Los Angeles Bookstores for the Bibliophile
Los Angeles holds a particularly charm for the literary lover. It's been the setting for the origins, rebirths, and renaissances of many authors over time, from literary giants like F. Scott Fitzgerald and William to disillusioned dystopia fanatics Aldous Huxley and Nathaniel West to even the dirty old man Charles Bukowski. All of them felt the hypnotic and magnetic charm of life in sunny California by the beach, of a life in Los Angeles and Hollywood where one could reinvent themselves or invent the most outlandishly creative stories. As the Red Hot Chili Peppers--an L.A. product--so succintly put it: "It's understood that Hollywood sells Californication...If you want these kind of dreams its Californication." With such a remarkable history as the setting for so many stories, both lived and written, it checks out that Los Angeles is home to a number of eclectic, esoteric, expansive, and altogether enrapturing bookstores that could draw a bibliophile in like a fly to honey.
1. The Last Bookstore
The Last Bookstore, while not the last bookstore in L.A., is most renowned for its gargantuan collection downtown. There's two stories of books and the more you wander, the more you find the store seems to go on and on. If there is a book you are looking for, it will be here, and they will likely have both new and used copies. Personally, The Last Bookstore is my favorite destination in L.A. to shop for books because of their used collection (lower prices), consistent and consistently captivating events, collection including every genre under the sun (even vinyl!), and book oriented art displays.
2. Skylight Books
Nestled in the Los Feliz neighborhood is this gem of a bookstore. Operating two storefronts--one dedicated to arts + architecture + graphic novels + magazines, the other (larger front) to books from philosophy to history to Los Angeles city to fiction--Skylight fulfills all the literary wants and desires of the local community. Drop in to peruse their collection, scope their upcoming events online (featuring book readings from up and coming as well as local authors, book clubs, etc), and enjoy the aesthetic interior design of this bright bookstore.
3. SideShow Books
Specializing in rare and remarkable books, arts, and curiosities, Sideshow Books is for the more eclectic reader looking for something without knowing precisely what it is yet. The storefront is small, yet still overwhelms with the mesmerizing selection of Great literature, fiction, and poetry; current as well as out-of-print tomes from all genres; and a variety of vintage graphics that offer plenty of options to browse through until fate presents to you what you were looking for.
4. Small World Books
Located right on the Venice Beach Boardwalk, Small World Books carries a selection heavy on LA writers, poetry, magazines, and classics, though the entirety of their collection encompasses far more than that. The staff has been regarded with much admiration for their knowledge and ability to point you in the literary direction you are going, and their store mascot--a black and white cat named Conan the Librarian-- will likely make an appearance during your wanderings. After picking up your next read, Small World has an attached cafe and bar with an outdoor patio where you can lose yourself in the pages of your purchase or enjoy some food and drink while you people watch along the always interesting Venice Boardwalk.
5. Book Soup
Setting up shop on the famous Sunset Strip is Book Soup, a stylish and odd book store primarily featuring books in film, art, photography, music--all genres under the entertainment industry umbrella really--as well as an outstanding collection of fiction. Since its genesis in 1975 Book Soup has been serving both Los Angeles laymen and celebrities alike--readers, writers, artists, rock-n-roll stars, etc. Their floor to ceiling collections, special rare and limited edition books, and special events with high-profile authors offer something for any curious bibliophile.
My Los Angeles Reading List
- Ape & Essence -- Aldous Huxley
- City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles -- Mike Davis
- The Big Sleep -- Raymond Chandler
- The Day of the Locust -- Nathanael West
- The Dirt -- Motley Crue & Neil Strauss
- L.A. Confidential -- James Ellroy
- The Riot Within: My Journey from Rebellion to Redemption -- Rodney King & Lawrence J. Spagnola
- The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson -- Jeffrey Toobin
- Scar Tissue -- Anthony Kiedis
- Women -- Charles Bukowski
- Essential LA Reading
- Famous Literary Landmarks in LA
- LA Authors & Poets