Tablets, Kindles, iPads — oh my!

As a 140-character society, a finger-tap on a screen is about the time we’re willing to spend searching for the perfect “book.” And why get off your couch to scour the earth for meaningful text when you’ve got a nifty piece of battery-powered plastic to aggregate your interests for you?

With Oakland’s plethora of independent bookstores, you don’t even need to scour the earth; there’s somewhere right here in town that’s been aggregating your interests for months, years, and decades. What refined taste!

Bookstores are in order by location starting from Old Oakland up to Temescal. FYI, none of these are on Piedmont because we all know how great they are already.


Used books: The Bookmark Bookstore | 721 Washington St., Oakland, CA 94607


This entirely volunteer-run bookstore has the biggest selection (that I found) of “pocket books,” which might actually fit into large pockets — I’m thinking overalls. If you aren’t captivated by shelves of well-worn novels, the $1 bookshelf has some great finds. AND all proceeds go to the Oakland Public Library. How saintly!


Your fantasy getaway: Adult Book Store | 367 12th St., Oakland, CA 94607

Adult Bookstore 2

Rockin’ out (and hard) since 1969, this “bookstore” features what must be every porn magazine ever, as well as retro ’70s films and sex toys. Stalls in the back of the store also play pornos throughout the day that cost $1 per four minutes to watch. Only one person per stall, in case you were planning otherwise.


Small and local press: E.M. Wolfman | 410 13th St., Oakland, CA 94612

Wolfman 2

Here you’ll find writing by Bay Area folks like Miranda July and Zack Haber, as well as a large section of self-published zines from local poets. Wolfman also hosts a ton of sporadic literary events and has a small art gallery in the back. The owner is a stellar conversationalist — ask him about anything in the store and you’ll find yourself whimsically jumping from tangent to tangent.


International newspapers and magazines: De Lauer’s | 1310 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612

De Lauer's

This place has been around since 1907! And it’s the only bookstore in Oakland where you can grab a snack from the convenience store in the front while fine-tuning your affinity for Marxist journals in the back. They’ve also got travel maps, novelas and a wall of Sudoku.


Standard-but-still-token bookstore: Laurel | 1423 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612

Laurel Bookstore

As the newest bookstore to open up in The Town this past October, Laurel has that crisp, freshly-printed smell of pages just waiting for you to have your way with them. It’s on the smaller side but with a sizeable children’s section and all the latest top-sellers. Good for browsing and as a quiet refuge from its busy downtown location.


FREE books: Libros Libres at Tilde | 349 15th St., Oakland, CA 94612


Vintage clothing store on bottom, free bookstore on top. Libros Libres is a traveling bookstore that promotes free knowledge and collaborative space. Their permanent home on the second floor of Tilde is intimate and colorful, with an eclectic mix of novels, comic books, children’s books, academic books —you name it. Oaklandish also features a “take a book, leave a book” Libros Libres bookshelf in their Dimond District location.


Sci-fi and fantasy: Bergeron’s | 375 15th St., Oakland, CA 94612


To set the scene, when I walked into Bergeron’s, there was a Wizards of the Coast card game set up in the back and a table exclusively dedicated to J.R.R. Tolkien. These guys are serious about their fiction genres, which range from supernatural to post-apocalyptic. Plus, they’ve got beautiful murals decorating each wall and comfy couches that encourage you to settle into their books’ alternate worlds.


On war and the military: Dan Webb | 331 17th St., Oakland, CA 94612

Dan Webb Books

Railroads, submarines, and aviation are among the distinct categories of this bookstore that specializes in America’s militaristic developments. Piles of Rolling Stone magazines line one side of the entrance, and on the opposite side are VHS tapes circa the ’90s. It’s an organized clutter, and a space that draws you back in time.


African-American Literature: Marcus Books | 3900 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Oakland, CA 94609

Marcus Books

Since its opening in the Fillmore District of San Francisco in 1960, Marcus Books pulsed as a cultural hub for the city’s black community. The founders even put their house up for collateral to pay for the bail of over 100 students who were arrested in the SFSU protests of ‘68. This past May, Marcus Books was evicted despite support from the many people who grew up with or frequented this historical landmark. Its Oakland location, however, continues to thrive with literary works from black Americans and non-Americans. Be sure to check out the beautiful stained glass above the front door, too.


Mysticism and spirituality: Ancient Ways | 4075 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, CA 94609

Ancient Ways 2

There’s a few bookstores in Oakland that cater to the mystical side of life, but Ancient Ways has the most comprehensive collection of books on spiritual practices including spell-casting, astrology and dream interpretation. They also sell herbs, teas, and customizable oils to alleviate different health ailments or invoke cosmic energy.

Bottom line: Actual books are just plain better than their digital counterparts because it looks dumb to bury your nose into something that doesn’t have a center fold, and there’s no sin in burning plastic.

About The Author

Simone writes about the currents circulating beneath mainstream, with a focus on non-profit developments and at-risk youth enrichment. Outside of freelancing for Oakland Local, she works in the foster care system of Contra Costa County and nerds out on literary magazines. Simone also spearheads the Community Voices section of OL. Contact her at

One Response

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.