why bother carting them all over the country?"  For me, books are the best trip souvenir. When I read a book purchased on a vacation, I remember where I got it, and think fondly of that trip.  I remember the little bookstore and am usually excited to think about the day when I might sometime return.  Here is a little photo-journey through my book buying frenzy last week.

Starting With Santa Cruz

By the time my friends and I got to this bookstore, they were powerless to resist my urge to spend, and I left with, maybe, 10 books?  My favorite title?  "Alluring Lettuces"  I just love lettuce.  I also loved the way they organized their staff pics.  Here's one collection: Natural Disasters.

They had all kinds of goodies, including neat stationary and funny post cards.  I got a book of post cards to send to my "Adopt a Platoon" soldier. Here's a snapshot of the inside of "Bookshop Santa Cruz."

Next Stop: Some Place in Sonoma

I don't have a picture of this shop. But, I did buy two books there: The Lost Art of Walking, about walking, and Big Dreams, about California. The Indie Bound bag from higher up in this post is from that shop.  There were actually TWO bookshops in Sonoma, right across the street from each other, but only one was open on the Monday we were there.

Moving on to Sunset Magazine, etc. Headquarters

We don't hear a lot about Sunset here on the East Coast, because it is a publisher of primarily western-oriented books and a magazine. A magazine that I'll probably subscribe to, just because it is so cool.  Sunset was started by the Pacific Railroad company to entice easterners to move west.  Well, it worked.

Today, it's a home-garden-lifestyle magazine that covers five zones out west, and includes dozens of books.  Their headquarters are just south of San Mateo, where the SF Garden Show was held.  HQ is in an historic ranch-style building, behind which is a magnificent garden with zones representing the five Sunset zones covered in their magazines, and an adorable test garden.  Free to the public, Monday-Friday, and well worth a visit. 

A Bookstore at the SFGS Show? Say it Ain't So!

What home and garden show is complete without a bookseller? THANK GOODNESS that Builders Booksource set up to sell books by all of the lecturers at the show, and a WHOLE BUNCH OF OTHER GOODIES. I'm PRETTY sure that this is the bookstore that I sped by with my friend on the way to visit the UC Berkley Botanic Garden.  Scott, husband of my dear friend Natalie, and friend to me when he DOESN'T PREVENT ME FROM STOPPING AT BOOKSTORES, bravely kept going past this place, while risking threat of grievous bodily harm because he didn't let me stop.  THANKFULLY, I got to meet the delightful owners at the show, and purchase some books from them (American Meadow Gardens, Fearless Color Gardens, Edible Estates, and, What's Wrong with my Plant?).

Book Passage

This shop is at the San Fran Farmer's Market at the Ferry Terminal. I didn't really browse, but I LOVED the name! Who can resist a good pun?

And Then, There's CITY LIGHTS


City Lights,THE bookstore of downtown San Francisco, was opened in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin.  It's a bookstore and publishing house, with poetry a major focus.  Ferlinghetti is a world-reknowned poet, and published Howl, by Allen Ginsberg, a ground-breaking event.  The shop still sells a variety of "Howl" related merchandise, but it is first, and foremost a cozy little bookshop for true intellectuals.  I loved their categories, too.

Everywhere, all over the shop, are signs to "Pull up a chair and read a while."  The third floor is entirely devoted to poetry, the foundation of the original shop, and books about the Beat poets. 

So, that was pretty much my trip.  I had to check a third bag on my way home.  A word of warning: once you pass your second checked bag, the fee is WAY more expensive.  But, upon arriving home and recovering enough to unpack my bags, this stash awaited me:

24 Fantabulous books just waiting for me to squeeze out a few spare moments to read them. 


  1. That's such a great idea that I'm going to "borrow" it. From now on, my souvenir will be a book. I too love indie bookstores so visiting them will be a joy too.

  2. Now that sounds like a good trip. Wish I could have browsed along with you. I got off easy, only buying 3 books from Builder's Booksource across the isle.

  3. Katie, I do the same thing: buy books as souvenirs and then fondly remember the trip whenever I pick up the book. Thanks for sharing these great stops on your journey.

  4. A woman after my own heart! I try to buy a book as a souvenir, too, especially if I'm visiting a public garden and there's been a book written about it.

  5. As a local, I'm delighted that you hit the top stores! Next year we'll have to start a field trip to Bell's in Palo Alto for their selection of new and old garden books. My husband's tip: buy lots of book when on vacation and have the store mail them home.

  6. Katie, it sounds like you had a blast. I love to visit out of town bookstores. It's so interesting to see what is popular in various venues.~~Dee