Local bookstores to browse rare and unique reads in San Francisco – KRON4

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — For avid readers, getting lost in a book has been a necessary escape from the pandemic – or maybe staying inside has helped make reading a habit.

Now that a majority of San Francisco is vaccinated, in-person book browsing is back!

There are plenty of independent book stores where it’s just as fun to get lost in the shelves as it is in the rare books you can find.

The city is home to several unique shops, many that specialize in certain types of books – rare and vintage, books in specific languages, and books on niche topics.

Before browsing Amazon or another big-box retailer, check out this list of some of San Francisco’s independent bookstores:

Book Passage

Ferry Building, One, #42, San Francisco, CA 94111

Book Passage‘s location inside the Ferry Building makes it optimal to grab a good read and sit on a bench with a view of the bay. Or, stick around inside for their in-person events as they make a comeback post-vaccination.

Folio Books

3957 24th St.

If you never know where to start when finding a new read, Folio has several staff picks and other curated lists to highlight beyond the bestsellers, which of course also line its shelves in Noe Valley.

Eastwind Books & Arts

1435 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94133

If you can read Chinese or trying to learn, step inside Eastwind Books & Arts – they specialize in Chinese literature, history and DVDs.

Dog Eared Books Castro

489 Castro St. | 900 Valencia St. | 3036 24th Street

There are a couple other locations for Dog Eared Books in the city, but their Castro spot is a trove of LGBTQ+ history books, memoirs on notable LGBTQ+ figures in history, and just general good reads by authors who identify as non-hetero.

City Lights Booksellers & Publishers

261 Columbus Ave

Chances are, City Lights is already on your radar. It’s a San Francisco historical treasure and home to the beatniks legacy.

Borderlands Books

866 Valencia St

Are you interested in the supernatural, otherworldly and horrific? Borderlands is a world to many more worlds, dedicated to all the weird and unusual stories in sci-fi, fantasy, mystery and horror genres.

William Stout Architectural Books

804 Montgomery St

It’s only normal that a city with eye-catching architecture has a bookstore dedicated to it, too. William Stout Architectural Books is for those with an eye for design, or who are just plain interested in buildings and art.

Brick Row Book Shop

49 Geary St #230

Rarities line the rows of shelves in Brick Row Book Shop.

Bird & Beckett Books & Records

653 Chenery St

Live music and poetry readings are an extra treat to the book browsing experience at Bird & Beckett. Plan your visit by checking their events calendar.

Alexander Book Company

50 2nd St

This downtown stop has a whole three levels of books, with the usual new releases while highlighting indie books, too.

Omnivore Books on Food

3885 Cesar Chavez

The book store‘s name gives away its own specialty: Cookbooks! Great for a collector or a chef who wants to try something new. In-store author events resume in August.

Russian Hill Bookstore

2162 Polk St

The Russian Hill Bookstore is shelved with secondhand books ready for a new reader. You can try selling your beloved books here as well.

Bound Together Bookstore

1369 Haight St

This collective-run bookstore describes itself as Anarchist and has a fitting collection of radical literature.

Books Inc.

2251 Chestnut St | 601 Van Ness | 3515 California St

You have three storefronts to select from to browse from Books Inc., whose history can be traced all the way back to 1851.

KAYO Books

814 Post St

This fun shop is full of rare and vintage books, including genres like “bizarre non-fiction”, “counterculture”, “hippies and drugs” and more. Appointment only.

Christopher’s Books

1400 18th St

This quaint Portero Hill shop is surrounded by homes and is dog-friendly for anyone happening by while walking their best friend.

Black Bird Bookstore

4033 Judah St

This bright and cozy bookstore is perfectly located for you to grab a beach read on your way to the ocean.

Argonaut Book Shop

786 Sutter St

Hey history buffs! Argonaut could be your go-to for books on the American West and of course, California. The book shop also carries books from the 15th to the 19th centuries.

Forest Books

1748 Buchanan St

Look beyond city limits and the U.S. borders with a curated selection at Forest Books that includes rare and used books from around the world.


Japan Center- Kinokuniya Building, 1581 Webster St

Kinokuniya is a must for manga fans and anyone who can read (or wants to learn to read) in Japanese. The two level store has something for anyone who appreciates Japanese culture.

Green Apple Books

506 Clement St | 1231 9th Ave | 2195 Fillmore St

Founded in 1967, the Clement St store has continually expanded to selling more than just books and has three storefronts (including newly-acquired Browser Books). You can find new and used reads here.

BookShop West Portal

80 W Portal Ave

This local shop has been a community staple for nearly two decades. Staff are happy to recommend something new or something educational.