It's hard to imagine a bookstore earning the label "institution" but then this is City Lights. The indenpendent bookstore was founded in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin, and was the country's first all-paperback bookstore. In 1955, Ferlinghetti became the sole owner of the store and launched a press in order to introduce the public to the work of Beat poets. Writers such as Allen Ginsberg, Frank O’Hara, and Jack Kerouac cut their teeth here at the Columbus Avenue store, that still survives in an era of online shopping and box stores.
The city of San Francisco declared City Lights a local landmark in 2001. Stop in to browse three floors of new and used books. There are regular author events, and City Lights Publishers now has more than 200 books in print.
Night owls take note: City Lights is open until midnight everyday.