Mountain View, home of Google and other tech companies, is a beautiful suburban town with manicured lawns, pretty public parks and a free public bus service (thanks to Google). Castro Street is one of the commercial centers; not to be confused with the Castro district of San Francisco, Castro Street includes a theater, offices, and bountiful dining and shopping. What I loved about Castro Street was that most if not all of the stores were independent boutiques and local chains; there was a CVS but it was tucked away on a corner like a dirty secret.
And bookstores. Castro Street has three bookstores! I can't remember the last time I visited a suburb that had more than one.
Books Inc. is a local chain billing itself as "The West's Oldest Independent Booksellers," whose selection reflects the neighborhoods in which it resides. The Mountain View outlet includes a current array of fiction and nonfiction, nice cards and a cute café. I bought a pocket travel guide here because I forgot the book I'd picked up in New York to prepare for this trip.
Next on my Mountain View Bookstore Tour was East West Bookshop, which has an interesting selection of books on Eastern religion, meditation, yoga, etc. It's basically across the street from Books Inc. and was fun to browse in but I didn't find anything to buy.
The real find in Mountain View was Book Buyers, a massive, sprawling, labyrinthine used bookstore that has just about everything. Seriously. I'm talking long shelves filled to overflowing. Fiction, science fiction, tech manuals, cooking, humor, movies, music, kids' stuff, parts of the store I never even got to. I spent a lot of time in the crafts and hobbies sections, fiction, French literature and more.
My favorite new-to-me bookstore was Alexander Book Company, located off Market Street in the SOMA area. It's a multi-leveled indie store with a wonderful selection of fiction in translation, among other things. I'd be a regular here if I lived in SF!
|Display at Alexander Book Company|
There were two museums we visited that deserve mention as places to buy books. The first is the Beat Museum, located a stone's throw from City Lights in the North Beach district.
Then there is the Cartoon Art Museum in the SOMA neighborhood. The day we visited, the museum featured an exhibit of animation art from the films The Secret of Kells and The Song of the Sea, as well as Marvel props and other fun stuff. The museum's store features lots of graphic novels and comics as well as artwork to take home.
In SF's Japantown neighborhood we stopped into Forest Books, a lovely used bookstore with a very nice owner and some real treasures- including a signed copy of J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace. Now, I love that book, and if you know anything about Coetzee you know how rare a signed book of his is. I did not buy it, since the price tag reflected the scarcity of the signature, but oh my God I wanted to. I picked up a used copy of Kenzaburo Oe's book A Personal Matter. I've never read him but I'm curious to.
Finally, we visited Pegasus Books in Berkeley, a really nice used-and-new bookstore.
We also got the chance to have dinner with Matt of A Guy's Moleskine Notebook. It was so fun to meet him after being blogging pals for years.
And that was my trip to SF in books!