(Post by Pauline Pechakjian)
A little over a year ago, I was fortunate enough to visit what I now consider one of my all-time favorite bookstores: Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s famed City Lights bookstore and publishing house located in San Francisco. The bookstore has become an iconic landmark in the world of American literature, especially in regards to the great writers and poets of the Beat generation. City Lights gained notoriety when Ferlinghetti chose to publish Allen Ginsberg’s initially-controversial Howl and Other Poems, and throughout the decades has been a critical meeting point for all of the best minds that the counterculture had and has to offer.
Upon entering the store, I was overwhelmed. Perhaps this was due to my newfound appreciation for the Beats and all of the history behind Ferlinghetti’s shop, but also, the atmosphere of the bookstore was simply amazing. I always act like a little kid in a candy shop every time I enter a bookstore, but my euphoric attitude ran much deeper than usual at City Lights. You could just tell that great things had happened there throughout the years, and I was ultimately filled with the appreciation of just being there. The main floor of the shop holds a lot of literature’s best works, and you can find hoards of amazing classics there. If you go downstairs, you’ll find lots of nonfiction, namely philosophical, historical, and psychological texts, and appropriately, tables to house resulting discussions.
My favorite area of the store, however, was the Poetry Room upstairs. You take a set of labeled stairs, decked out with posters of Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan conversing, and find yourself in the midst of endless poetry ranging from canonical classics to contemporary experimental pieces. Although spatially the poetry room is the smallest in the store, I spent most of my time there because there are simply so many unique works to go through. On top of everything City Lights has to offer, it’s hours of operation also make it amazing for a night owl such as myself – they are open until midnight every day of the week! If you have spare time in San Francisco, be sure to visit this iconic independent bookstore that represents so much of American literature’s history and experience it all for yourself!