Green Apple Books: Independent Bookstores Just Won't Quit

The first time I walked into Green Apple Books in San Francisco, I remember thinking, “Oh yeah. This is definitely a nice bookstore.”

My tepid response was put on hold once I realized I was in the annex to the bookstore which holds merely a drop of Green Apple’s ocean of a collection. Once I entered the main building a few doors down, I was speechless–my eyes darting back and forth as I tried my best to take it in all at once.

Green Apple Books is a bibliophile’s utopia–stacked wall-to-wall with books of every genre, every size, new and used, from leather bound to hardback to paperback, and not a Starbucks counter in sight. And an even bigger surprise: the employees are knowledgeable and will go out of their way to help you. I was floored when I asked for a specific title and the attractive man with the beard, flannel shirt, and tattoos led me to a section that to me had no clear sorting system and, with the greatest of ease, plucked the one copy of my book from a seemingly impenetrable wall of words.

This is what a bookstore is supposed to be. Sure, they have sizable sections for other things like music and DVDs, but at Green Apple, the appetizers, main entrees, and desserts are the books themselves. The smell of old books on wooden shelves fills your nose as you walk over creaky floorboards. A visitor feels transported away from the vibrant activity of Clement Street and the modern world into another dimension where books are still printed on paper, the word “kindle” only refers to fire, and people love the feel of rifling through pages and having tiny gusts of wind hit their faces.

The bookstore itself is a veritable labyrinth–this is fitting, as this neighborhood bookstore has been open for 45 years. What started off in 1967 as a store of 750 square feet has grown to ten times its size according to the store’s website. The evolution of the bookstore is made evident by the fact that they provide a map for those visitors who have lost their way while perusing through fiction and have somehow found themselves in the adorably titled “Granny Smith Room” which houses books on linguistics, philosophy, and anthropology.

Within the main building they have a second floor as well as a large children’s book area, all in addition to the annex housed a couple of doors down. Continuing with the apple theme, they have a “Red Delicious Room” with books on subjects like Eastern religion and birds. On the stairways are books grouped by deliciously quirky themes like “Deep Dogs,” which has titles like The Art of Racing in the Rain, “This is What Happens When You Don’t Eat Your Vegetables” with books like Tokyo Vice, and my personal favorite “Sexy Time” with such books as She Comes First.

To say that there’s something for everyone here would be trite. But entirely true. Max Segal, a San Francisco native, tells me, “When I first came to Green Apple as a kid, I thought it was a produce market. It wasn’t until later that I realized they do actually produce something–just something entirely different than I thought.”

Green Apple Books is so much more than just a store that sells books–to describe it as such would be too impersonal. And Green Apple is anything but impersonal. It is a neighborhood landmark, a longstanding independent bookstore that survived the most recent recession, a well of knowledge and entertainment, and a source of community pride.

You can lose yourself for hours in its book-lined aisles–just make sure you bring your good credit card. Because leaving empty-handed just ain’t gonna happen.


By Bel Poblador
an Associate Editor for Black Clock and an MFA Writing candidate at CalArts. She is a Los Angeles native, a lover of San Francisco, and an advocate of all things dog-related

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