While the pandemic led to hundreds upon hundreds of hours of solitude, it also led many to turn to books for solace, entertainment, and one may even say, companionship.
“I think there were a lot of people who had been in a reading rut or hadn't read in a long time,” said Eileen McCormick, assistant store manager for Green Apple Books, which operates three bookstores across San Francisco. “Suddenly, they had this free time with very limited options.”
In response, Green Apple Books staff curated lists of books for lonely and isolated readers to pass the time—a “popular” service, notes McCormick. Kicking it with books appears to have turned into a national pastime as well. According to Publishers Weekly, sales of print books jumped 8.2% year over year in 2020, while online sales boomed for the independent bookselling platform Bookshop.org.
“Books have been a real source of comfort for a lot of people,” said McCormick, who also observed that while local bookstores have long been “safe” spaces and hubs for bibliophiles to commune and connect, the pandemic underlined the critical role they have to play in shaping local neighborhoods’ character, culture and community.
Still, the pandemic was a challenge, as readers turned to online shopping and Green Apple Books, alongside other independent bookstores, lost the chance to let their customers wander and get lost amongst the books.
Now, as the city dials back Covid restrictions and mask mandates, San Franciscans can appreciate local independent bookstores in ways they haven’t been able to over the past two years. Independent Bookstore Day, celebrated every year on the last Saturday in April, is today—and local booksellers across the city are welcoming bookworms back with literary events and other bookish activities.
At Green Apple Books on Clement Street, the bookstore will host a mad libs challenge, a zine pop-up, a haiku battle and “pun-off” hosted by the storytelling podcast and live event series, Muni Diaries. Poets will type up custom poems upon request and local authors will be on hand as “guest booksellers” to answer questions about their titles. Kids can find fun in activities like face painting and a scavenger hunt, while adults can enjoy sipping on mimosas or beer from Lost Marbles Brewpub.
“It's just an incredible chance for us to celebrate the store, celebrate the community. And it's always fun to have a party,” said McCormick.
For a full list of literary events across the city, check out our weekend guide to Independent Bookstore Day here.
And you can find a local bookshop near you with our handy dandy map of indie bookstores here.
Christina Campodonico can be reached at [email protected]