2nd Nov 2012
Modern Times in San Francisco
Modern Times in San Francisco might be my new favourite bookstore. And I don’t say that lightly (my obsessive love affair with Shakespeare and Co has been going on so long that I feel guilty even typing that first sentence). But it’s true. Warm, welcoming, inclusive and ethical, Modern Times is everything an independent bookshop should be. And I’m love.
Having had various incarnations since its inception in 1971, Modern Times has been based in the Mission for over thirty years (moving to the neighbourhood in 1980 and to its current home on 24th Street in 1991), and was one of the first alternative businesses in the area.
Nearby, gradual signs of gentrification are starting to show, but for now The Mission remains as culturally diverse, rich and exciting as Modern Times’ shelves, and the store itself has become an integral part of the local community.
Beloved by a broad range of customers for both its books and events, their live programme include readings and talks on all sorts of subjects (I’m loving the look of Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion), prisoner penpal nights, Sex Workers Outreach Project socials, art exhibitions and more.
The first bookstore in the city to feature queer and feminist sections of their shelves, to this day they stock a selection of both academic and accessible titles (I could have happily spent forever poring over them all), including For Books’ Sake favourites Persistence and Women of the Revolution, among many more.
As passionate about having something for everyone as they are about their core areas of politics and activism, their collection covers an entire spectrum of subject matters, from murder mysteries, graphic novels and travel guides to children’s fiction, cards, and cookbooks.
Maintaining the integrity of their radical origins, they continue to focus on featuring independent and small presses alongside larger publishers, and make a point of embracing cutting-edge, innovative and experimental work across their entire range of topics.
The staff were knowledgeable, helpful and friendly, making Modern Times a true haven and spiritual home for many in the Mission and beyond. Though I only came across it on my last day in San Francisco, I know for certain that the next time I’m in town (and mark my words, there will be a next time), it’ll be the first place on my list.