Berkeley's Best Independent Bookstores

Bookstore | Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash
Chelsa Lauderdale

The true mark of a book lover is their inevitable gravitation towards the nearest bookstore, much like a hunting dog sniffing out a fox. Every indie bookstore tells the story of the city around it. A city with as much history as Berkeley, California, definitely has a story that its many bookstores are proud to share. Here are a few of the best when it comes to Berkeley’s independent bookstores.

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Moe’s Books

Moe’s Books has been an important part of the Bay Area literary scene since 1959 and features a large selection of new and used books. Moe’s has four floors of books, including an array of cheap sci-fi paperbacks and genres that don’t get much attention at other book stores, like sheet music and audio books. There’s an included art and antiquarian shop that’s open from 12-6pm every day and features rare and collectible books available for sale or just for the appreciation of the avid book lover. Bring in an old book or two and take advantage of Moe’s buy or trade amenity, where you can get cash or store credit for your gently used books, always at a fair price. Check out Moe’s online calendar to see upcoming readings and book release events.

Pegasus Books

This location on Shattuck Avenue is one of three in the Berkeley area. Pegasus Books opened in 1969, and it’s hard to imagine Shattuck without it now. Like the other stores in this list, Pegasus buys back books, just call ahead to ensure that there will be a buyer on staff when you arrive. Pegasus has a small selection of CDs and DVDs for sale as well as books, so you can get all of your media in one quick stop. They are an eco-friendly store, in true Berkeley style, and they help to build community by hosting a number of regular literary events. Every 3rd Wednesday is ‘Lyrics and Dirges,’ a monthly reading series featuring prominent, emerging and beginning writers. At 7:30pm on the last Tuesday of every month is ‘Happy Hour‘,where you can hear short stories while enjoying free drinks and snacks, and on the first Tuesday at the same time, come into Pegasus for ‘Jazz Stories‘ and indulge in jazz music and true stories from jazz’s golden age.

Friends of Berkeley Public Library

One of the great hidden gems of the Berkeley book scene, Friends of Berkeley Public Library can be found on the base level of the Telegraph parking garage. Friends is a small shop, and if you’re looking for something specific, you probably won’t find it here. However, this is a fantastic shop for browsing, or for picking up a new-to-you read for very little money. Most of the books in the shop range from $1-$3, and there are even a few shelves dedicated to 50-cent books. Friends is a cash-only shop, and every cent spent goes to helping pay for Berkeley Public Library events such as summer programs and arts and crafts events. Friends may be the only store on this list that will not buy back books, but they do take donations and you can be assured that your old, dearly-loved books will go to helping a good cause.

Mrs. Dalloway’s Bookstore

Mrs. Dalloway’s Bookstore reflects a completely different side of the Berkeley story. The open, breathable space and focus on garden and community show what it’s like to be a part of the gorgeous Elmwood District of Berkeley. It’s not just the neighborhood that sets Dalloway’s apart from the other bookstores on this list. Dalloway’s only sells new copies of books, and their collection is meticulously curated. They offer an exciting selection of new fiction, non-fiction, poetry, gardening and children’s books, and include even rare, small press and handmade selections. Dalloway’s attempts to add another level of community to the area by hosting regular author readings and events and by housing a delightful children’s section which is a great spot to bring your kids for the afternoon. There is also local art on display and for sale throughout the store, as well as gardening tools and starter plants, so you can buy the tools to create your perfect reading nook or outdoor spot at home.

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