Borderlands Books

In case your summer reading list is looking a bit thin, we’ve taken a survey of local bookstores to see what’s hot. With such varied characters and clientele, and niche-defined stores, it’s difficult to point to one thing that’s flying off the shelves. But Mission readers do seem to be interested in politics, social justice, and feminism.

My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaurd was a top seller at three bookstores, one of four on our list that also made it to The New York Times Best Sellers List. Knausgaud visited San Francisco last month, with a reading at Green Apple bookstore and an appearance at the San Francisco City Arts and Lectures, which may have helped his books sales in the Mission.

Books on feminism were top sellers all over the Mission. Bolerium saw books on the second wave of feminism sell very well, and Dog-Eared’s staff said that two of their top sellers were feminist works published last summer. Even Borderlands, whose top sellers were naturally sci-fi, fantasy and horror texts, featured a top-selling book with a female protagonist; a military general at that. The Mission seems to be seeing a new wave of feminism – the third wave maybe?

Top Five Best Sellers in the Mission

Alley Cat Bookstore and Gallery located at 24th St. near Treat.  Alley Cat opened in 2011, and offers new and used books.

1.)  All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: Since the book won a Pulitzer prize for fiction last month, sales for this book increased. It’s been on the NYT best-sellers list for 33 weeks. The book is about a young blind girl living in France during WWII, who flees with her family when Nazis invade Paris.

2.) God Help the Child by Toni Morrison: The latest book by Morrison, and first in a modern setting, was released last month, and has been popular since. The story is about a woman named Bride, and how the traumas in her childhood misshaped her adult life

3.) Guantanamo Diary of Mohamedou Ould Slahi edited by Larry Siems: A New York Times Best Seller published January of this year. The book is about the true story of Guantanamo detainee Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who has been imprisoned since 2002 without formal charges.  Three years into his imprisonment, he began a diary chronicling everything from the day he was he was taken from his house November 2001. The diary is now published (minus redacted portions considered to be classified.)

4.) The First Bad Man by Miranda July. A first novel for filmmaker July, published at the beginning of this year. This novel is about a passive and meek woman who manages a self-defense as a work-out studio, who has a crush on a man who is involved with another woman.

5.) My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaurd: a series of six, his books have been nominated for a dozen awards, and won about half of them. The autobiographical novels were written as a series of six books, and are mainly about his family and relationships. His books have been translated into 22 languages.

Dog-Eared Books located at 900 Valencia St. on the corner of 20th street: A general interest store, with a specialty in small press, off-beat, and local literature.

1.) My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaurd: A top seller for another bookstore. Knausgaurd was in town just weeks ago at City Arts and Lecture and at Green Apple bookstore promoting his books.

2.) My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante: The first in a trilogy by the Italian author about two best friends growing up outside Naples, Italy.

3.) We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: A staff favorite at Dog-Eared; they say they can’t keep the book in stock. The short book is a modified speech given by the author at TEDxEuston, a yearly conference focused on Africa. A short segment book of this was featured on pop singer Beyonce’s song Flawless.

4.) Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay: Yes, another book on feminism. A collection of previously published and new works from the author. Gay writes about race, politics, gender, and feminism, and says she’s a feminist who still loves rap music, the color pink, and the Sweet Valley High series.

5.) Limber by Angela Pelster: A collection of essays, and poems about trees. Pelster’s essays have appeared in Granta, the Gettysburg Review, Seneca, Review, and others.

Borderlands located one block away from Dog-Eared at 866 Valencia St.: Borderlands is known for their sci-fi and fantasy, and wouldn’t you know – all five of their top sellers are fantasy. The go-to bookstore for the genre in the Mission.

1.) The Girl with all the Gifts by M.R. Carey: Novel that takes place in the future in where most of humanity has been wiped out by a fungal infection.

2.) A Crown for Cold Silver by Alex Marshall: A medieval fantasy book about a retired general who is now in hiding with her husband in a rural town. And yes – She’s a SHE!

3.) Half the World by Joe Abercrombie: The second in a trilogy, the book just released in February. His first, Half a King, was a New York Times Best Seller. The book features a female protagonist who is “desperate to avenger her dead father.”

4.) Flex by Ferrett Steinmetz: Fantasy about distilled magic in crystal form called Flex, and a father who will try anything to heal his daughter.

5.) The Goblin Emperor By Katherine Addison: The youngest half-goblin son of the Emperor, who lived in exile his whole life comes back to take his thrown when his father and three sons are killed in an “accident.”

Modern Times Bookstore located 2919 24th St:  The oldest bookstore on our list, Modern Times has been open since 1971.

1.) My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaurd: This was the the best selling book in the Mission in April.

2.) Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen: A story set in 1975, about a captain in the South Vietnamese Army who went to a university in America, but returned to Vietnam to fight for the communist party.

3.) Hot Sur by Laura Restrepo: Staff say that customers tell them that they have one of the only selections of Spanish written books. This Colombian author’s novel touches on immigration, warfare, drug violence, and urban poverty.

4.) Rise of Islamic State: Isis and the Sunni Revolution: Staff say they’ve seen an increase in several books about Isis that attempt to explain its history and evolution, this among them. This one was published in February of this year.

5.) Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera: Herrera deals with immigration in this novel about a young woman who leaves Mexico searching for her brother. Originally published in Spanish, the book was translated by Lisa Dillman, published in March of this year.

Bolerium located at 2141 Mission St. # 300, between 17th St. and 18th St, on the third floor.

Bolerium’s 65,000 titles, are organized by social movement. Their specialty is books and writings about social-justice movements from the civil rights movements to gay rights movements, including a section called Gay pulp literature. Generally they sell their books as collections either to schools, other collectors, or other bookstores. While this bookstore may not have a “best-seller” list, owner John Durham let us in on trends in book buying and new collections he’s acquired.

1.) A collection of books on the second wave of feminism.  The period between 1960 into the 1980’s, and was focused on sexuality, family, the workplace, and reproductive rights. Durham said that books on feminism have been doing selling well for them.

2.) Bolerium recently acquired a labor history library. This is more of a reference, we learned, but still, Durham is excited at the possibility that it the entire library might be sold as a whole to a school, or a collector.

3.) Books on Socialism and Stalinism sell well regularly. Everything from Moscow 1939, a Stalinist photography book, to hows and whys of the socialist party, such as What Made Me a Socialist by Frederick William Jowett .

4.) Paul Goodman’s books on anarchy may not sell often, but Durham says everyone at Bolerium loves when someone asks for Goodman, a psychotherapist, writer, poet, and anarchist philosopher.  Goodman was a strong advocate for the student movement in the 1960’s and spoke at San Francisco State in 1964.  Durham says he especially recommends Drawing the Line, a collection of Goodman’s essays.

5.) Durham said other popular writings could vary from writings from gay Nazi groups (obviously a very small faction), to the Black Panther Movement, to Trotskyism, the theory of Marxism as written by Leon Trotsky.

Adobe Books, also on 24th Street, declined to participate this time around, but we will be checking back with all of the bookstores in the fall.

Follow Us

Join the Conversation


Please keep your comments short and civil. Do not leave multiple comments under multiple names on one article. We will zap comments that fail to adhere to these short and very easy-to-follow rules.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. I’m grateful to live near a store whose recommendation begins with “The youngest half-goblin son of the emperor”….At least *some* things in this neighborhood are still interesting…

  2. I love this post and would like to see a regular Mission Local Bestsellers List. Getting booksellers’ opinions on buyer demographics would be interesting. Looks like an older, more intellectual group than the much-hyped “94110” techie one.