In the latest in our series on bookshops around the world that academics should visit, John Moran, a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University, shares his favourite bookshops in San Francisco. If there’s a bookshop that you think other students and academics should visit when they’re undertaking research or visiting a city for a conference, find more information about contributing below.

You have to buzz to be let into the nondescript office building that houses Bolerium Books (2141 Mission Street, Suite 300) and several other micro-bookstores. Bolerium is certainly the best socialist/anarchist/queer bookstore to be had in one of the U.S.’s most socialist/anarchist/queer towns; the place to head if you want pamphlets, posters, or ephemera from 20th century social movements, or righteous Soviet tomes, or gay ’70s porn pulps. Upon entering, the mad-cap purveyors (some of whom have PhDs from elite places) may provide you with the map of the store (which you’ll need). You may also sign up for their “Wants system” where you’ll receive specialized emails when new titles dealing with your area of interest (say, “Minnesota” or “Civil Rights”) arrive. The sign proclaiming (more or less) that prices change based on the friendliness of the buyer is a genuine policy, and once I walked out with a free paper bag of canned peaches and corn.

Credit: Steve Rhodes CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Although City Lights is, historically, the most important bookstore in San Francisco, Green Apple Books (506 Clement St) is to the city what Powell’s is to Portland or the Strand is to New York. Although smaller than either of those two, and although the used books have big-city prices, walking into Green Apple Books is to be overwhelmed by carefully curated new titles and staff picks, with a strong showing of indie and local titles.

Credit: Thomas Hawk CC BY-NC 2.0

Although most of the Bay Area’s several dozen independent bookstores are worth a mention, The Green Arcade (1680 Market Street) occupies a sweet niche. They specialize “in books on the environment, politics, sustainability, food and farming, select art and literature, urban planning, nature, and children’s books,” providing readings by academics and public intellectuals. Beyond hosting a careful selection of ecologically minded texts, The Green Arcade also partners with PM Press to publish beautifully crafted books, whether fiction or non-, that are politically awake.

Credit: Joanna Forever CC BY NC SA 2.0


John Moran is a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University. His focus is in the anthropology of capitalism and neoliberalism.


Do you have a favourite bookshop? If there’s a bookshop that you think other students and academics should visit when they’re undertaking research or visiting a city for a conference, then now’s your chance to tell us all about it.

As part of a new weekly feature on LSE Review of Books, we’re asking academics and students to recommend their favourite two or three bookshops in a particular city, with the aim of building an exciting online series for our book-loving community of readers the world over.

Bookshops could be academic, alternative, foreign language, hobby-based, secret or underground institutions, second hand outlets, or connected to a university. We’d like to cover all world regions too.

If something comes to mind, we’re looking for around 100 words per bookshop, detailing why this place is a must-see. Our editorial team can then find suitable photos and links to accompany the piece, though you’re welcome to supply these too. We only ask that you focus on just one city or region, and two or three bookshops within it.

Email us now if you’d like to contribute:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email