San Francisco is a great book town. I visited a mere three bookshops (brought home something from each . . .) and I am sure I barely touched the tip of the iceberg! And then there were the museum gift shops. And the airport bookshops. All things considered, though, I think I still showed considerable restraint. Maybe I'll share the list of books I made while I was traveling, though. I think I made up for the (smallish?) number of books bought by the number of book titles I wrote down.
I found this little gem of a book at the Golden Gate Park Visitor's Center (where are located some of the WPA murals I mentioned yesterday). If you stop by here on occasion you might know how much I love the seaside (or at least reading about it). One of the high points of my vacation was being able to see the ocean again and I am only sorry I didn't spend more time there than I did. San Francisco at the Seaside: Sutro Heights, Cliff House, Sutro Baths by Ariel Rubissow Okamoto has all vintage photos in it. It is a mini coffee table book and quite lavish inside--a nice memento of a place I love.
There were so many temptations at the Legion of Honor's gift shops (read that as plural--yes, they have two!) that it was indescribably hard to walk away with just a couple of books (and a couple more postcard books)! I knew I would have to lug home any books either in my backpack or in my suitcase (which didn't have much extra space to begin with), so I was limited by the type of books I could choose. As much as I wanted proper art books (those hefty hardcovers with all the gorgeous illustrations on glossy paper), I knew I had to resist. (Here's me jotting down titles about now . . .). But I did find a couple (well, more than a couple, but narrowed it down to just the two) of interesting history books.
I think someone already mentioned Peter Ackroyd's London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streets, so I reached for it right away. I got a nod of approval from the saleslady for it, too. She said she read it and had a hard time putting it down. Tim Blanning's The Romantic Revolution: A History caught my eye as well. I can easily see that one paired with a few works from the period to broaden my reading.
There was a book called Artistic San Francisco by James A. Ganz, but I settled for the postcard book. I may have a hard time parting with the actual cards, but perhaps that will be the excuse I give myself to (eventually) indulge in buying the book. Above San Francisco: The Aerial Photography of Robert Cameron has some really stunning images in it. Maybe I'll keep a few and send a few from that one.
I love the de Young's art collection and was very pleased to find de Young: Selected Works as a sale book. It was a steal at $4.99! And it has some of my favorite paintings in it along with a bit of commentary. Another nice reminder of my visit.
It was purely by chance that I happened upon William Stout Architectural Books on Montgomery Street. I had just finished looking at the murals in Coit Tower and wondered if they might perhaps have a book showing them in greater detail. And yes, they did. I am looking forward to reading Coit Tower San Francisco: Its History and Art by Masha Zakheim. It has lots of detailed photos and companion text. You may well hear more about this one!
If you are ever in San Francisco you have to go to Dog Eared Books on Valencia Street in the Mission District. It was within walking distance from the rental where we stayed. It has a combination of new and used books (mostly gently used or remaindered) and an entire bookcase dedicated to NYRB editions. I had many more in hand but finally talked myself down to: At Large and At Small: Familiar Essays by Anne Fadiman, Great Granny Webster by Caroline Blackwood and The Complete Fiction by Francis Wyndham.
Another great find was The Booksmith on Haight Street. They are smallish, but filled to the brim with books and cards and really cool literary bookbags. I was coveting one, but it was my last day and I knew I had spent far too much money already, so I left with a copy of Muriel Spark's Ghost Stories instead. I hope to read one or two still for RIP, but I may have to save the stories for a little Christmas ghost story extravaganza instead.
I really should have taken photos of the bookstores, shouldn't have I? I guess I just lost my head in the face of so much bookish possibility. A reason to go back.
Now, I really (of course) want to start one of these now. Essays maybe? I need an engaging nonfiction read (I am failing miserably when it comes to reading as much NF this year as I would like). The nice thing about my pile of books--every time I pick one up I will have a good memory attached to it. I'll know where I bought it and will remember my time in San Francisco.