In this day and age of Kindles and e-readers, books, in any shape or form, may (unfortunately) be heading towards the way of the dinosaur. Especially in a place like Los Angeles-- a city all too well-known for touting a laid-back, airheaded, overly-fun, and tabloid-driven lifestyle that’s not the most ideal for knowledge seekers and those looking for some good written inspiration. Let’s not even get started on the slow but inevitable extinction of actual brick-and-mortar stores in and around town dedicated solely to providing hardbounds, paperbacks, or anything else even worth a brief skim. One by one, bookstores have shut their doors, and it’s safe to suggest that the overkill of California sun, sand, and non-stop attractions are no doubt to blame. They have, over time, slowly driven visitors far away from once-local favorites such as Cliff's Books in Pasadena or Dutton's Books in Valley Village.
What’s nice to know, however, is that there’s still a sliver of hope. The City of Angels has managed to redeem itself ever so slightly by allowing some reader-friendly shops to stay afloat-- proving to us all that after all these years, there’s still nothing better than grasping a smoothly textured leather-bound book cover or turning with tender care the crisp pages of a fresh new read. Even breathing in the ancient scent of a dusty, shelf-ridden tome being opened up and brought back to life can often be invigorating. It’s true what they say: The written word, in its original and real-life ink-and-paper form will never (ever) disappear completely-- even in a modern pop culture bubble like the L to the A. Many adventures await bibliophiles of all sorts in Los Angeles. Here are eight of the best bookstores around town.
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Best Bookstores in Los Angeles
Book lovers listen up: Imagine a place where interesting novels and academic texts easily commingle, a place where the ever-so-friendly staff are always falling on their heels to tell customers about the latest and greatest offerings. Dream about an expansive two-story space offering not only miles (and miles) of books, but the unique feel of a gigantic independent bookstore (all without ever giving off the typical Target or Wal-Mart vibe). Or how about a one-stop-shop for both gift-giving and book needs, a yum-filled café, and a separate little store on the side devoted exclusively to fine writing, gifts, and stationery. Talk about heaven. Well, look no further because there is such a place: Vroman’s, the oldest and largest indie bookstore in southern California. It’s definitely worth the drive down to Old Town Pasadena because no matter what, there’s always a plethora of books to choose from, as well as frequent author book signings and spoken word events.
Vroman’s is located in Pasadena at 695 E. Colorado Blvd. and is open Mondays-Thursdays 9am-9pm, Fridays-Saturdays 9am-10pm, Sundays 10am-8pm
2. Book Soup
Music, nightlife, and a street worth of dining pleasures. Yes, that pretty much sums up the infamous Sunset Strip, an all-time L.A. hotspot for concerts, bar-hopping, and a bit of Friday night party fun. But tucked in between the stretches of the major venues and clubs (in between a head shop and strip club) is another fantastic little jewel—an indie bookshop offering a wide selection of not only regular reading fare, but also a well-curated array of books, books, and more books of titles from any genre you could possibly think of (from agitprop and trashy biographies to poetry and fiction). The staff is also pretty knowledgeable about all things book-related and have, according to many happy customers, introduced readers to life-changing novels they would have never otherwise discovered on their own.
Simply said, it’s an iconic WeHo landmark all on its own, and often hosts superb signings, readings, and other events with notable authors such as Amy Sedaris, Anna David, and Okey Ndibe. It’s also more than perfectly normal to spot local celebrities perusing the store’s towering stacks on a day-to-day basis. Plus, there is…. Wait for it… Parking. On site. Now, that’s a dream come true for any Angeleno!
Book Soup is located in West Hollywood at 8818 Sunset Blvd. and is open Mondays- Saturdays 9am-10pm, Sundays 9am-7pm
3. Skylight Books
It may be small in size and space, but what it lacks in square footage it definitely makes up for in great quality and content. Located in a pedestrian-friendly part of Los Feliz, this mini-store only carries books actually worthy of being browsed—none of that big name, mega-retailer fluff. With its open floor plan, amply lit browsing sections, carefully chosen and arranged displays, as well as super knowledgeable and well-versed staff, it’s clear why it continues to bill itself as a neighborhood favorite bookstore. There’s also an art-focused annex to wander in, a seriously wide selection of magazines, and excellent in-store readings, signings, and other public programs with a range of writers, from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Cunningham ("The Hours") to USC master's students. Plus, many of the author readings are recorded as podcasts, which can be download free from iTunes. A variety of book clubs also meet inside the store throughout the week.
Skylight Books is located in Los Feliz at 818 N. Vermont Ave. and is open daily 10am-10pm
4. The Last Bookstore
Doubling as both a bookshop and an art show, this one is widely revered for its unique decorations, pleasing aesthetics, and all around cool vibe—a heaven on earth for all those curious sorts. There are funky holes hidden in between the science fiction stacks, crime books stocked to the tee in an actual bank vault, an entire maze of books on the second floor, built-in twinkle lights and gravity-defying arches, as well as an array of typewritten scrolls and book sculptures dangling from various walls throughout the entire store. It really is the ultimate playground for any book aficionado. Those on a tight budget can also check out the bargain section, where quality books and vinyl records can be found for just a mere dollar. You can even sell or trade in used books, CDs and DVDs for something at the store! Double score.
The Last Bookstore is located in Downtown L.A. at 453 S. Spring St and is open Mondays-Thursdays 10am-10pm, Fridays-Saturdays 10am-11pm, Sundays 10am- 6pm
5. The Samuel French Bookshop
The proud home of Tinsel Town itself, L.A. is all too famous for having the best everything of anything on film, television, and the performing arts. And I mean everything—even good old books. Hence, it really is no surprise that the city offers a gem of a theatre and film bookshop, one of the few available spots left in the world where hardcopy scripts, plays, and entertainment-related reads can be personally picked out and thoroughly enjoyed by yours truly. The New York-based retailer may now be over 180 years old, but even today, still manages to succeed in catering towards all sorts of people in show business, with countless hard-to-find-anywhere-else items, how-to-guide on acting, biographies of great filmmakers, just to name a select few.
The Samuel French Bookshop is located in Hollywood at 7623 Sunset Blvd. and is open Mondays-Saturdays 10am– 6pm, Sundays 10am- 5pm
6. Small World Books
From classic children’s fairytales to musician biographies, any book of any genre can certainly be found in this modest beachside reading haven. So the next time you find yourself on the Venice Boardwalk, take a peek into this tiny world of everything from poetry and art books to bestsellers and Eastern mythology. It’s a super feline-friendly shop that’s seeping with a uniquely laid-back vibe and since 1976, has offered an array of nicely curated book displays that could only be the hard work of the incredibly well-read indie bookstore staff working inside—who, by the way, always offer spot-on reading recommendations!
Small World Books is located in Venice at 407 Ocean Front Walk and is open Daily 10am- 8pm
7. Hennessey & Ingalls
Art and architecture lovers need to search no more. The best bookstore for Los Angeles design-lovers of all sorts is right here at home. Freely explore titles on architecture, interior design, urban planning, or simply just browse through rows of really pretty books in general. This is exactly the kind of place any bibliophile could lose an entire afternoon in. The store also offers hard-to-find coffee-table tomes, plentiful supplies of affordable paperbacks for those only wanting to spend a dime, as well as an array of other neat knickknacks that are terrific to just gawk and stare at.
Hennessey & Ingalls is located in Santa Monica at 214 Wilshire Blvd. and is open Daily 10am- 8pm
8. Stories Books and Café
For the best of both food and literature, this is definitely the place to stop, shop, grab a bite, and go. The laidback Bohemian-style café slash indie bookshop offers great meals and ever greater books. With both indoor and outdoor patios charmingly decorated by twinkle lights and graffiti-art decorated walls, it’s the perfect place for sitting back and relaxing with a good old yarn. To top it off, the prices are also pretty affordable by L.A. standards. Large mochas or grilled paninis for under $5? Yes, please.
Stories Books and Café is located in Echo Park at 1716 W. Sunset Blvd. and is open Mondays-Thursdays, 8:30am-9pm, Fridays 8:30am-10pm, Saturdays, 10am-10pm, Sundays 10am-8pm
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This article was written by Pamela Chan.