261 Columbus Avenue
Those that love books, reading and all things labeled “independent” will enjoy a stop at San Francisco’s City of lights Book Store. City of Lights is famous for its large inventory of independently published books that cover a variety of topics that range from political issues, women’s history, travel guides, California history and a large selection on San Francisco’s cultural history. The bookstore is located on the border of North Beach and Chinatown and is an official landmark.
The bookstore was originally found in 1953 by poet Lawerence Ferlinghetti and Peter D Martin. Soon after the bookstore along with its wholly owned subsidiary, City Lights Publishing became huge magnets for independent authors, journalists and photographers seeking to circumnavigate the mainstream publishers to get their books published . The bookstore quickly gained a solid reputation for carrying a variety of books that included poems, photography books and short stories.
Today the bookstore still carries and extensive library of independent reading material. At first glance the bookstore may have a reputation of being a boutique retail outlet catering to the perceived intellectual elite. However don’t be fooled by the premise of the type of books the City of Lights is known to be founded on. Those visiting the bookstore that are not into reading or books will be guaranteed to find a gem of a book that suites any taste and interest. Beyond books that are heavy on politics and political progressive movements are whole bookshelves of independent books that cover great historical moments, fiction, as well as some very enjoyable travel guides that can’t be found anywhere else.
The City of Lights is very easy to get to on foot. Those traveling by foot will find it is no more than a ten minute walk from anywhere in Union Square, Chinatown, North Beach or the Financial District. The store itself is situated in a triangular shaped building that straddles the intersection of Columbus and Broadway. The building itself is dated to 1907 and was built on the remains of the 1906 earthquake.