Located within the hustling and bustling community of San Francisco’s Japan Town, a quiet and quaint bookstore is nestled between the various shops and restaurants. I walked into Forest Books and was greeted by the pleasant smell of goloka nag champa incense, burning slyly against a wooden bookshelf. As soon as I inhaled the pleasant and calming scent, I instantly acquire a peaceful demeanor, with the employees that greeted me only furthering the pleasure I had received.
I peruse through the multitude of shelves that stand so proudly throughout the store. While reading title after title, I realize that this is not your average used bookstore. Forest Books acquires an incredibly diverse variety of literature, with a great deal of it relating to East Asian culture. Though the pages may have yellowed or the print may be worn, mass amounts of the books for sale are indeed collectible editions that have stood the test of time wondrously.
Though heavily influenced by the beauties of East Asian culture, the literature is by far limited. Forest Books obtains a wide range of literature that range from well-known western classics to small-time novellas, each antiquated book cover holding its own story. I was utterly enchanted by the disposition Forest Books held, especially compared to most modern Barnes and Nobles and Books-A-Millions. Unlike such bookstore chains, Forest Books didn’t acquire the menacing personality of big business. Forest Books is as genuine and sociable as the owner, Wood, himself.
Jakuchu Gregory Wood, founder of Forest Books, started the enterprise nearly twenty-three years ago, hoping to breed Right Livelihood, a traditional Buddhist teaching and one of the limbs of the eightfold path taught by the Buddha, within the literary industry. Wood hoped that through his creation of this small-scale bookstore, that all customers would achieve some greater type of peace through the words they distributed to their buyers. As stated by Gregory Wood himself, “ I wanted to provide Forest Books as a context and a community resource where peace and harmony are the foundation for exploration, inquiry and creative expression.”
Wood has done a remarkable job in creating a store that has both excessive quality and quantity. Whether you are a novice to the Buddhist religion seeking to expand your knowledge or a simple romantic thirsty for another love story, Forest Books has everything and anything you will need in the literary realms. As stated by Paul Yamazaki of City Lights, an independent bookstore-publisher combination in San Francisco, California, “Forest Books has an exceptional curated selection of books you’re unlikely to find anywhere else.”
Though my friends were urging me to leave the store, it was quite difficult to halt my new adventures in the store’s bookshelves. However, I did eventually give into their pleas to explore the remainder of San Francisco and we left Forest Books shortly after. Nevertheless, Forest Books has yet to leave my mind as it has made quite an impression on me of what a true bookstore is: private, pleasant, and, above all, insightful.