So I had the great joy of visiting some awesome independent bookstores while I was in San Francisco this weekend. If you happen to be in the Bay Area you should check these bookstores out. Then spend lots of money there to support them! I, myself, had a difficult time not buying more books than I could take home on the plane with me. As it is, some of them might have to be shipped. But am I going to find an out-of-print signed copy of This Bridge Called My Back in St Louis? No way man. So it was money well spent!
Modern Times Bookstore, located in the Mission District, is a collectively run bookstore with a huge selection of latino/a literature and studies books both in English and Spanish, an awesome children's section featuring multicultural and anti-racist books, and a diverse selection of used and new women, gender & LGBTQ studies books. I heart them big time. I am super impressed that they can stay in business.
Dog Eared Books, also located in the Mission, is a pleasantly grubby used bookstore just down from Modern Times. Crammed full of books with surprising little nooks and even more surprising little sections (e.g. beekeeping), Dog Eared Books has a small but decent section of LGBTQ and women's studies books, as well as a classy series of sections on African American, Chicano, Latino, and Asian History and Studies.
Green Apple Books, located in the Richmond District, is HUGE. So huge that "I Married a Green Apple" Maps are distributed throughout the store. Mainly stocking used books, Green Apple also has a selection of discounted new books bought as remainders. This bookstore is so big that I sort of want to refer to it more as a library. This store has STACKS, my friend. I got dragged out before I could thoroughly explore it, however I very much enjoyed getting lost and witnessing the extensive shelf space dedicated to all manner of sections. Cooking was probably 40 feet long. Art was even longer. I didn't even see fiction, but their bookmark says they have a mile of it. I found the previously mentioned out-of-print, singed copy of This Bridge Called My Back in their women studies section.
The Booksmith, located in the Haight, was nice enough, I guess. I don't go in for slick bookstores; I prefer a certain amount of dishevelment that you can poke around in and feel the history, so I'm already a bit predisposed to be hard on the Booksmith. Carrying only new books, The Booksmith is very new looking: very clean, well-lit, well-marked — no mystery at all. I have no doubt at all that the owners of the Booksmith are good folk, probably fairly liberal, and are doing their best to survive as a general-interest, non-niche-based, independent bookstore; however their store shows the stresses of compromising in order to make ends meet. I was alarmed to see staff picks for Twilight (see why this is alarming) and Sweet Valley High, and their identity-studies sections were underdeveloped. The Booksmith is not a bad bookstore, it's perfectly fine as a general-interest store and their displays were very well done; however with so many bookstores to choose from in the Bay Area, there are others I would recommend.