Reverse-Gentrification of the Literary World

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News & Features » January 2014 » Indie Bookstore Spotlight: The Booksmith (San Francisco, CA)

Indie Bookstore Spotlight: The Booksmith (San Francisco, CA)

Welcome to Akashic in Good Company, a feature highlighting some of the amazingly talented, hard-working, committed people Akashic has had the pleasure of working with over the past fifteen years. Today, we are delighted to feature a virtual tour of a wonderful Haight-Ashbury bookshop with a unicorn for a pet: The Booksmith!


Hi there, internet. We’re Booksmith. We’ve been in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco since 1976. In 2007, Christin Evans and Praveen Madan bought the store and gave us a facelift, and a new attitude. We like to think of ourselves as a slightly off-center general interest store, with a heavy nod to our counterculture past.


As part of the new aesthetic of the store, we have some pretty amazing chalk art as section headers. Sean Chiki, graphic novelist, Store Artist, and national treasure, spent over a year of his life dangling at the top of a ladder to create them. Sean is also responsible for a lot of our stunning window display props, which get changed every six weeks or so.


We do 300+ events per year, and we’ve hosted everyone from Allen Ginsberg (who gave his last-ever reading here) in the nineties, to Ozzy Osborne in 2010, to the Welcome to Night Vale crew last year.


We also have several “authorless” events through the year that function more like social events. One of them is called Word/Play: we take six writers, split them into two teams, and make them play parlor games for made-up points. It falls somewhere between Wait, Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me! and @midnight, and it’s riotously fun. This summer, we’re adapting the event to host a March Madness–style Tournament of San Francisco Booksellers, wherein lots of major indies around town will compete with a 3-bookseller team. Why? Because booksellers are the best people on earth.


Last year we also launched Shipwreck, a literary erotic fan-fiction competition that we produce with Write Club SF. Each month, we pick a book, choose six well-known characters (often including at least one inanimate object), and assign each character to a writer, who is then tasked with writing erotic fan fiction centering around that character. At the event, their fic is read aloud (anonymously) by an actual Shakespearean actor, and the crowd votes for their favorite. Our tagline is “Ruin Good Things.” So far, we’ve ruined The Hobbit (yes, the Ring was a character), The Wizard of Oz, The Great Gatsby, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, A Christmas Carol, The Hunger Games, The Catcher in the Rye, and The Shining. Next month? Pride and Prejudice. The series is also a podcast that’s available for free on iTunes.


Lastly, this is our pet Unicorn, Chester. He’s famous and has been featured in many celebrity facebook profile photos.


Visit the Booksmith’s website and find them on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook!

Posted: Jan 29, 2014

Category: Akashic in Good Company | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,