Literary San Francisco offers visitors its City Lights Bookstore, a hub of all-things-literary established in 1953 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti at 261 Columbus Avenue in North Beach. (The photo above was taken on a nearby corner.) Visit its website here: citylights.com.
An independent bookstore historically known as center stage of the Beatnik movement of the 1950s and 1960s, City Lights remains a hot spot for readers and writers today. It caters to a wide range of tastes and languages and is likely the best shop in the Bay Area to find intellectual classics from around the world and a whole floor of poetry books, with a nod to Jack Kerouac who frequented City Lights and gave poetry readings there at the peak of his popularity.
When you visit, be sure to pick up their “Bikes to Books” map by Nicole Gluckstern and Burrito Justice. Intended for cyclers, it strings together the settings of books, authors, and artists throughout San Francisco. The map includes streets named after Ambrose Bierce, Jack London, Dashiell Hammett, and William Saroyan.
Besides City Lights and its literary cycling itinerary, a family-friendly literary stop in San Francisco is the historical museum of the Boudin Bakery at the Wharf bread factory, which features a whimsical display honoring several California writers, including Dashiell Hammett, Ina Coolbrith (California’s first poet laureate), and Ambrose Bierce. (Read more about Ambrose Bierce through our Indiana section.)
Turn the corner past the display and you will see the bakers preparing the dough for sourdough bread, a must-have treat for any San Francisco tourist.
Another literary San Francisco treat is the American Bookbinders Museum. Read about it here: bookbindersmuseum.org. According to its website, “We celebrate and share the history, tools and processes of bookbinding from the 16th century through the changes and innovations of the 19thcentury. In addition to the business and craft of bookbinding, we share stories of the men, women, and children who worked in binderies.”
With a little more planning, adult fans of Dashiell Hammett may give a try to Don Herron’s Dashiell Hammett Tour, among other literary treks. Check out Herron’s website at www.donherron.com to see how it works and the best way to make arrangements. Read more about it in the New York Times article to decide if it is a fit for you and your fellow travelers.
The Boudin Bakery in San Francisco is the seventh stop on our Northern California Trail!