Wednesday, September 21, 2011

San Francisco Bookstores — Heart of the Mission, Modern Times, Adobe Books, Forest Books

For some, the Mission is just the street — a long, bustling, wide-sidewalked avenue with boarded up movie house, pawn shops, produce markets, tacquerias and brightly colored bargain products spilling out of store doorways. It is much more. Well beyond the loud and somewhat gaudy main thoroughfare is a rich and vibrant Hispanic neighborhood. To the west of Mission, you meander along Guererro and Valencia with their upscale restaurants, galleries and trendy shops. If you stroll east of Mission you’ll discover the authentic Mission, both residential and not generally trendy commercial areas on tree-lined streets. As far as Mission bookstores go, too many have closed their doors; but a number still remain. Among the survivors are:

Modern Times — After years on Valencia, the progressive collective moved deeper into the Mission, taking with them their concerns for the most vulnerable, or at least, most misunderstood populations. New and used books about gender and sexual orientation (fiction and nonfiction) are highlighted. So are books on philosophy and progressive politics. Modern Times also carries literature for children and many Spanish language books as well. As it did before, the bookstore acts as community center and holds many events of interest to writers, readers and political activists. Check out this San Francisco treasure.

2919 24th Street, (415) 282-9246,

Adobe Books — Almost synonymous with the Mission, Adobe Books has been on 18th near Valencia for years. Its narrow aisles are crowded with books (I will have to lose a few pounds). If I were younger, I’d gobble up the wonderful ‘70s and ‘80s mass paperbacks if for no other reason than an as investment because pocket-sized books are becoming extinct. They will be, if they aren’t already, collectibles. There is an eccentric sense about the place. While this isn’t a bookstore dedicated to religion, for example, there’s a complete section of Bibles. Bibles? Why not? There are comfortable chairs in which to read at your leisure (or doze off) and at the very far end, an active art gallery.

3166 16th Street, (415) 864-3936

Forest Books — This simple, unpretentious but elegant store carries a full range of used books and exudes a strong spiritual ambiance. Clean, spacious, ordered and filled with soothing music, the bookstore specializes in poetry and art as well as Asian culture and Eastern philosophy. There are many books about Buddhists and Buddhism. They also have a collection of rare books. This quiet place in the midst of the busy Mission should definitely be on any booklover’s list of places to check out.

3080 16th Street, (415)863-2755,

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