A good book is like a salve to the soul and there is no better place to find your medicine than at a local, independent book shop. As the weather starts to cool and we spend more time inside, it’s the perfect time to curl up with little bookworms and those preparing to read with a beloved old book or a new favorite. Visit the following independent book shops with tips on how to make a day trip or afternoon out of it!
Bookshop West Portal
A true neighborhood meeting place, this beloved bookshop defines West Portal and the neighborhood wouldn’t be the same without it! Families dig outings to the West Portal hood with its retro feel and this kid-friendly bookshop is at the top of the list. With built-in benches for lounging and a third of the store dedicated to children, this low-key bookshop is an SF favorite. Bonus: The YA section is outstanding.
80 West Portal Ave
Hours: 11 a.m.–6 p.m. every day
Insider Tip: Drop by Noe Valley Bakery for a cookie and then let the kids run it off at nearby West Portal Playground.
Green Apple Books
You'll discover books jammed ceiling to floor a la Beauty and the Beast style at this literary institution. They stock both new and used children’s books in its small yet mighty kids’ sections at both locations. Plus, you can bring in your and baby’s old books to trade—just make sure they are in decent condition (read: not covered in spit-up). Check out the bargain bins out front for some deep discounts.
506 Clement St
Hours: 10 a.m.–9 p.m every day
Books on the Park
1231 9th Ave.
Hours: 10 a.m.– 9 p.m. every day
Insider Tip: SF Botanical Gardens is across the street and is just the spot to meander pathways, little bridges and ponds.
Fabulosa Books sits at the site of the former book shop, Dog Eared Castro and is fabulous in its own way! While all books and topics are represented here, Fabulosa specializes in LGBTQ+ books, which is apropos given Castro neighborhood’s role in queer history. They also buy used books so bring in those books that are sitting on the shelf collecting dust!
489 Castro St
Hours: 10 a.m.- 8 “or 9ish”
Little book lovers will head straight to the back of the store, where they will find hundreds of titles for babies all the way up to young adults. The Booksmith offers complimentary gift-wrap and one of the best selections of greeting cards in the city, making it the perfect choice for picking up gifts.
1727 Haight St
Hours: 12-6 p.m. daily
Insider tip: Right next-door, Sparrow Bar & Kitchen’s modern American cuisine menu also has the usual munchkin options. It's a splendid place with outdoor patio seating to get your grub on while enjoying the Haight with your minis.
The size of a postage stamp, this charming corner Potrero Hill bookstore’s motto is “Explore the Ancient Art of Page Turning.” An impressive children’s selection to explore, helpful staff and free gift wrap makes this a double-win in case your preschooler has a birthday party to attend around the corner at Recess.
1400 18th St.
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.–8 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Insider Tip: For spectacular views and space to run, drive up to McKinley Square’s playground. For little thrill seekers, surprise your reading buddies with a drive down Vermont—SF’s true crookedest street.
Dog Eared Books
Book-hungry San Franciscans will be well-familiar with this indie bookstore and its two locations on Valencia and Castro. Specializing in local and small press literature, you are sure to find many literary gems on the shelves here. In addition to books, the walls are filled with art from local artists for a visually stimulating environment. Make sure you check out the free box on your way out.
900 Valencia St.
Hours: Daily, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
New books, used books, big books, small books. No Bay Area indie bookstore list is complete without mentioning the good ol’ Pegasus. In various incarnations for over 45 years, there are now three Pegasus locations and we love them all! The Solano Ave store probably has the biggest kid’s section, but each location has something for everyone.
1855 Solano Ave.
2349 Shattuck Ave.
5560 College Avenue
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily (All locations)
Insider Tip: At the Solano location, grab a waffle cone full of organic yumminess at iScream. Then head East on Solano, turn left at Alameda and take a sharp right onto Indian Rock Stairways Path (between the corner and second house)—you and your little steppers can follow the staircases past a few streets and up to Indian Rock Park for breathtaking Bay views.
Mr. Mopps’ Children’s Books
This annex of the much adored toy shop, Mr. Mopps’ Children’s Books is located four doors down from the toy store and is a bookstore built with little people in mind. They are a proud source of Equal Reads Books, which highlights books for their excellence in diversity. Click here to read more about our visit to the store.
1417A Martin Luther King Jr. Way
Hours: Tues.–Fri., 12-5 p.m.
Insider Tip: Exercise those little bodies with a brisk 7-minute walk up Vine St. to Shattuck Ave. to dream of a date night at Chez Panisse then grab yourselves some slices of pizza at the famous Cheese Board Bakery.
Mrs. Dalloway's Bookstore
Handwritten reviews tucked inside books, artful displays and tiny succulents perfect for gifting are just a few of the endearing touches you will find at Mrs. Dalloways' on College Ave. This quaint bookstore boasts over 150 in-store author events most years, many by children's book authors. They give back to the community by hosting weekend fundraising events for over 25 local public and private schools.
2904 College Ave.
Hours: Sun., 12-5 p.m.; Mon.,-Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m
Locally owned and independently operated in Danville since 1973, this bookstore has long been a place for creativity at its finest. In a true effort to continue to bring the community together, they have continued virtual author (think: John Grisham!) visits for both adult and children’s books.
3 Railroad Ave.
Hours: Mon.–Sat., 9:30 a.m.– 5 p.m., Sun., 11 a.m.–3 p.m.
Insider Tip: Want something cold and delicious after book browsing? Tutti Frutti Frozen Yogurt is in the same complex.
Towne Center Books
Don’t you love when you can browse for your own books while your child is finding hers? Both locations boast over 7,000 titles with the children’s lit section being half of the store at the Pleasanton location. This community gem also offers educational toys and your bookworm might delight in the hosted birthday parties. (Think: Pirate, Science and Princess themes.)
555 Main St
2375 Railroad Avenue Unit #100
Hours: Sun.–Thurs., 11 a.m – 5 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 11 a.m. –8 p.m.
Bel and Bunna's Books
If you've ever traveled to Europe, Bel and Bunna's may feel like home for you. The shop owner fashioned this neighborhood gem after the British bookstores of her childhood and really tries to make it a literary wonderland where kids learn to love reading. A virtual daily circle or story time invites little readers to tune in from the comforts of home. Read all about our visit here.
3581 Mt Diablo Blvd.
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 11a.m.-5 p.m.; closed Sunday
Ink Spell Books
One block off Main Street in downtown Half Moon Bay, the cozy chairs and couches at this book shop will draw your little readers in to curl up with a book or two. While a train table occupies little hands, parents can browse their large selection of adult books, used books, toys, games and even clothes. With every budget in mind, Ink Spell welcomes all to visit and has something for everyone!
500 Purissima St
Half Moon Bay
Hours: Daily 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
The Reading Bug
This family-owned, heartfelt shop is designed to look more like an enchanted forest than a typical bookstore and will thrill kids of all ages. Delightful morning story times are held every Friday and Saturday and they even have a free kids podcast that will read to your kids!
785 Laurel St.
Hours: Tues.-Sat., 11:00 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.–4 p.m.; closed Mondays.
Insider tip: You cannot go wrong with Cowabunga Ice Cream right next door. In addition, to work off some energy before heading back on the road, take a 10-minute walk to the delightful and leafy Burton Park which sports a splash pad, tot and school age play sections plus bocce courts. Hiller Aviation Museum is just a short flight over the freeway.
Reach and Teach
Unique puzzles, gifts, books, toys and green lifestyle products are just some of what Reach and Teach offers. Deeply rooted in peace, gender equality and social justice issues along with sustainable living, this book shop also offers soap refills! So stop by for a gift or two and leave with all your soap needs fulfilled for clean and happy kiddos.
144 West 25th Avenue
Hours: Tues.-Sun. 12-4 p.m.
Linden Tree Children’s Books
With over 90 percent of its store devoted to children, Linden Tree Books is a 40-year-old local favorite. Kids will love the outdoor seating area where weekly story times are held and parents will love that Manresa Bakery (yes, from the Manresa restaurant) is next door and can grab a coffee plus kouign amann. Yes, please.
265 State St
Hours: Mon.- Fri., 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sat & Sun 9:30-5:30 p.m.
Insider tip: After your Linden Tree visit, take a five-minute walk to gorgeous Shoup Park for play on its two playgrounds and exploration of the dry Adobe Creek bed that you can use to walk or run all the way to the wooden platform observation decks of Redwood Grove Nature Preserve.
This cool expansion bookstore from next door neighbor Leigh's Favorite Books (which, with over 40,000 titles is somewhere you should visit, too!) is devoted to kids' books, educational toys and games. The very back of the store is filled with all things toddler and babies (think: adorable accessories) - we dare you to try leaving this store with just one item.
125 S. Murphy Ave.
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; closed Sundays
Insider’s tip: Plaza del Sol and Philz coffee are on the block over. Caffeinated parent + room to scream and run around like a banshee for the kids? Win.
With its decades-long loyal followings by Beat Poets, musicians such as the Grateful Dead and Stanford professors, if there is an independent bookstore worthy of the title “Powerhouse” Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park is it. Kepler’s draws very popular author/illustrators for events (such as Rick Riordan); check their website for latest events.
1010 El Camino Real
Hours: Sun.-Mon.,10 a.m.– 5 p.m., Tues.-Sat., 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Insider tip: The fantastic Café Borrone next door has lovely pastries among lunch and dinner options with outdoor seating next to a landmark fountain. Nearby Burgess Park offers a large and shady playground for strolling and picnicking with the bonus of watching the train roll by.
Ask any savvy Bay Area parent what the best bookshop in the South Bay is, and you’ll likely get a resounding answer: Hicklebee’s. Serving Silicon Valley since 1979, families attest to its exemplary staff, wide selection of books and killer author events (JK Rowling, Rosemary Wells, Judith Viorist). With bonus features like Book of the Month Clubs (you can give as a gift!), their motto of "Extraordinary books for the entire family" is easier than ever to accomplish.
1378 Lincoln Ave.
Hours: Tues. – Fri., 11 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.–5 p.m.; closed Mondays
With origins dating back to the Gold Rush, Books Inc. declares it is the oldest bookseller in the West. To be fair, there are nine different locations of this glorious indie-chain, including four in San Francisco, and two in the East Bay. We’re putting it under the South Bay heading but there are also Peninsula and SF stores. All locations are clean, well-organized and feature an in-store children’s lit expert. Check the website for the nearest location and join one of the many book clubs they host, or just pop in to peruse some of the finest selections of books in the Bay.
317 Castro St.
Hours: 10 a.m.- 9 p.m. daily
855 El Camino Real #74
Hours: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. daily
Books that are old to others and new to you line the shelves of this bookstore with locations on The Alameda and in downtown Campbell. Sell and trade your old books here or buy some new reads. The Campbell location always has a table out front with many fun kid favorites to lure in the little literature lovers.
1066 The Alameda
Hours: 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. daily
275 E. Campbell Ave.
Hours: Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m.- 8 p.m.; Mon., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; closed Sundays
Insider tip: Greenlee's Bakery with their famous cinnamon swirl bread is right across the street from the San Jose location. Or head to Campbell on Sunday to enjoy the farmer's market that takes over the downtown while you swing by to see what's new at Recycle.
The Bay Area’s liveliest bookstore is the premier location for author events, with the likes of Elizabeth Gilbert, Isabelle Allende, Hillary Clinton and Michael Chabon gracing its reading room or Ferry Building locations. The back of the main store includes children’s books, toys, and an entire used book room. Book Passage's store in the snazzy Ferry Building in San Francisco may have a small footprint, but boasts floor-to-ceiling books with a great kids’ section. It’s a perfect place to snag San Francisco-centric gift books like Count to Sleep San Francisco and Smarty Marty’s Got Game. Plus you can watch ferries, tankers and sail boats come and go, so it’s an epic win for the family.
51 Tamal Vista Blvd.
Hours: 10 a.m. - 5p.m. daily
Book Passage Ferry Building
1 Ferry Building
Hours: Mon.– Fri. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sat. 9 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.–5 p.m.
With eleven stores ranging from Healdsburg to Larkspur, Copperfield’s has the North Bay and Marin well covered. Located in the 4th Street shopping district of downtown San Rafael, this location carries an expansive selection of books for kids and teens. The store also houses a Taylor Maid Organic Coffee Bar, because nothing goes better with a book than a cup of joe.
850 4th St.
Hours: Mon. -Sat., 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.: Sun., 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Depot Book Store and Cafe
All aboard to get your board books! How fun is it that this popular bookstore is located in an old train depot? This adorable downtown Mill Valley shop is small yet offers an amazing kids’ selection. You'll enjoy the impressive array of both international and local magazines, and a cafe to boot!
87 Throckmorton Ave.
Hours: Sun.-Tues, 8:30 a.m.- 7p.m.; Wed.-Thurs., 8:30 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Fri.- Sat., 8:30 a.m. - 7 p.m.
—Christine Lai & Kate Loweth
featured photo: iStock