Situated in the Buchanan Mall (Osaka Way) just a few stores away from Sutter Street is Forest Books, where the books are rare and the zendo floats.
A 40-year zen Buddhist who studied writing, Forest Books owner Gregory Wood said he wanted to open a business that followed the Buddhist idea of right livelihood — doing the least harm.
“After trying to figure out what I could do back in the world, it seemed like the thing that would be the most available to people that could convey a feeling of peace and harmony and doing no harm would be having a bookstore so I started a book store,” he said.
The shop sells books in English literature, mystery, science fiction, poetry, art, cooking, children’s books, among many others, and specializes in its collection of used books, signed editions and out-of-print editions.
There is also a section of literature translated from foreign languages like Japanese, Russian, Chinese and Turkish into English, as well as a fairly large section on Eastern religion.
“I’m more trained in Eastern religion than I am in Western religion, so naturally it’s represented here as strongly as I can for a small shop,” Wood said.
Wood opened the store in December of 1989 on 16th Street in the Mission District but moved to its current location in San Francisco’s Japantown in December of 2012 because the rent for his former store increased drastically. Now located in a slightly smaller site, Forest Books primarily focuses on out-of-print editions, which make up more than half of its stock.
Book prices range from $3 to as much as $2,200 for signed editions.
On Saturday mornings the store is transformed into a zen meditation space, creating their “floating zendo” by moving the bookshelves that are on wheels and placing cushions on the floor for those who would like to participate.
“It’s very simple and it’s meant to make meditation available to people who don’t know much about it and who are intimidated by the organization or big institution or something like that,” Wood said. “So then it’s a little more friendly and easy to get.”
Wood said the meditation also helps introduce people to a level of peace that deepens their trust in the moment and in others and allows them to be more accepting in their interactions with others. Wood said that reaching this level of peace is the main purpose of his store.
1748 Buchanan St.