Go to any American bookshop, if such a thing still exists in your area, and you will find some 10% of the shelf space dedicated to what is collectively referred to as ‘Self Help’. Billions have been made from telling others how to do it, enriching the authors and publishers but must certainly not the readers. How to Make a Million, How to Sell Real Estate, How to Find a Spouse, How to Use a Computer, How to Take Pictures (good luck with that), How to Find Inner Peace, How to Beat the Stock Market (same as finding Inner Peace in my book and just as hard) and, funniest of all, How to Find Yourself.
Judging from the prevailing content at City Lights Books on Columbus Avenue, at the foot of Little Italy in San Francisco, most of their patrons are lost, because psychology, philosophy, new age stuff and so on quite dominate the store. There are lots of patrons trying to find themselves here. While I would argue that little of worth in the field of philosophy postdates the writings of the Frenchman René Descartes (the dour stoic who gave us “I think therefore I am”, Descartes was that rarest of Frenchmen, a man without passion) and the Scot David Hume (the empiricist who pronounced “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions”, Hume was that rarest of Scots, a man of passion) this in no way takes away from the need for a great bookshop like City Lights.
City Lights. G1, kit lens @ 24mm, 1/640, f/4.8.
I removed the ugly overhead wires using a combination of the Content Aware Fill and Clone Stamp tools in PS CS5.
The focus here is resolutely on the left or, as the current euphemism has it, ‘progressive’. That in no way takes anything away from a fine bookshop.
So no visit to the jewel of the west coast is complete without a call at City Lights. So famous is the store that it even has its own Wikipedia entry and, around the corner, there’s a street named after one of the founders. Shades of literary France.
City Lights Books is an amazingly fun place to visit. Not only are the chances high that you will find some fascinating gem to read but just observing the patrons is pleasure enough in itself.