Celebrating 60 years!


City Lights Bookstore is turning 60!

Join us at the bookstore & online as we celebrate all year long.

For special anniversary events, please check here.

Founded in 1953 in a small shop at the corner of Columbus Avenue and Broadway in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood, City Lights Bookstore is celebrating its 60th anniversary. Still in its original location, the store has expanded over the years to fill the entire building, sharing it with the offices of the fabled City Lights Publishing Company. City Lights Booksellers & Publishers continues to be owned by its original co-founder, poet, painter, publisher and defender of free speech, Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Our yearlong celebration will feature a number of special anniversary events, both in the bookstore and beyond. We’ll be inviting everyone to join us on Sunday, June 23rd,  2013 for a birthday party open house at the bookstore — mark your calendars now, and start planning your trip to San Francisco!

If you can’t make it in person, you can join in the celebration online. Throughout the year we’ll be featuring historical photos, stories, reminiscences and more here on the City Lights Blog. Keep up with us on Facebook, Pinterest, and check out our Twitter feed, for up-to-the-minute news on events and postings.

About City Lights Booksellers & Publishers:
The nation’s first all-paperback bookstore, City Lights Bookstore has expanded many times over the years and now offers both new-release hardcovers and quality paperbacks, including an impressive range of titles from smaller, harder-to-find, specialty publishers. Three floors of books in our historic landmark building offer our visitors a unique browsing experience, and City Lights’ Poetry Room on the very top floor features one of the most extensive collections of poetry found anywhere. In addition, you’ll find the best in fiction, translations, politics, history, philosophy, art and music, idiosyncratic collections such as “Surrealism,” “Commodity Aesthetics,” “Left Coast” — a section featuring books on San Francisco and California culture and history — and much more, all carefully chosen by our staff whose special interests in many fields contribute to the hand-picked quality of what you see on the shelves. And of course, all of the titles currently available from City Lights Publishers are proudly featured throughout the bookstore.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti launched City Lights Publishers in 1955 with the now-famous Pocket Poets Series. Ferlinghetti’s much-loved Pictures of the Gone World (still in print after more than 50 years) was Pocket Poets #1, and was soon followed by Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems (Pocket Poets #4), which Ferlinghetti defended in court against obscenity charges. Since then, the press has gone on to publish a wide range of titles — poetry and prose, fiction and nonfiction, international and local authors — and has established a solid reputation for its commitment to innovative literature and progressive ideas. Today, City Lights has well over two hundred titles in print, with 15 new titles being published each year.

With this bookstore-publisher combination “it is as if,” says Ferlinghetti, “the public were being invited, in person and in books, to participate in that ‘great conversation’ between authors of all ages, ancient and modern.” Asked to comment on the significance of the longevity of his project, Ferlinghetti enthuses: “The Golden Age of City Lights continues!”

Special Anniversary Events:
In addition to our Anniversary Open House in June, we’re putting together a series of events centered around themes we love, and some that are integral to our long history.  In July, we’ll partner with the Contemporary Jewish Museum — host to a travelling exhibit of Allen Ginsberg’s photographs — for an event about the continued struggle against forces of conservatism and censorship, focusing on Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s successful defense of Allen Ginsberg’s HOWL And Other Poems Also in July, San Francisco Poet Laureate Alejandro Murguia will host a gathering of writers in Jack Kerouac Alley, next to the bookstore. Also in July, the ruffians of Sister Spit take over the alley for an event helmed by Michelle Tea. In August, some of the fine contemporary poets in our new City Lights Spotlight Series come together for a group reading to celebrate the series, while in October we’ll discuss City Lights after 60 years, where our publisher, bookstore buyer, and events director will answer all of your burning questions about how this place works and how we got here!  November will be the time to focus on Surrealism with an evening that will include surrealist games and activities. In addition, the City Lights Foundation will be sponsoring a series of Sunday afternoon happenings throughout the summer, casual literary readings and musical entertainment outdoors in Jack Kerouac Alley, next to the bookstore. More events are in the offing, to be announced as details are finalized. Check our website for details! www.citylights.com

Celebrating the anniversary on our blog!
If you can’t make it to San Francisco, do not fret. We’ll be keeping you enlightened and entertained all year through as we comb our archives to feature vintage and contemporary photos of City Lights, snapshots of our famous and infamous visitors and events from the past six decades, and stories and reminiscences from some of your favorite authors and local luminaries about their own City Lights experiences. Check in often for all of this and more on our blog: www.blogcitylights.com

For more information, interview requests &/or photographs, please contact Stacey Lewis, Publicity and Marketing Director, at [email protected] and 415 362 1901.