If you’re looking for intellectual stimulation, a place to relax, read a good book, and listen to hot live music, or to simply get lost in precariously stacked piles of dust-covered novels, these bookstores will satisfy your appetite for literature and adventure. Take a look at our suggestions for the best quirky, eclectic, alternative, antique, and purely satisfying bookstores in and around San Rafael.
For an independent, purely Bay Area-based bookstore, Book Passage seems to do it all – and more. From classes on the craft of writing and foreign language study to an independent publishing business to an expansive collection of literature including history, art, used books, and travel writing, a visit to Book Passage is almost guaranteed to satisfy your desire for literary stimulation. Be sure to check out their impressive lineup of author events, which in the past have included lectures by Isabel Allende, Patti Smith, and Anne Lamott. If you’re spending several hours there, be sure to check out the Book Passage Café.
Located on 4th Street in San Rafael, Copperfield’s Books has an eclectic atmosphere and an excellent collection of intriguing non-fiction literature. Go here for an impressive collection of books on current events, history, biography, and politics. Though they excel mainly in non-fiction, their fiction section is quite good as well. Before you leave, make sure that you stop at their café for a chocolate croissant and an exotic Dragonwell green tea as you read your newly purchased literature and listen to a selection of alternative indie rock.
Rebound Bookstore is a quirky and eclectic purely second-hand bookstore located in San Rafael. Upon entering, you’ll be a greeted gladly by a great selection of second-hand books in every genre. Also, be sure to check out their collection of CDs and DVDs, which is also quite impressive. Make sure to explore their events, which include everything from poetry readings to live music to art exhibits with refreshments. Come here to spend hours relaxing in a comfortable chair surrounded by art, music, and literature.
You’re always in for an adventure whenever you enter Friends Books, which takes its collection purely from donations, mostly from the San Rafael library. Although you won’t find the latest bestsellers here, the lack of new books is made up for by the eclectic mix of literature you’ll encounter. Be prepared to lose yourself in the aisles of precariously stacked second-hand literature. Since all of the books are secondhand, the prices are the cheapest you’ll find in the area, which makes it easy to leave with several times more books than you anticipated bringing home.
Step through the doors into Heldfond Book Gallery, and you’ve entered the book lover’s dream – a store devoted entirely to antique, rare, beautifully illustrated, and otherwise one-of-a-kind books. Entering is like stepping into a museum of dusty volumes and yellowed pages. Because the books here are rare, don’t expect cheap prices – sometimes it’s more fun to wander the aisles and just flip through pages, but if you do feel the urge to bring home something from the collection, know that the book you are purchasing will be high quality, rare, and difficult to find anywhere else.
The avid comic book reader will find their home in Blue Moon Comics. Devoted exclusively to comic books of all different publishers and eras, Blue Moon Comics houses an extensive array of the most different comics ever printed. Come here for traditional Marvel comics printed in the 1950s as well as the latest printed versions of Deadpool and Superman. And if you play magic, be sure to check out their collection of rare magic cards locked in glass by the cash register, as well as their regular magic events.
With its eclectic atmosphere, towering piles of books, and hanging scarves and incense, Open Secret Bookstore is unlike any other. While you won’t find the latest thrillers on the shelves, you will find the largest collection of literature on spiritual and metaphysical subjects in the North Bay Area. Open Secret hosts numerous events from speakers on subjects such as aura reading, and different forms of yoga, as well as regular belly dancing performances and tarot card readings. Come here if you’re interested in esoteric religion as well as comparing different forms of spirituality throughout the world.
If you’re in the San Anselmo area and craving some literary inspiration, Whyte’s Booksmith is the best place to go. On their shelves, you’ll find everything from literature to politics, sci-fi, philosophy, non-fiction, and teen and children’s literature. Because of its large collection, you’re sure to find something to interest and inspire you. Due to its relatively small size, Whyte’s Booksmith has a homey and comforting atmosphere and makes you feel as though you could lose yourself for hours among the shelves. By Kate Iida
Kate Iida is currently attending Barnard College of Columbia University in New York City and plans to study Human Rights and History. She is a former Bay Area native who loves writing, traveling, playing guitar, hiking, backpacking, fencing, and trying different foods.