Any Northern Californian, or anyone who lived in Northern California or has had to fly through San Francisco fears the dreaded words, ‘flight delayed due to weather conditions,’ when sitting in the San Francisco International Airport. I recently flew out of SFO with my family and as we drove into the airport I willed the fog to lift and searched the skies for planes taking off or landing–nothing. By the time we arrived at the gate, the runways were in full swing, but our flight was delayed due to weather conditions where we were landing.
I walked down the concourse in search of coffee, gum, candy and newspapers, our airplane survival kit. I picked them all up at Compass Books and went back to my gate. As I sat down, it occurred to me that Compass Books was different from the usual airport bookstore. Most airport bookstores I’ve seen are part 7/11, part newsstand, and part bookstore with Nora Roberts and self-help books spread across the book table. Not that I don’t like those books, rest assured, when I’m on a bad flight, I’m not reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, I’m clutching on to a plot driven book that I can follow in a state of panic.
The website describes Compass Books as one of a few credible airport bookstores in the world, with not a mug or t-shirt in sight. I went back to the store, twice, because I couldn’t believe it. This is a store any neighborhood would be proud to have, one that people would drive to, although with this location you have to go through security, so visiting without a flight isn’t an option. There are recommendation tags throughout the store, all the major award winners (Booker, National, Pulitzer) are showcased and the selection is comparable to a city bookstore: literature, history, psychology, current events, science, travel, mystery, etc.
Having arrived at an airport at the end of a trip realizing that the kids had read all of the books we brought and I either had to find them a new book or entertain them the entire flight home, I was impressed by the children’s section. It comes to the rescue of any scrambling parent. There are all kinds of choices for intermedidate and young adult readers, plus activity books with puzzles and travel games, all designed to keep a child happily occupied.
Compass Books is part of Books Inc. a group of 11 bookstores in California self-described as the West’s oldest independent bookseller. I’m looking forward to visiting the other ten. While you can’t go to Compass Books just to visit it, next time you’re flying through SFO, it’s in Terminal 3, try to stop by. If you’re delayed, now you know where to go.
San Francisco International Airport