Photograph courtesy Flickr/Redzenradish
Best of LA, November 2007
Reading while standing mid-aisle is a venerable bookstore tradition. You’ll see plenty of that at Brand Bookshop, but you’ll also find a few tables and chairs scattered about, which help to make this L.A.’s most welcoming used bookstore. (A jocular greeting from the owner—a blend of Don Knotts and Mr. Rogers—doesn’t hurt, either.) Brand wins the oxymoronic title of “most organized” used bookstore as well, with a suspicious absence of piles and boxes crowding the aisles, plus good signage throughout. There’s an impressive Eastern philosophy selection, but those with less heady tastes can visit the “Romance” nook, the creepy occult collection, and some erotica shelves uncomfortably near the owner at the counter. » 231 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale, 818-507-5943.
While virtually all of its Hollywood-based competitors have surrendered their spaces to nightclubs, Cosmopolitan Bookshop has stayed afloat for 49 years, thanks in large part to owner Eli Goodman’s discerning taste. Its cramped quarters and vague organization can make finding a title tricky, but they also allow for that most wonderful of bookstore experiences: the serendipitous discovery. The large film and media “section” could give way to Israeli travel guides in one direction or beat anthologies in the other. But if you’re looking for a first-edition Hunter S., you’re going to have to ask nicely. » 7017 Melrose Ave., Hollywood, 323-938-7119.
Part of the Borders and Barnes & Noble appeal is their spacious interiors. More inviting than a labyrinth of dusty shelves and poorly lit back rooms, the palace of secondhand reading material known as Book Alley has the best of both worlds. Its open floor plan is marked by clearly legible signs and fancy display shelves on which sit disheveled stacks of California history texts, timeworn Victorian novels, throwback cookbooks, and random encyclopedias. Giving off the perpetual air of “reorganizing,” the staff is happy to answer any questions, open any of the rarity-stocked glass cases, and help you fit a book with a Mylar jacket. » 611 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, 626-683-8083.
In a brand-new building just blocks from where it shared a wall with Odyssey Video for 18 years, Iliad Bookshop functions as a used bookstore, rescued-kitty hostel, and all-around culture beacon. While one-eyed (and four-legged) Zola naps amid the large collection of Nancy Drew and Oz serials, locals peruse the wooden island piled high with offbeat specials. Iliad also boasts L.A.’s quirkiest bookshelf. Marked “Old and Strange Paperbacks,” it supports a comprehensive collection of retro erotica and vintage pulp novels; even if you don’t read them, they make for campy coffee-table accessories. For late-night readers, Iliad’s doors stay open until 10. » 5400 Cahuenga Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-509-2665.