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Skylight Books
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman Skylight Books

The best independent bookstores in Los Angeles

Looking for an independent bookstore? Los Angeles has plenty of options to delight any type of reader.

By Kate Wertheimer and Time Out editors
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There’s nothing better than a well-stocked, friendly-staffed bookstore. Los Angeles has lots of great independent retailers offering art books, travel guides, political tomes and children’s tales; some even have coffee shops inside. Check out these top bookstores in Los Angeles for the best bargains, out-of-print titles, author readings and community events; they’re a great place to find gift ideas, escape a sweltering (or rainy) day or pick out your next favorite novel.

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The Last Bookstore

Shopping Bookstores Downtown Historic Core

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If the Last Bookstore in Downtown L.A. were really our last bookstore, we’d be in good shape. Currently housed in what used to be an old bank building (complete with marble columns and giant doors), the store first began in a loft apartment and has since expanded to include a record shop, coffee bar and “Labyrinth” mezzanine level soley dedicated to $1 books. You can sell or trade old books here, pick up new ones, grab a record or a cup of joe, and attend a myriad of events including readings, book signings, writers groups, open mics and live music. It’s a true community hotspot, bringing like-minded literary folks together to create, inspire and share in a space that’s as open as your mind will be when you visit.

Skylight Books

Shopping Bookstores Los Feliz

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This much-cherished, cozy neighborhood bookstore in Los Feliz strikes a neat balance between intellectual crowd-pleasers and more unusual fare, including a large selection of local zines. Open since the mid ’90s, it bucked book-industry trends by expanding into neighboring premises. It now houses readings, signings and some of L.A.’s best book clubs. Tip: If you miss a reading, check their website for a podcast version.

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Vroman’s

Shopping Bookstores Pasadena Playhouse District

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The largest independent bookshop in Southern California was founded over a century ago, and continues to provide welcome competition to the big-box options in the Valley. The stock is strong and the staff is very helpful. They sell so much (too much?) more than books: coffee, music, luggage, jewelry, cookware and candles. Keep an eye out for the regular readings and the book signings.

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Stories Books & Cafe

Restaurants Cafés Echo Park

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Stories Books and Cafe is a funky, cozy spot off Sunset Boulevard, with new and used titles packed floor to ceiling. There’s a little cafe in the back with good coffee and fresh food, and an outdoor patio popular with the freelance crowd. If you’re looking for an obscure title, chances are they’ll have it here. There’s also a good selection of gift-y things such as greeting cards, coloring books, magnets and mugs (our favorite has a hot librarian graphic with the words “reading is sexy”). Regular events include readings, signings and open mic comedy nights.

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Children’s Book World

Shopping Bookstores Westside
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This store carries more than 80,000 titles, as well as music, audio books, DVDs, puppets, stuffed animals and craft and science kits. The book selection is open-minded (gay-friendly, multi-cultural) and well-organized, divided into age-appropriate sections. There are cozy spots to snuggle up and read in, as well as play areas for the wee ones; peek around the corner of any aisle and you'll find a happy kid with her nose in a book. Regular events include book signings and story hours.

Hennessey + Ingalls

Shopping Bookstores Downtown Arts District

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This art and architecture bookstore also sells children's books, rare and out-of-print titles, maps, guidebooks and culinary books, along with a huge selection of Moleskine notebooks, journals and planners. It's a store with highbrow merchandise, without the intimidation factor; the staff is friendly and helpful, and there's something for everyone here.

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The Iliad Bookshop

Shopping Bookstores North Hollywood

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This beloved NoHo nook has won over local bookworms and out-of-towners for more than 20 years. Aptly named for The Iliad, an ancient Greek epic poem by Homer (note: Odyssey Video was originally located next to the Iliad's first locale, hence the literary word play), the neighborhood bookstore stocks over 100,000 used titles and specializes in literary fiction and the arts. Drop in to browse rare and under-the-radar finds or sell a few books of your own.

Secret Headquarters

Shopping Bookstores Silver Lake

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This comic book and graphic novel shop has shelf upon shelf of illustrated stories, as well as beautiful art books and local zines. If you’re into illustrated stories, this is the place to go—the shopkeepers will geek out with you over the newest issue of Aquaman or the sophomore effort of a graphic novelist. They can also recommend great stuff for first-timers, as well as gift suggestions for anyone on your list.

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Small World Books

Shopping Bookstores Venice

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Surrounded by bad beach food and throngs of people, this little shop is an oasis of literary calm. Their local author selection is right up front, so check out the local talent before perusing the aisles, where you’ll find a number of hard-to-find independent imprints, along with the more usual suspects such as McSweeney’s. They also have a little Mystery Annex, if you’re into that sort of thing.

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Pop-Hop Books & Print

Shopping Bookstores Highland Park

This is an intimate bookstore and print shop that specializes in fiction, art and new works from local presses. Books are lined up on wooden shelves on rolling casters, like an elementary school library. Behind the bookcases, a small studio holds weekly instruction in classes such as screen-printing, zine-making, baby sign language and more.

Mystery Pier Books, Inc.

Shopping Bookstores West Hollywood

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Down a tiny corridor off Sunset is an adorable old house, home of Mystery Pier Books, Inc. Being in this bookshop is like being at a museum where you get to buy the exhibits—beautiful, rare first editions; collectibles; out-of-print and signed books populate these shelves. The staff is more like gracious hosts than salespeople, and have the answer to literally any question about their stock and beyond. If you have a collector’s item in mind, this is the place to find it—plan to spend a decent amount here, accordingly. Mystery Pier is just down the street from Book Soup, so you can hit both stores in the same day (we think you’ll walk out of here a bit more wowed, if a bit more broke).

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Angel City Books & Records

Shopping Music and entertainment Santa Monica

This new and used bookstore just off the beach has the funky feel of a vintage shop, in part due to its best kept secret—the vast new and used vinyl selection, plus vintage record players, speakers and amps. Listen to records for sale as you peruse the aisles—Angel City offers books in every genre, and even has specialized book catalogs to help you find what you’re looking for. There’s also a gallery inside the store that features contemporary fine art from local beachside artists.

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