Wednesday, October 26, 2011

San Francisco Bookstores — Borderlands, Other Worldly on Valencia

This is part of a series about San Francisco’s independent bookstores and the neighborhoods they serve. For previous articles please click here.

If only we crime writers had a local San Francisco bookstore specializing in the kinds of books we write. I hope that writers of fantasy, science fiction and horror appreciate the jewel of a store that is Borderlands Books on Valencia.

The day I visited, the staff was setting up for an author event. There was a sense of enthusiasm in the room — people with good cheer, enjoying their work. I wandered through the aisles of bookshelves, gazing at the collection of new and used books. These were for serious readers of the genres. The shelves were neatly kept, the categories clearly identified. This isn’t a place deeply engaged in pop-culture — no super-sized superhero character cut-outs or Star Trek memorabilia, just books and more books. However, one of the big draws is Ripley, a sweet mild-mannered, and lovely, hairless felinean from the planet Sphynx.

I’ve written about the Mission neighborhood before. It may be the city arts and letters central. There are a number of bookstores and galleries in the area. Valencia Street, in particular, continues its dynamic growth — with shops selling mid-century furniture, stuffed antelope, vintage clothing as well as restaurants (trendy high-end to deliciously low-end) springing up near its start at Market Street and stretching almost all the way to Cesar Chavez. This is the neighborhood of around the block lines waiting for Bi-Rite ice cream and mile-high meringue on Banana pie. This is a great walk or bike ride that includes a couple of alleys with spectacular murals.

While its doubtful you could call Borderlands Books trendy (they sell books on paper, after all), they are doing what great independent bookstores are supposed to do. They have a staff that knows the subject matter. They hold many author and other book-related events and participate in a thriving, creative community. They also make you feel welcome.

Maybe they should add a mystery annex.

866 Valencia Street, (415) 824-8203,

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