Superlist no. 806

In-your-face books
Reading material to spark the revolution.

By Martin Ricard

ON THE SHELVES of the megachains, the radical literature probably sits in all the wrong places – or no place at all. The big boxes may be able to feed those with inquisitive minds, but one might starve trying to find titles on anarchy, labor, radical politics, or utopian living. So where does one go to convince the world that revolution is not dead? The following local bookstores will reignite the activist spirit.

Bibliomania specializes in books on social movements. It has more than 60,000 used books and hundreds of thousands of pamphlets, tabloids, sheet music, back issues of magazines, and even spoken word records. Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m., or by appointment, 1816 Telegraph, Oakl. (510) 835-5733, books@biblimania.ws.

The owners of Bolerium Books stock titles on labor, African American studies, and Chicano/Latino and Asian American studies. In addition, come here for information on gay and lesbian culture, anarchism, and war histories. Motivated by its slogan, "Principled struggle keeps us regular," owner Mike Pincus is prepared for customers to check out the store's bathroom. Mon.-Sat., noon-6 p.m., 2141 Mission, Ste. 300, S.F. (415) 863-6353, www.bolerium.com.

Bound Together Book Collective has a fairly good political collection specializing in anarchy. In addition to new books, it carries Dover Thrift editions and pamphlets for as low as $1, as well as secondhand literature that funds the Prisoners' Literature Project. Bound Together is entirely volunteer-run. Mon.-Sun., 11:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m., 1369 Haight, S.F. (415) 431-8355, www.boundtogether.org.

Founded by the renowned Lawrence Ferlinghetti, City Lights Booksellers and Publishers is widely known for its quality fiction, progressive literature, art books, and volumes on liberal politics and culture. Check out the window display, called "Enlightened California," which features all of its self-published titles. Mon.-Sun., 10 a.m.-midnight, 261 Columbus, S.F. (415) 362-8193, www.citylights.com.

Explore the utopia-living section of Dog Eared Books. Or peruse the activism section, which features numerous how-to guides and instructional materials. The store also sells a lot of international fiction, zines, self-published books, and Spanish-language titles, as well as a few rare collectibles. It prides itself on showcasing local and beat authors. Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.-8 p.m., 900 Valencia, S.F. (415) 282-1901, www.dogearedbooks.com.

Since 1960, Marcus Books has sold books by and about black people. Its two locations feature a lot of titles on Egypt and Egyptology. Regulars also return for children's books written especially for a black audience. Marcus's employees handpick some of the best titles and send them to prisoners. Owner Karen Richardson says, "There's Toni Morrison if you want the top of the pyramid, and urban fiction if you want the bottom row." Every other Sunday, there's free live jazz out on the sidewalk. Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sun., noon-5 p.m., 1712 Fillmore, S.F. (415) 346-4222. Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun., noon-5 p.m. (open longer during book signings), 3900 MLK Jr. Way, Oakl. (510) 652-2344.

Modern Times Bookstore is a full-spectrum bookstore, but the core of its inventory focuses on progressive politics, critical global analysis, current events, and media studies. Here you can find everything from Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States to the Open Media Series, which are intelligent primaries on difficult subjects. It also has a Spanish-language section, gay and lesbian titles, and a women's studies collection. Modern Times hosts about 10 author events a month. Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.-6 p.m., 888 Valencia, S.F. (415) 282-9246, www.moderntimesbookstore.com.

Revolution Books is a communist-Marxist-Leninist-Maoist bookstore that purveys titles on history, philosophy, religion and atheism, science, and art, as well as volumes of fiction and poetry. Browsers will get lost in the eclectic graffiti mural on one wall and the portraits of communist revolutionaries on another. Take time to peruse some of the catchy T-shirts as well, such as those adorned with a Bush "International Terrorist" slogan or an Oakland A's-inspired "Atheist" logo. Revolution Books is widely known for providing literature by the Revolutionary Communist Party, but it also hosts author readings, political discussions, classes, and conferences and sponsors book tables at political demonstrations around the Bay Area. Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sun., noon-6 p.m., 2425 Channing, Berk. (510) 848-1196.

Those wanting to know about socialism and Marxism should go to Socialist Action Bookstore, which has been selling books on the topics for 20 years. Most of its stock includes used books, and customers can usually read something off the shelf while browsing. The store has many self-published political pamphlets ranging from $1 to $3, including introductions to socialism, Cuba, rap music, and Malcolm X. It has regular panel discussions and classes every Tuesday at 7 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; often open on evenings and weekends, 298 Valencia, S.F. (415) 255-1080.

Calling itself "a Berkeley bookstore in Oakland," Walden Pond Bookstore has been selling radical literature and books on labor studies for 30 years. Readers will also find used literature from authors around the world, and a large African literature section. The store hosts occasional speakers and a monthly poetry group. Sun.-Thurs., 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 10 a.m.-10 p.m., 3316 Grand, Oakl. (510) 832-4438, www.waldenpondbooks.com.