Bookstore Bums I: Green Apple in San Francisco

How I feel about bookstores is the way Jordan from The Great Gatsby felt about parties, “he gives large parties….and I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.” In that sense, Green Apple Books & Music on Clement St in San Francisco is a large party.

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Here, a bookstore bum is given the space and intimacy to roam and find hidden gems or pop lit placed prominently in plain sight. At the same time, you can still easily find a helpful someone if you are looking for something specific. It’s got character and good music and variety. One doesn’t feel rushed or hushed and the staff recommendations are indeed endearing. The store also has a good ratio of new and used books giving the sensation of a treasure hunt; the prospect of a rare find or just something intriguing you’ve never heard of before.

Quantity does not equal quality, as is almost always the case, but Green Apple achieves the balance of curation and scale. They don’t necessarily have everything but they probably have the New York Times bestseller you are looking for, as well as the classics and the radical.

Like City Lights, it has become a staple bookseller of San Francisco dating back to the 1960s. Unlike City Lights, which has become a tourist destination in itself, Green Apple has remained a well-frequented place to hang out and discover literature, music, and more.
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There are actually two separate stores on the same block, both teeming with books and both with their own flair. The newer addition is supplemental with more specialty books and lots of vinyl records, DVDs, and graphic prints; it has personality!

My only criticism is also one of its aesthetic qualities, but with its various floors and staircases, it is handicapped inaccessible. There is plenty to enjoy on the ground floor but an elevator would be accommodating.

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Inner Richmond’s Green Apple is part of a dying breed of independent booksellers and one that seems to be thriving. Bookstores that become iconic are also at risk of becoming relics, gawked at for their history alone. That has not yet happened to Green Apple. The best defense against this, I suppose, is to buy books, buy music, not just souvenirs, stay awhile and keep coming back. Fingers crossed!

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