City Lights Books

Cultural Center in North Beach & Chinatown

Free speech and free spirits have flourished here since 1957, when City Lights founder and poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and manager Shigeyoshi Murao won a landmark ruling defending their right to publish Allen Ginsberg's magnificent epic poem Howl. Celebrate your freedom to read freely in the designated Poet’s Chair upstairs overlooking Jack Kerouac Alley, load up on zines on the mezzanine and entertain radical ideas downstairs in the new Pedagogies of Resistance section.

Idle browsing is highly encouraged, too – Ferlinghetti's hand-lettered sign describes City Lights as 'A Kind of Library Where Books Are Sold.' On the main floor, City Lights publications include titles by Angela Davis, Charles Bukowski, Diane di Prima and Noam Chomsky, proving the point on another of Ferlinghetti's signs: 'Printer's Ink Is the Greater Explosive.' The nonfiction cellar is unconventionally organized by book buyer Paul Yamazaki according to countercultural themes like Stolen Continents, Muckraking and Commodity Aesthetics. This cellar was once the lair of the paper dragon used in Chinatown's lunar new year celebrations, and enigmatic slogans on the walls like 'I am the door' were left behind by a cult that worshipped here in the 1930s. For readers everywhere, City Lights remains a cause for celebration and a source of continuing revelation.


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