Bookstores and Beaches, a book lover’s hunt in Los Angeles

Wind in my hair, sand in my books, ipad shutting off from overheating in the sun.. ahhh, its good to be back in Califonia! I am spending the week in my hometown LA to visit friends and family. In between the many scheduled lunches, dinners, coffees, walks, tea, shopping and breakfast dates with everyone I know, I’m doing a lot of reading. I think any avid reader sees a trip as an excuse to read more than usual, even if you spend a lot of your free time at home reading anyway. My roomate told me yesterday, “I don’t see how its any different. I think if someone set up a nannycam of you at our house it’d be just you reading. and then reading. and then switching it up to read on your ipad. but still, reading.” I objected to this because really, somewhere in there I’d probably get up for a coffee or something, but its pretty much true.

Since Borders crumbled under the weight of bankrupty, it has shut down most of their stores in LA. As a result I’ve had to try a little harder to go book browsing while I’m home. We don’t have gobs of independent bookstores like in Boston or San Francisco, so you really have to hunt for them. When Borders closed down I know a lot of independent bookshop supporters cheered, but in the end it is still a bookstore closing. And if Borders is almost all you had, what do you do now?

Borders tended to rule most of my book buying as a youngin’ because my dad took us there. Cruising down La Cienega often meant a stop at the Borders with the coffee bean next door for a little looksy. When traveling down to Manhattan beach, we’d pull over for the Borders on Sepulveda and maybe some lunch at Chipotle before hitting the beach. Searching at Century City to find a birthday present or see a movie would also involve spending some time walking around the Borders as part of our evening.

Now that LA is Borderless, I’ve made more of an effort to hunt down independent bookstores in the area. Some of which are old favorites and others I’m ashamed to say I didn’t know existed, even though I grew up here.  Its nice to see that even if they are more rare here (when I lived in Massachusetts there were almost as many used bookstores are there were dunkin’ donuts) they do exist. So in honor of my own search and to help anyone who finds themselves in my fair city looking for some fun book browsing, I’m going to skip over the Barnes and Nobles and go right to the good stuff.

Caravan Book Store – is the last of the bookshops along what was once known as Book Seller’s Row in Downtown Los Angeles. It is across from the Los Angeles Central Public Library at 550 S. Grand Ave. (tel. 213.626.9944) Caravan specializes in rare and antique books on California history, Americana, voyages and other historic subjects. Although its not really a browsing spot for new and literature book lovers, its a lovely place to go see beautiful books and a little of LA’s history.

Book Soup on Sunset – known for bookshelves that go from the floor to ceiling, it is one of my favorites in LA. They say you may even see a celebrity or two browsing among the bookshelves once and a while, although to be honest, I never have. It has a large range of books from art to fiction, history, biographies, small presses and non-fiction. 8818 Sunset Blvd. Tel. 310.659.3110

  Vroman’s Bookstore is the oldest and largest independent bookstore in Southern California but its a bit out of Los Angeles, since its located in Pasadena. Its definitely worth a drive if you have some time to kill and are craving a nice bookstore. They’ve been selling books in Pasadena since 1894, so they’re a staple in the book community. Vroman’s boasts more than 85,000 titles on all different subjects from fiction to non-fiction, history, biographies and a large children’s section upstairs. It also has a lot of author signings. 695 E. Colorado Blvd. Tel. 626.449.5320

  Storyopolis is an LA favorite for children’s books of all shapes and sizes and a lot of fun to visit no matter what age you are. Devoted to children’s books, it one of the best kids bookstores you’ll ever shop at. It also carries antiquarian children’s books, including first editions by J.R. Tolkein and Roald Dahl. 14945 Ventura Blvd. Tel. 818.990.7600

The Last Bookstore – Just moved to a new location and is having a grand reopening tomorrow June 3rd, 2011. They boast over 100,000 used books in addition to art and musical shows. 453 S Spring St – Ground Floor Tel 213-617-0308

  Metropolis Books – With a good sized selection of new books, this independent bookstore is a great choice if you’re in the area. They have book clubs, signings and are part of the art walks downtown.  440 S. Main Street 213-612-0174

Los Angeles also has quite a few historical, mystical, art and specialized rare bookstores in the area but I really wanted to focus on those which everyday book buyers could enjoy. If you have a favorite LA bookstore that I’m missing which you feel is worth a mention, feel free to let me know. I’d love to visit it and add it to my list. Until then, I’m off to shake the sand out of A Visit from the Goon Squad and take it to dinner. I hope its in the mood for some Indian.

When a bookstore opens its doors, the rest of the world enters, too, the day’s weather and the day’s news, the streams of customers, and of course the boxes of books and the many other worlds they contain—books of facts and truths, books newly written and those first read centuries before, books of great relevance and of absolute banality. Standing in the middle of this confluence, I can’t help but feel the possibility of the universe unfolding a little, once upon a time.“    – The Yellow Lighted Bookshop

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2 thoughts on “Bookstores and Beaches, a book lover’s hunt in Los Angeles

  1. Hope you’re having fun in LA! I live here, too! Vroman’s also has an Einstein Bros Bagels shop next to it — perfect place to read the book you just picked up at Vroman’s!

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