The Lucky Tour: The Booksmith

LuckyIntrepid former Algonquin intern David Bradley and his trusty sidekick, Lucky the Leprechaun, hit the road for a tour of (almost all) the coolest, hippest, greatest indie bookstores in the United States. Join us for the journey…

SAN FRANCISCO — The Bay Area is bookstore heaven. Support of the independents has remained strong in this Pacific Coast Paradise and I had a plethora of stores to choose from for The Lucky Tour. My first booksmith2stop was at The Booksmith, the quintessential San Francisco bookstore. You could imagine other stores working their magic throughout the nation, but The Booksmith could only exist in San Fran.

Sitting on Haight Street and open to all, this store has the community’s fingerprints all over it. Cross the threshold and immediately on the right is a stand filled to the brim with local magazines and comics. Straight ahead is an advertisement for Shipwreck, a booksmith1monthly bonanza of local literary debauchery. Along every wall and shelf are unnaturally exquisite chalk drawings from local artist and bookseller Sean Chiki. There are plenty of ways to get your book fix in San Francisco, but The Booksmith easily gives you the most local flavor.

Store Manager and Children’s Book Buyer Lauren O’Niell answered the Algonquin Questionnaire.

booksmith3When did The Booksmith first open?

The Booksmith originally opened in 1976. The current owners, Christin Evans and Praveen Madan, took over the store in 2007.

What was in the current location before The Booksmith?

Just a few weeks ago we actually discovered that, right around 1900, there was a small amusement park/water slide called The Chutes right where we are now.

What is the oddest non-book item you sell in the store?

booksmith6We have these handmade monocles up at the front, and they’ve been selling really well!

What is your favorite Algonquin book and your favorite recommendation for the summer?

I really enjoyed Hillary Jordan’s novel When She Woke from Algonquin. I haven’t had a chance to read her other book, Mudbound, but I’ve heard great things about that one as well. Being the Children’s Book Buyer, I’m fond of the latest Lemony Snicket book, Who Could That Be at This Hour?

Are there any unique talents on the staff?

booksmith5Well, I’m sure you noticed on the way in, but we have great chalk drawings throughout the store done by our bookseller Sean Chiki who is just an incredible artist.

Is there a staff cocktail of choice?

We have a couple drinks that are popular on staff. Liquor-wise I’d say bourbon neat is a popular choice. And a lot of us like the Hell or High Watermelon beer from 21st Amendment Brewery.

What is the strangest thing that has ever happened at The Booksmith?

There’s always something strange going on here. My favorite story is from Bay to Breakers, an annual marathon in San Fran where a lot of the runners dress up in costumes or nothing at all. During the race a nude couple came in and asked if they could browse around the store, which was completely fine with us. They looked around for a bit, thanked us and continued on their way. Well, a few months later the same couple came in (fully clothed) and told us how much it meant to them that we had no problem letting them in the store. I’ll admit it took us a couple minutes to recognize them now that they were clothed, but once we did it was a great moment.


Next stop: Green Apple Books in San Francisco.

*Note: The Lucky Tour posts are not in real time. David and Lucky have returned from their travels with great tales and many, many books. Stay tuned for more road stories…

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