Our weekly book column heads to the West Coast for the must-reads from San Francisco's The Booksmith

In 2007, husband and wife duo Christin Evans and Praveen Madan bought The Booksmith, an institution since 1976 located in San Francisco’s historic Haight-Ashbury neighborhood (think Tales of the City and The Painted Ladies).

With one of the best reading series in the country, the store is a favorite destination for many San Francisco bibliophiles. In 2011, the SF Weekly even named the shop the “Best Reimagined Bookstore,” which came as no surprise.

“Generally, we tend to gravitate towards books-as-objects. The content should be nourishing, but they should also look gorgeous in your hand and in your home,” says Amy Stephenson, The Booksmith’s Social Media and Events Coordinator.


The Booksmith kindly sent The Aesthete staff recommendations of their favorite reads in art, culture, style, design and food. Enjoy!

ART: Cover by Peter Mendelsund

You can’t judge a book by its cover. Well, actually you can, because what you see needs to tell you a story, or evoke a feeling, in an instant. Considered one of the publishing world’s most prolific and sought after book designers, known for his innovative design work and illustrations, Mendelsund has packaged such authors as: Marin Amis, Jo Nesbø, Ben Marcus and Tom McCarthy.


CULTURE: Anthony Friedkin: The Gay Essay by Anthony Friedkin

Friedkin’s book is a photographic essay in queer lives in Los Angeles and San Francisco in the late 1960s and early 1970s. From the old Palace Theater in San Francisco (with backroom shots of Divine!) to call boys and trans couples, The Gay Essay is a seminal slice of queer American life.


DESIGN: Buildings Must Die by Stephen Cairns and Jane M. Jacobs

What’s the lifespan of a brick? Cairns’s quirky, astonishing book is a look at the actual permanence (months, years, centuries, millenia) of human encampments, a bright, fun, humbling reminder of our impermanence on this little rock.


FOOD: Eat by Nigel Slater

We live, think and dream Nigel Slater. Far more than simply being a cookbook author, Slater gives us a way to think about living with and around food, a metaphysics of the kitchen. Offhandedly casual, deliciously easy to follow and improvise, his recipes flirt with our every hunger.


STYLE: Women in Clothes by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, and Leanne Shapton 

One of our favorite things in life is smart, funny women talking about ordinary things. In Women in Clothes, Heti asks smart, funny women to talk about dressing and accessorizing themselves, in a subversive and entertaining take on an extremely personal—and political—phenomenon: style. We’ve been waiting for this book all our lives.

When in San Francisco, look for The Booksmith at 1644 Haight St.

“Word Up” is a new column that provides book lovers with the best reads, courtesy of a new independent bookstore each week.