‘Thank God for Browser Books’

Browser Books: cozy

By Donna Gillespie

Book lovers discouraged by the proliferation of chain stores and websites deserve a leisurely afternoon at Browser Books.

It’s an old-fashioned bookstore that emanates warmth — wood paneling and music greet you as you enter, and there are lamp-lit nooks that beckon patrons to sit and read. Carefully chosen classics line the shelves, but better-quality popular books can be found here as well. If a staffer recommends a book, it’s likely some forgotten gem, not something everybody’s already reading.

At 2195 Fillmore, next door to Peet’s Coffee, Browser is a bright, inviting spot that offers a cozy respite hours after the other shops on the street have gone dark.

“We have more books per square inch than anyone around,” says owner Stephen Damon. Just don’t come in asking for a romance novel or a western — Browser doesn’t carry them. “We’re very selective, very literary,” says Damon. “I keep important books.”

Browser’s story is interwoven with the colorful history of the neighborhood. The store was founded in 1976 a block north of its present location, just beside the Clay Theater, where Carlos Santana’s band also recorded, Beat poets read their poems and a head shop once flourished.

“This is a great neighborhood for a literary bookstore,” Damon says. “We have a loyal clientele.” Damon treasures an in-person review he received from local author Alice Adams. “Thank God for Browser Books,” she told him. “I didn’t think bookstores like this still existed.”

Browser is open every day until 10 p.m. — even if it’s New Year’s Day. The store closes only on Thanksgiving and Christmas.