Wednesday, September 28, 2011

San Francisco Bookstores — Bibliohead, Great Overland Book Company, Both in the Hearts of Vibrant Neighborhoods

The Bibliohead Bookstore is located in one of my favorite neighborhoods. I lived there for five years, back when Hayes Valley might have been called “Needle Park.” I saw more guns at the local laundromat than I did during my time in the Army. It is no longer that way. The easily walkable area is not too precious, but it is trendy. A few blocks from theOpera, Symphony and Ballet, the neighborhood where Bibliohead resides hosts all sorts of interesting shops and restaurants. The sun and business came to Hayes Valley when the overpasses were ripped out and the neighborhood is witnessing a grand renaissance. The bookstore, small and smart, is after six years, still a baby if we were doing San Francisco bookstore history. But it doesn’t act like it. The shop is fully packed with used books and interesting remainders of all types. If there were a special emphasis, you could say it tilts toward the nearby classical arts culture. Expect to find a great collection of books for opera, ballet and symphony lovers. On the other hand, if you want just great detective fiction or edgy literature, you’ll find yourself right at home.

334 Gough Street, (415) 621-6772,

The Great Overland Book Company is located down the hill from the giant UCSF campus in the bustling Inner Sunset. The crossroads are located at Irving and 9th Avenue. Restaurants and bars of all types mingle with well-established storefronts for hardware items, shoes and shoe repair, tattoos, and baked goods as well as beauty and fitness. There is also a magic shop, a frame shop and of course, a great store for used books. While Bibliohead is in a neighborhood favored by both tourists and locals, this area of the Inner Sunset is not likely a tourist mecca and this bookstore has that sort of non-slick nonchalance that is essentially native San Franciscan. Though the shelves are well-organized, you do have to watch where you step. There are stacks of books everywhere. One of the stacks had a note on the top — “Bugs.” There are two stories of books that seem to favor literature with a capital “L.” This isn’t necessarily the best place to go for that worn copy of a Sue Grafton novel — though they have those as well. You might want, for example, to check out the whole section devoted to “award winning” authors. But don’t let this put you off either. This is a comfortable place where the staff, like those in most good bookstores, welcomes you and lets you know they won’t be following you around, but that they are there when you need them.

345 Judah Street, (415) 664-0126

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