Welcome to City Lights Bookstore!

A literary meeting place since 1953, City Lights is a landmark general bookstore, internationally known for its expert selection of books and for its commitment to free intellectual inquiry. Here you can check out our events calendar, browse a selection of featured books, new releases and recommended titles from the City Lights staff, sign up to receive City Lights newsletters, and learn a bit of the history of City Lights.

For any immediate questions or concerns, see our contact page or give us a call at (415) 362-8193

Featured and Recommended Titles at City Lights Bookstore

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Little Labors
Rivka Galchen
Little Labors is a slanted, enchanted literary miscellany. Varying in length from just a sentence or paragraph to a several-page story or essay, Galchen's puzzle pieces assemble into a shining, unpredictable, mordant picture of the ordinary-extraordinary nature of babies and literature. Anecdotal or analytic, each part opens up an odd and tender...
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Ongoingness
The End of a Diary
Sarah Manguso
A strange thing happened when I finished this book: I realized I could not really remember what words had been said, but instead the deep sensations I felt while reading. This is a hypnotic exploration of time and memory that evokes much but prescribes little (and that's a good thing). —Recommended by Vanessa, City Lights Books
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Imagine Me Gone
A Novel
Adam Haslett
Adam Haslett's new novel is devastating and darkly funny. Haslett’s writing is graceful, and his intellectual curiosity is wide-ranging as he creates an unforgettable family’s story tackling mental illness and race among other fraught topics. —Recommended by Stacey, City Lights Publishers
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The Liminal People
The First Book of The Liminal Trilogy
Ayize Jama-Everett
Razor. Plush. Fast. —Recommended by Tân, City Lights Books
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Death in the Congo
Murdering Patrice Lumumba
Emmanuel Gerard, Bruce Kuklick
Maybe not a unique event in the history of newly-independent former colonies, but a telling one, and one for which the United States should still feel shame. —Recommended by Jeff, City Lights Books
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The Mechanical Horse
How the Bicycle Reshaped American Life
Margaret Guroff
With cities across the country adding miles of bike lanes and building bike-share stations, bicycling is enjoying a new surge of popularity in America. It seems that every generation or two, Americans rediscover the freedom of movement, convenience, and relative affordability of the bicycle. The earliest two-wheeler, the draisine...
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The Story of Alice
Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland
Robert Douglas-Fairhurst
Robert Douglas-Fairhurst is all but steeped in the milieu and culture of Victorian England, so much so that reading this one feels less that Dodgson created Alice than that the age did, and that Dodgson was serendipitously poised to transcribe it— and not forgetting the young Alice Liddell without whom...
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Fahrenheit 451
60th Anniversary Edition
Ray Bradbury
The temperature at which book paper combusts! Written in 1951, this dystopian novel is a must-read in today's world of disappearing bookstores and young readers who have never held an actual paperback. —Recommended by Don, City Lights Books
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Trace
Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape
Lauret Edith Savoy
In this provocative and powerful mosaic of personal journeys and historical inquiry across a continent and time, Savoy explores how the country's still unfolding history, and ideas of "race," have marked her and the land. From twisted terrain within the San Andreas Fault zone to a South Carolina plantation, from national parks to burial grounds...
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Ready Player One
Ernest Cline
If you are a geek for 80s popculture taking place in Virtual Reality in the futuretime of 2044, solving videogame mysteries to win the ultimate prize, then this book is for you. I loved it to bytes! —Recommended by Don, City Lights Books
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Seven Brief Lessons on Physics
Carlo Rovelli
All the beauty of modern physics in seven short and enlightening lessons This playful, entertaining, and mind-bending introduction to modern physics briskly explains Einstein's general relativity, quantum mechanics, elementary particles, gravity, black holes, the complex architecture of the universe, and the role humans play in this weird...
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The Chaplin Machine
Slapstick, Fordism and the International Communist Avant-Garde
Owen Hatherley
In The Chaplin Machine, Owen Hatherley unearths the hidden history of Soviet film, art, and architecture. Turning upside down the common view that the communist avant-garde was austere and humorless, he reveals an unexpected comedic streak that found its inspiration in the slapstick of the American performers Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.
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A, B, C: Three Short Novels
The Jewels of Aptor; The Ballad of Beta-2; They Fly at Ciron
Samuel R. Delany
Please read this even if for no other reason than to experience the mystery and charm of Delany's 1965 novel The Ballad of Beta-2, which I only recently discovered. This is classic 60s-era SciFi at its scintillating best. —Recommended by Jeff, City Lights Books
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After the Parade
A Novel
Lori Ostlund
This generous debut by local author Lori Ostlund is a strange delight. —Recommended by Cassie, City Lights Books From Flannery O'Connor and Rona Jaffe Award winner Lori Ostlund, a deeply moving and beautiful debut novel about a man who leaves his longtime partner in New Mexico for a new life in San Francisco...
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Drugged
The Science and Culture Behind Psychotropic Drugs
Richard J. Miller
"Morphine," writes Richard J. Miller, "is the most significant chemical substance mankind has ever encountered." So ancient that remains of poppies have been found in Neolithic tombs, it is the most effective drug ever discovered for treating pain. "Whatever advances are made in medicine," Miller adds, "nothing could really be more...
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How to Listen to Jazz
Ted Gioia
In How to Listen to Jazz, award-winning music scholar Ted Gioia presents a lively, accessible introduction to the art of listening to jazz. Covering everything from the music's structure and history to the basic building blocks of improvisation, Gioia shows exactly what to listen for in a jazz performance.
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What Lies Between Us
A Novel
Nayomi Munaweera
In the idyllic hill country of Sri Lanka, a young girl grows up with her loving family; but even in the midst of this paradise, terror lurks in the shadows. When tragedy strikes, she and her mother must seek safety by immigrating to America. There the girl reinvents herself as an American teenager to survive, with the help of her cousin.
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Counternarratives
Stories and Novellas
John Keene
If I were on a deserted island and had to pick one book to read over and over again, I. would. take. this. one. —Recommended by Tân, City Lights Books Also recommended by Andy, City Lights Books
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Dragonfish
A Novel
Vu Tran
"Vu Tran's Dragonfish is that rare hybrid marvel―a literary thriller, a narrative of migration and loss that upends the conventions of any form." ―Dinaw Mengestu, author of All Our Names
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Why Jazz?
A Concise Guide
Kevin Whitehead
What was the first jazz record? Are jazz solos really improvised? How did jazz lay the groundwork for rock and country music? In Why Jazz?, author and NPR jazz critic Kevin Whitehead provides lively, insightful answers to these and many other fascinating questions, offering an entertaining guide for both novice listeners and long-time fans.