• Marcy Farrey

A very bookish afternoon in San Mateo

Everyone talks about the bookstores in San Francisco--but San Mateo should not be overlooked!

Friends of the Library Book Sale at San Mateo Public Library

We were in San Mateo for my friend's baby shower last month, and while we were also planning to head to San Francisco afterward, something told me I needed to spend some time exploring San Mateo too. While our time was limited to one afternoon, we still managed to spend most of those hours browsing books! We stumbled upon the Friends of the Library Book Sale at San Mateo Public Library first, which had so many great deals--and a live pianist played while we browsed! Once we stocked up there, we decided to see how many more books we could get in one day, and headed over to B Street Books, an independent used bookstore in San Mateo.

Often, it seems that when I talk about being a huge fan of independent bookstores, people tell me to check out numerous ones in San Francisco. And I have been to a few (and one I'll post about soon), but I'd say San Mateo is worth a mention in there too.

On a Saturday afternoon, people were steadily coming through the doors at B Street books, and these customers were staying for awhile. Though it is a smaller space, there's lovely little nooks to sit and read in, and the shelves are packed high with books of various genres. You can easily spend an hour here browsing, which is exactly what we did.

I could also tell this was a bookstore that locals frequented and respected, as many of them were gathered in the sitting areas, talking with friends or reading. Many people seemed to know the staff, and they asked about particular books in stock.

B Street Books has a certain calmness and coziness about it that I didn't get from the San Francisco stores, and I think that's because the SF stores do tend to draw in tourists. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as those bookstores are amazing in their own ways, but the difference in pace and tone with stores frequented by tourists vs locals is noticeable. At B Street Books, I felt like I was getting a glimpse into what it's like to live in San Mateo and be a part of the community, which I liked.

While we're all often tempted to focus on the major cities when we travel, be sure to check out the suburbs every now and then, especially if you're looking for a more chill and slower paced afternoon. There's undeniably many gems just outside of large cities!

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