Late-stage millennials like myself relish the double agency that comes with straddling two generations. MarioKart 64 (and, in my case, DoubleDash) is our go-to video game of choice, but Pokemon Go is addictive, too; Snapchat filters are a most excellent time waster, but we still get down with all the “olds” on Facebook (mostly because we ourselves are considered “olds” by our younger millennial comrades); our phones are tantamount to digitized libraries, but we still long to crack open a new book, run our fingers along its textured pages, and breathe in its comforting papery scent. And while there are plenty of big box bookstores in L.A. to satisfy any bookworm or bibliophile, there is something a little more magical about stumbling into a smaller storefront. Here are 14 indie book stores to check out next time you’re on the hunt for a new read.
It’s as much about the food as it is about the books—an excellent selection of new, used, and rare finds that change frequently thanks the fact that they buy and trade—at this Echo Park shop. Peruse the stacks, grab a cup of organic Bicycle coffee and a pastry from Home Boy Bakery, and settle down on the charming back patio for a few hours. Keep an eye on their calendar, too, because they often host readings, comedy shows, and more. > 1716 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 213-413-3733
This small-ish store in the Brentwood Country Mart crams an impressive variety of books onto its shelves considering the space available. Pop in to find the latest best sellers, a wide variety of children’s and young adult titles, and stunning coffee table books filled with art or photography. Keep your eyes peeled for celebs—it’s a frequent haunt of Her Goopiness, among others. > 225 26th St., Santa Monica, 310-576-9960
This Sunset Strip stalwart has outlived many of its neighboring businesses (its doors have been open for more than 40 years). It’s not hard to see why: with more than 60,000 titles, you’re pretty much guaranteed to find whatever it is you’re looking for, be it agitprop, poetry, or art tomes. > 8818 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, 310-659-3110
Nestled amongst the weird ephemera of the Venice Boardwalk is this bookish nook, known for its selection of local authors and a collection of titles from smaller indie imprints. (The’ve got a wide selection of modern stuff, too.) The beachside store has been around since 1969 and in its current spot since 1976. > 1407 Ocean Front Walk, Venice, 310-399-2360
A one-stop shop for—you guessed it—books and records, the westside store has a wide variety of titles and vinyl both used and new. Browse books on topics as varied as Alternative Health (Drugs, LSD, Marijuana) to Architecture to Dada and Surrealism, and flip through records spanning Prog to 20th Century Avant Garde (many of which are original pressings). > 218 Pier Ave., Santa Monica, 310-399-8767
If it’s specialty arts books you’re after, Arcana is the place to be (the the New York Times described it as “the go-to purveyor in Los Angeles for rare and out-of-print books on art, photography, architecture, design, fashion and music,” and we can’t really argue with that). Though the store has been around since 1984, it only recently moved into its bright, airy digs in the Helms Bakery Complex; it’s an architectural aesthetic that matches the store’s inventory. > 8675 Washington Blvd., Culver City, 310-458-1499
While we’re talking about books on art and architecture, we must talk about Hennessey & Ingalls. The bookstore is a utopia for wieldy coffee table volumes focused on the visual arts, cooking, fashion, graphic design, music, and transportation. > 300 S. Santa Fe Ave., Ste. M, Los Angeles, 213-437-2130
This NoHo shop seems overwhelming at first. (To be fair, they have more than 125,000 books in stock, so it is a little overwhelming.) Their collection of used books rivals that of the Last Bookstore (more on them in a minute), and thankfully, someone from the expert staff is always on hand to help you navigate the inventory. > 5400 Cahuenga Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-509-2665
No indie booklist is complete without a mention of this Literary Megalopolis, purportedly California’s biggest new and used book and record store. The “store” is really more of a giant warehouse, stocking more than 250,000 titles throughout 22,000-square-feet of space. Organized and easily navigable, it’s a book-lover’s utopia amidst the madness of downtown Los Angeles. While you’re there, head up to the Spring Arts Collective galleries on the second floor to browse original art as well as a yarn shop dubbed Gather DTLA.
Planning a trip? Hit up Distant Lands, a specialty purveyor in Pasadena specializing in travel books, maps, and even luggage. The shop first opened its doors in 1989 and has since been hawking non-fiction books that inspire wanderlust, novels detailing far-off lands, and guides to the world’s best street food. > 20 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena, 626-449-3220
Skylight is a neighborhood favorite with a wide selection of both popular and off-beat books. What really makes them a standout is their excellent in-store programming, during which authors and luminaries both local and world-renowned (Zadie Smith, Chuck Klosterman) stop in for readings and Q&As. Check out their in-store Coyotes Book Group to chat lit with a bunch of other likeminded nerds. > 818 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz, 323-660-1175
Earlier this year, sisters Bea and Leah Koch opened the first-ever romance-only bookstore right in Culver City (they call themselves “purveyors of fine smut.”) Thanks to a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign, the quaint shop is open to anyone seeking romance and all of its subgenres (Suspense, Western Historical, YA, and even cookbooks). > 3806 Main St., Culver City, 424-603-4776
This bookshop technically hails from New York, but it opened its doors in L.A. back in 1929, so we’re counting it as one of our own. If you can’t tell by its name, the store’s inventory is geared toward readers in the Industry; stop in to find plays, sheet music, and filmmaker biographies, among other things. > 7623 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, 866-598-8449