Wednesday, August 31, 2011

San Francisco Bookstores — Readers Cafe and Bookstore, Bay Views to Die For

Though at the edge of Marina district, Fort Mason Center is its own neighborhood. The former military base — its historic landmark piers, offices and barracks — was converted decades ago and now houses several nonprofit organizations and hosts hundreds of events, ranging from wine tastings as well as live theater and dance to major art and antique shows.

Inside Building C is one of the city’s most
interesting used bookstores — Book Bay recently renamed “Readers Café and Bookstore.” The space has a friendly, homey atmosphere with comfortable chairs for browsers who aren’t in a hurry. It also has a coffee shop, where if you like, you can enjoy a cup of Blue Bottle Coffee, a sandwich or a pastry. Or, if you are so inclined,
you might have a beer or glass of wine.

But the real reason you are there is to take advantage of a huge selection of books, from vintage and other collectibles to more recent “previously owned” selections. You might also find sheet music, comics, videos, and magazines — all at incredibly reasonable prices. To make you feel better about any purchase, you should also know that the bookstore is operated by the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library. Sales revenue supports the city’s library system.

Once a year, the bookstore holds a giant sale of used books in one of the Center’s huge pavilions. People line up hours before the doors open to reveal shelves and bins offering from 300,000 to 500,000 books and related items. Admission is free. The books are inexpensive. Shopping carts are available. One could stock several used bookstores from what is available during the big sale.

Keep in mind that Fort Mason Center is a destination in itself. While no one lives at the Center, there is plenty to do. Among the places to visit are The SFMOMA Artists Gallery, The Magic Theatre BATS Improv, the Mexican Museum, the Long Now Museum and the Museo Italo Americano. One of the city’s legendary vegetarian restaurants — Greens — has been there since the center opened in the late ‘70s.

If you visit on a Sunday, you can stop in the bookstore, walk around the piers, and enjoy the stunning Bay views and outdoor art. You can also check out the Farmer’s Market and pick up fresh baked goods and freshly picked produce for dinner.

Building C, Fort Mason Center, (415) 771-1076, web site

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