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The best bookstores in Los Angeles

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

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Best shops in LA: Skylight Books

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.

 

Find a top bookstore in Los Angeles

1

The Last Bookstore

If The Last Bookstore downtown 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. It's now the largest independent bookstore in Southern California. 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.

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Downtown Historic Core
2

Skylight Books

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 a few years ago. It now houses readings, signings and some of L.A.'s best book clubs, including one dedicated solely to Ulysses, and another for YA (young adult) novels. Tip: If you miss a reading, check their website for a podcast version.

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Los Feliz
3

Vroman's

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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Pasadena
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4

Diesel, A Bookstore

Diesel is keeping bookstores hip, with its modern aesthetics, eclectic selection, and online presence—including a video channel with author events, book recs and other visual ephemera, such as a "30 videos in 30 days" project, celebrating National Poetry Month.

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Brentwood
5

ARTBOOK @ Paper Chase

This design book showroom is housed in the historic Art Deco Paper Chase building in Hollywood, and has some of best and most beautiful titles in the genre, including books on photography, architecture, film, music, fashion and culture. The space also hosts art book events, temporary installations and a program of talks, lectures and other book-related gatherings. The showroom is open by appointment only, so be sure to call ahead.

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Hollywood
6

Children’s Book World

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.

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Westside
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7

Secret Headquarters

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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Silver Lake
8

Arcana Books on the Arts

Stocked with more than 100,000 rare, obscure and out-of-print volumes—not to mention a staff that's eager to help you track down exactly what you're looking for—this art, photography and design book emporium in Culver City ought to keep you busy for at least a few hours.

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Culver City
9

Small World Books

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. Note: You may feel as if you're being watched like a hawk, but it is Venice beach after all, so cut the staff a break.

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Venice
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10

Stories Books and Cafe

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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Echo Park
11

Pop-Hop Books & Print

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.

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Highland Park
12

Hennessey + Ingalls

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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Downtown Arts District
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13

Eso Won Books

This small, family-owned bookstore—located in the historical Leimert Park—carries a wide range of books, from New York Times best-sellers to small-press releases. It specializes in books from the African American experience and the African Diaspora. They have regular community events including readings, guest speakers, debates and public forums. 

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South LA
14

Book Soup

The variety of stock at Book Soup is huge and diverse, even if the space itself is a little squeezed (it's easy to get lost!). The newsstand is well-stocked with domestic and international papers and magazines. Tip: make sure to check out the impressive section on L.A. history, architecture and lore.

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West Hollywood
15

Books & Cookies

This children’s bookstore, bakery and “enrichment center” is a sweet spot to bring the under-8 set. It’s divided into three kid-friendly areas: a bookstore/interactive reading room for “read to me daddy!” snuggle time (all the books are also for sale); a kids' cafe selling fresh-baked cookies, milk and all sorts of healthy and allergy-sensitive snacks; and an events and activities space where baby sign language, arts & crafts and other enriching classes go down. Check the website for event details.

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Santa Monica
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16

Mystery Pier Books, Inc.

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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West Hollywood
17

Bookmarc

Tucked into an ivy-covered brick and stucco building near the massive Marc Jacobs and Marc by Marc Jacobs boutiques on Melrose, this quaint bookstore offers a tightly curated selection of new, limited-edition and vintage books covering photography, fine art, fiction, poetry, memoir and even cookbooks. Browse the bookshelves for remarkable reads that always make the perfect gift. Do not resist the impulse buys near the register. Relatively inexpensive Marc Jacobs–branded items like key chains, necklaces, postcards, notebooks, pens and pocket mirrors alone are worth popping into the shop.

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Melrose
18

Angel City Books & Records

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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Santa Monica
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Comments

2 comments
Richard J
Richard J

This list is incomplete... Though I have shopped at 15 or your 18 listed. You have completely missed the Illiad Bookshop on Cahuenga Blvd. in North Hollywood. They are by far the best used bookstore on the Los Angeles area. When ever I can't find a book, I check there first. they have a massive selection of books that rivals The Last Bookstore downtown, but with more knowledgeable staff and easier parking. You're list seems somewhat prejudiced, as I agree with Robles, below. The Caravan Bookstore is also deserving of mention.

robles
robles

You guys can;t forget about the small, quint, long standing Caravan Book Store in Downtown LA, on Grand near corner with 6th. It is a brilliant bookstore that has been around for 60+ years. This bookstore is like no other, if you are a Harry Potter fan, perhaps its not the ideal place to find your literary delights, but just walking into the store is if in the Harry Potter's School Master's Office, filled with old prints, antique trinkets and trains decorate shelves and cabinets, Subway tickets or schedules to the long forgotten long gone Pacific Electric Railroad(the original METRO rail), and one can't for get old maps and postcard. Grant it, It is not a largely stacked and vast array of endless them books as would Barnes and Nobles or The Last Book Store, but it is size measures its greatness to sell random books as they stick out like sore thumbs being that it is limited on display space, which by the same token, these very books may be shelved at the aforementioned stores, they are a needle in a hay stack and never sees the light of day. As I said, it isn't the typical Harry Potter Fan specialty store, but I wouldn't put it past them to have a special, limited edition print of such series, or trendy item. It is a book store to stop by, spend a good half hour browsing the single room store. The owner is delightful and knowledgeable, keeps to himself in the back observing incomers, not as suspicious observation but one that is pleased to bring some sort of joy to all who stumble into the store and are amazed by it. Talking to him may be challenging as I am sure after 60 years of the repetitive bus fair exchange petitions, or inquest for the latest Harry Potter may put a damper to his day, but once you get him talking, the man is intriguing and genuine, ask for a topic and he takes a few steps left, two right , a few slide paces left and a arm stretch to grab you a couple of books. The best of it is there are NO bags in this place. They wrap and tape your purchase in brown paper wrapping, as if at a butcher shop. It is a trip to enjoy, a walk down memory lane, for those who may still recall those golden years, and a nice history tour for us new generation kindle fans