It all started with a postcard from my World’s Greatest Bookstores postcards. I also had a vague memory of going to City Lights Books when I was in high school. Once I arrived at City Lights, I realized that I may not have shopped here, and confused it with Clean, Well Lighted Place for Books. Alas the latter has closed.
I drove to San Francisco to meet friends for lunch. I chose a place at Embarcadero Center 1 and planned to leave my car and walk to City Lights with a quick stop at the Allbirds store.
The neighborhood of Columbus at Broadway is still full of character, including the shady nightclubs I remember walking past in my youth on the way to see the play, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown. The alley next to the bookstore is named after writer Jack Kerouac (one of the many streets named for authors in a map Bikes to Books: A literary cycling tour of San Francisco”)
The store was busy! And jammed with books and staff picks everywhere. I could have spent so much more time there. Sadly I couldn’t stop thinking about the traffic congesting on I-80 while I browsed. So I made a bee-line to the cash register and asked the bookseller if they had Don’t Speak. He was so good he read my mind and said, “You might mean Say Nothing.” Yep, not the No Doubt song. He had several copies behind the counter.
I enjoyed the walk back to the parking lot where it only cost $35 to get my car out of the parking lot after 3 hours. Ouch. Then I began the crawl out of the City. On my way in, it took 1.75 hours to drive from Sacramento to San Francisco. On a Friday afternoon it took 3.5 hours. That’s when I remember why I don’t go to San Francisco more often.
I feel much better about my propensity to buy too many books when I am traveling after hearing one fellow bibliophile call it patronizing the arts. Yes, I am a patron of the arts. And it is much easier to tuck a beautiful special edition of The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield in your bag than a painting or sculpture!
My Auntie J and I volunteer to send postcards to potential voters to encourage them to be a good citizen. She found a box of The World’s Greatest Bookstores. There are 50 featured, and one is for Hatchard’s in London. I’d somehow never heard of it or been there.
I love Foyle’s in London. It is popular with television writers too and appears in the Netflix adaptation of Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Christopher Foyle in Foyle’s War is named for the bookstore. It didn’t rate a postcard though.
I have only been to a couple of the book shops featured: City Light Books in San Francisco, The Strand in New York City, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee and Powells Books in Portland (as often as possible). With bookstores in Goa, India and The Bookworm in China, I can’t commit to visit them all. One thing I can safely guarantee, I will always return with more books in my bag than when I left home.