Christopher's Books. 1400 18th Street, San Francisco.
Tiny, cute bookstore in the Potrero Hill neighborhood. New books only. Friendly service. A tad expensive, but appears to be family-owned so I didn't mind supporting them.
Purchased: God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian (Vonnegut)
Magical-looking sci-fi and fantasy bookstore in the Mission. Nerd heaven. To me, a lot of paperbacks with cheesy cover designs, but you can always find good stuff too. Two hairless cats live here. Has a neighboring cafe with no wi-fi.
Purchased: American Gods (Gaiman)
Phoenix Books. 3957 24th Street, San Francisco.
Owned by Dog Eared Books. On Noe Valley's cute main drag. New and used books, pretty good literature selection. Staff was aloof and playing Ethel Merman when I visited. Might be back for a bargain at some point.
"Progressive resource" bookstore so a wide selection for the armchair activist. Used and new. Moved from the Valencia book row to deeper-in-Mission location on 24th Street.
Purchased: The Wretched of the Earth (Fanon)
One of my favorite bookstores! Not very big, but that being said has an impressive collection of interesting titles, from fiction to philosophy to art. I've come here with lots of different people and there's always something to talk about. They post artsy little drawings of interesting people who've passed away in the front window. Wonderful for book-wandering.
Purchased: Invitation to a Beheading (Nabokov); The Enchantress of Florence (Rushdie); On Writing (Borges)
Berkeley & East Bay
Books Inc. is a nice local chain. All new books and magazines. Borders-ish prices. This is a cute location in the upscale Fourth Street shopping area with an open design and knowledgeable staff.
Purchased: A People's History of the United States (Zinn)
Part of a chain, though this seems to be one of the originals. Lots of used books. Literature, race and queer theory housed on a raised platform area that is surprisingly cozy (might have been the cuddly cat on the chair).
Purchased: Romance of a Harem (unknown-- an artifact!)
Moe's Books. 2476 Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley.
This will likely be a favorite though I've only been there once. Multi-story masterpiece. I fell in love with it within the first few minutes of browsing the music section (pictured). The selection is astonishing. There's even an antiquarian bookstore on the top floor (minus points for having history books hidden away up there too though).
Half Price Books. 2036 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley.
Giant bookstore filled with, as might be surmised, cheap books. Not a very attractive interior. Quantity over quality. The upside is there's tons of stuff to browse through.
Purchased: Go Tell It on the Mountain (Baldwin)
Kind of (okay, ridiculously) amazing used bookstore on Mountain View's happening main drag. Right next to a Books Inc., but if you're serious about book shopping you come here. So many sections -- so many offerings -- it'll make your head spin.
Another Books Inc. location. This one is next door to BookBuyers on Castro Street. Basically a large spacious room. Long been intrigued by an upstairs cafe, which turns out has a nice view but dingy furnishings. Again, new books, new prices.