Best Bookstore

City Lights

261 Columbus (at Broadway), 362-8193, www.citylights.com

Although it's a required stop on the Columbus Avenue tourist crawl, bordering Jack Kerouac Alley and Vesuvio Cafe, City Lights, founded by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, retains its pioneer spirit. The floors creak, which is nice, and the bookshelves look like they were built over time, on site, by Ferlinghetti himself. The bathroom is for staff only; the coffee bars are up the street. The history -- well, you probably know the history: the first paperback bookstore, Beat magnet, Howlpublisher. Enough memorabilia hangs on the walls to make this a museum, and it actually has a poetry room. But City Lights is our best bookstore for other reasons. One, the shop put up political billboards in North Beach. Two, it stocks the kind of volumes that'll prompt you to say stuff like, "Man, I don't know shit about Situationism," and, "Look, Kathy Acker" -- meaning the usual rules about shelf life don't apply, and the buyers stock what they like. But don't worry: You'll still find your National Book Award best sellers and Nabokov trade paperbacks, just like on the Internet.

 
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