They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover; the same rule applies when choosing a favorite book store. The Booksmith and Green Apple are two of San Francisco’s most famous bookstores. But which one is deserving of the title of San Francisco’s best bookstore?
The Booksmith is quite possibly the most welcoming store in the Haight. It’s also one of the best looking. The two huge display windows are creative, colorful, and help draw you in (the current display features two vintage chairs, mid-century tables, and current best sellers.)
As soon as you go in, you’re greeted with art and coffee table books at relatively affordable prices ($30-$50). The store is bright and cheery with simple wood furniture. The rest of the books are organized by genre, author, and year of publication (for authors with multiple titles) on floor to ceiling wood shelves.
The center of the store is peppered with postcards, trinkets, a sale section, and posters. The register area holds cute tote bags, t-shirts, and matchboxes– all decorated with classic book covers, of course.
But my favorite part of The Booksmith isn’t the books or their other stock, it’s their magazine collection. They carry nearly impossible to find magazines (Wonderland, Love, Lula) constantly update their stock, and sell them for less than a newsstand would.
Green Apple is the other contender in this Battle Royale. The store is so big, it’s separated into two storefronts on Clement St, not to mention their other location on 9th ave between Lincoln Way and Irving St. It’s sparsely decorated, but overflowing with new and used books on giant shelves, tables, and even stacked on floors.
The main store is divided into three main rooms: sale books (at an extra 50% off,) full price books, and vinyl. The books are organized by genre and author, just like the Booksmith, which makes everything easy to find. The vinyl section holds new and old records of all genres, and the covers add some much needed color to the shop.
Green Apple’s book collection is extensive because it holds both new and used books. Their used books are ridiculously affordable, but you have to look for them since there isn’t a “Used book” section. I got a used copy of “Ada or Ardor” by Vladimir Nabokov there for $4. The bookstore also has amazing rare books, some of which are over a hundred years old. It also has an extensive graphic novel and comic collection with everything from Marvel to Marjane Satrapi.
Based on looks, stock, and pricing Green Apple is the better bookstore. The Booksmith is more beautiful and cozy, but it just doesn’t compare to Green Apple’s amount of books or its incredible prices. Another benefit exclusively available at Green Apple is that you can trade in old books for store credit or cash in order to keep updating your book collection.
Photo courtesy of Ashley Moffet/Foghorn
Green Apple Bookstore
506 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118
1644 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117