Alexander Book Co. is a traditional independent bookstore tucked around a corner in downtown San Francisco. Wedged between office towers and the Academy of Arts complex, it’s a cozy respite from steel, glass, and marble. The store even smells like good books waiting to be discovered.
The first time I tried to visit the store, I arrived just after closing time. The store keeps business hours and shuts down with the surrounding offices. However, the second time I dropped by I dashed in just before 6PM and found that if there are customers meandering through the store, the staff won’t shoo them out right at 6PM, but give them time to find their favorite book. I heard one bookseller say “take your time, I don’t have anywhere to rush off to.” Now that is a level of customer service that is incredibly welcoming.
The store had me when I found displays of books from my three favorite publishers: Europa, NYRB, and Archipelago Books. Literary fiction is heavily emphasized and well represented, I could’ve purchased an armload of books. What I found especially intriguing was a wide selection of African-American fiction prominently displayed (rather than given its own section in a wall bookcase). This is a genre I’m not as familiar with and one I haven’t seen placed front and center. I flipped through several new titles.
Alexander Book Co. is three stories of books offering a full selection of most genres. Given that the Academy of Arts is in the neighborhood, there is a terrific selection of design books. In fact, Alexander Book Co. stocks texts for the school, something I noticed in stores by east coast schools but for the first time on the west coast. I wish more universities and independent bookstores would work together, it’s a lovely partnership where it exists.
If you’re in the SOMA area, drop by. I found the store a peaceful interlude from the hustle and bustle outside, but remember to go during business hours.
50 Second St.
(Between Market & Mission)
San Francisco, CA 94105