Results 1-9of 9 Reviews
by Clive Barker
April 15, 2010
by Little Ayun
March 12, 2007
I'm the sort of traveler who always looks for local independent booksellers in every city I visit, so it's something of a wonder that I'd never gone to City Lights before this trip. I think it has something to do with the fact that every photo I've seen makes it look like a closet. But photos lie! City Lights has three levels, tons of beat-up leather chairs for lounging (and many signs encouraging you to sit and read for a while), and enough old posters and memorabilia on the walls and shelf-ends to make the Beat Museum across the street just a tiny bit superfluous. Make sure to read the walls - framed letterpress editions of seminal short poems line the staircases. Jazz on the stereo, natch, and staff that wants to chat with you about your purchases, which is always fun.The organization and section naming is exactly what you'd expect from a venerable indie bookstore in a famously lefty city: "Muckraking," "Class Warfare" and "Anarchism" greet you at the foot of the steps down to the basement-level nonfiction shelves, and "Commodity Aesthetics" is just around the corner. My favorite section, "Evidence," is the place to grab all your favorite UFO, Conspiracy Theory, and UFO Conspiracy Theory titles. Up on the top level is the largest poetry collection I've ever seen (and I live within walking distance of a bookstore that sells nothing but poetry!) as well as the entire Beat canon. You don't have to walk all the way up there to grab a copy of Howl, though - stacks of the tiny paperback are tucked into niches all over the store. I left with a book of poems by Chicago Slam Poetry champion Lisa Buscani and a postcard advertising an anarchist book fair to be held later in the month.A little trivia for you:
Their list is small, but City Lights is a publisher as well as a bookseller, and boasts some titles that will surely never go out of print, including Allen Ginsberg's Howl and Other Poems.The bookstore has been a registered landmark in the city of San Francisco since 2001.The mural on the Jack Kerouac Alley side of the building is a recreation of a Chiapas mural celebrating the Zapatista movement, and destroyed by the Mexican Army in 1998.
From journal San Francisco - On and Off the Corporate Dime
September 16, 2005
From journal The San Francisco Treat
New York, New York
July 25, 2005
From journal Quick & Dirty in San Francisco
August 17, 2004
From journal San Francisco is gorgeous!!!
March 22, 2002
Founded in 1953, City Lights is, of course, best known for the Beats. Jack Kerouac hung out here when he wasn't across the street at Vesuvio. Allen Ginsberg's "Howl", published by City Lights, set off a landmark battle over First Ammendment rights when co-founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti was arrested at the store for selling the poem. Supposedly, Ferlinghetti still wanders the stacks. I've never seem him, but I've also usually got my eyes plastered on the books.
Even if you're not a fan of the Kerouac and Ginsberg, City Lights is worth the trip. The vast variety of books alone will keep you wandering around for hours. On top of stocking just about everything, the employees know all about what's on the racks. If you have even a vague idea of what you're looking for, ask. Chances are, somebody's going to know exactly what you're looking for.
For more information, check out www.citylights.com. They've got a list of upcoming events and a great selection of recommended books.
From journal San Francisco Chinese Parade
by Simon Morley
Denville, New Jersey
November 9, 2000
From journal A First Time Visitor to San Francisco
October 28, 2000
From journal Long Weekend in San Francisco
June 6, 2000
From journal Ten Days by the Bay