Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Over the last month or so I have had the opportunity to do a little bit of traveling, and one of the destinations was San Francisco, for one of my husband's dental school interviews. His interview lasted from about nine am to about three pm, so my father-in-law and I had some time to kill. I knew one of the destinations I wanted to reach was The Booksmith, an indie store I had seen featured in Shelf Awareness a few months previously. Described as "a literary mecca" in the article, I knew it was one of the places I needed to discover in San Francisco (a city I visit somewhat frequently because my husband is from the area).
I was not at all disappointed. Located in the Haight, an area my husband once told me he needed to take me "so I could meet other hippies," the Booksmith's inviting exterior fits in the overall colorful, indie feel of the area while managing to stand out with its beautifully designed sign. The inside was even more of a treat; while I always feel a little rush of happiness in a bookstore (so many books! in such close proximity!), the Booksmith had an added appeal for me by being well-organized while maintaining an air of cozy and somewhat cluttered eclecticism. I could find every section I was interested in without help, and each section had quite a bit of variety.
In the Borders where I used to work (moment of sad silence), the Young Adult section was very large and very prominent. While I love YA, in that bookstore I often felt as if that was all that I was really seeing, and it was hard for me to find new general fiction books to spark my fancy unless I already had in mind what I was looking for. While the Booksmith had a nice YA section, it was refreshing to me to see that it had a much better developed general fiction section with many interesting new reads highlighted. No hate for YA, here -- just glad to find a little more love for adult fiction.
I think the biggest treat for me were the rows upon rows of staff recommendations. Other people's reviews are a big factor for me in deciding what I read -- almost everything I choose is based on blogger or family/friend recommendations. The short but informative cards that literally lined the shelves with comments and recommendations helped me to pick out my eventual choice (Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett) and left me with many more TBRs scribbled on a scrap of paper, most of which I had never heard of before. I love the book blogging world, but we do tend to get hung up on certain titles, and the recommendations at the Booksmith gave me the opportunity to branch out into some interesting books that were either older releases or just not as well known. I would have loved to buy them all -- unfortunately I was being kept to a strict one-book budget (life of a married student and all that).
As I was checked out at the register, I was also impressed with how friendly and helpful the bookseller was. I didn't see his name or else I would give him a shout-out, but not only was he helpful and pleasant, he also recommended two other general interest indie bookstores in the city for me, which I found to be very classy in this struggling economy. I probably will visit them at some point, but now I know I will return to the Booksmith for sure. If you are looking for a fun and quirky little spot where you can discover interesting new reads, the Booksmith will leave you satisfied.