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 the City Lights Bookstore

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The Empathy Exams
Essays
Leslie Jamison
From personal loss to phantom diseases, a bold and brilliant collection, winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize A Publishers Weekly Top Ten Essay Collection of Spring 2014 Beginning with her experience as a medical actor who was paid to act out symptoms for medical students to diagnose, Leslie Jamison's visceral and revealing essays...
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Hip Hop Family Tree 1
1970s - 1981
Ed Piskor
This is a well-documented history of the beginnings of hip hop. Beautifully drawn in Old School comic form; hilariously written and sharply dissected. Open to any page and you'll be hooked. New York City, DJs and graffiti in the late 70s? You can't beat it, because "the beat don't stop til the break of dawn!"—Recommended by Don, City Lights Books
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The Trip to Echo Spring
On Writers and Drinking
Olivia Laing
Olivia Laing took an epic road trip across the states, to various spots that were previously associated with famous alcoholic writers, in an effort to understand all the ways that booze affected them - their lives, their loved ones, and ultimately, their writing. Laing is a fantastic writer, having successfully dissected a tragic illness that is..
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Selected Ambient Works Volume II
Marc Weidenbaum
Extravagantly opaque, willfully vaporous — Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II, released by the estimable British label Warp Records in 1994, rejuvenated ambient music for the Internet Age that was just dawning. In the United States, it was his first full length on Sire Records (home to Madonna and Depeche Mode), which helped usher in...
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Foreign Gods, Inc.
A Novel
Okey Ndibe
Foreign Gods, Inc., tells the story of Ike, a New York-based Nigerian cab driver who sets out to steal the statue of an ancient war deity from his home village and sell it to a New York gallery. Ike's plan is fueled by desperation. Despite a degree in economics from a major American college, his strong accent has barred him from the corporate...
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Pioneer Girl
A Novel
Bich Minh Nguyen
From an award-winning author, a novel about a Vietnamese American family's ties to The Little House on the Prairie. Jobless with a PhD, Lee Lien returns home to her Chicago suburb from grad school, only to find herself contending with issues she's evaded since college. But when her brother disappears, he leaves behind an object from their...
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Crab Monsters, Teenage Cavemen, and Candy Stripe Nurses
Roger Corman: King of the B Movie
Chris Nashawaty
An excellent history of Corman, told by those who worked for him and with him and became the generation which liberated American film in the 1970s: Scorsese, Coppola, Nicholson, et al. Beautifully presented with color stills and posters blaring from every page! —Recommended by Don, City Lights Books
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A Visionary Madness
The Case of James Tilly Matthews and the Influencing Machine
Mike Jay
Anything I might possibly say could in no way prepare you for this exploration of madness, conspiracy and duplicity, in which one man's apparent delusions are actually borne out by historical fact. Try transposing Sirhan Sirhan to the 18th century... —Recommended by Jeff, City Lights Books
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The Enchanted
A Novel
Rene Denfeld
A wondrous and redemptive debut novel, set in a stark world where evil and magic coincide, The Enchanted combines the empathy and lyricism of Alice Sebold with the dark, imaginative power of Stephen King. "This is an enchanted place. Others don't see it, but I do." The enchanted place is an ancient stone prison, viewed through the eyes of a...
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Mount Terminus
A Novel
David Grand
David Grand's Mount Terminus is a dark, majestic novel about art, family, overwhelming love, and the birth of Los Angeles. After his mother's death, young Bloom boards a train with his bereaved father, Jacob, to travel west across mountains and deserts to California: Mount Terminus, their new home at the desolate end of the world. There, in a...
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Wonderkid
A Novel
Wesley Stace
From Wesley Stace—formerly known as singer-songwriter John Wesley Harding—the hugely entertaining novel about the touring life of America's unlikeliest rock stars. Sold-out concerts, screaming fans, TV shows, Number Ones. This is the rock and roll dream, and the Wonderkids are living it. But something's wrong. The gigs are sold out, sure, but the h
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The Good Lord Bird
A Novel
James McBride
Quite the masterwork. A poignant delight with a sense of humor that sears to the bone. —Recommended by Scott, City Lights Books
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The New York Nobody Knows
Walking 6,000 Miles in the City
William B. Helmreich
As a kid growing up in Manhattan, William Helmreich played a game with his father they called "Last Stop." They would pick a subway line and ride it to its final destination, and explore the neighborhood there. Decades later, Helmreich teaches university courses about New York, and his love for exploring the city is as strong as ever...
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Piano Stories
Felisberto Hernández
One of the strangest things I have ever read. It is wonderful. —Recommended by Tân, City Lights Books
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Dracula
Penguin Classics Hardcover Edition
Bram Stoker
I'm sure you've seen the films, or some vampire TV show sometime in your life. But now here's your chance to discover where the phenomenon started. This Gothic novel, composed mostly of letters and journal entries and written in 1897, still holds all the horror of Transylvania and its inhabitants. A frighteningly bloody read. —Recommended by Don
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Silence Once Begun
A Novel
Jesse Ball
From the celebrated author of The Curfew ("A spare masterwork of dystopian fiction" —The New York Times Book Review), Jesse Ball's Silence Once Begun is an astonishing novel of unjust conviction, lost love, and a journalist's obsession. Over the course of several months, eight people vanish from their homes in the same Japanese town, a single...
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Why Is That Bridge Orange?
San Francisco for the Curious
Art Peterson
Art Peterson has translated his lifelong love affair with his favorite city into a sparkling, well-researched guide, exploring San Francisco's quirks, landmarks and eccentricities. Why Is That Bridge Orange? links everyday sights that are the fabric of San Francisco with answers to nagging questions that tantalize the curious.
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For Today I Am a Boy
A Novel
Kim Fu
Peter Huang and his sisters—elegant Adele, shrewd Helen, and Bonnie the bon vivant—grow up in a house of many secrets, then escape the confines of small-town Ontario and spread from Montreal to California to Berlin. Peter's own journey is obstructed by playground bullies, masochistic lovers, Christian ex-gays, and the ever-present shadow of his...