While many cities and regions are synonymous with literature; LA isn’t one of them. Home to the rich and the famous; the elite and the esteemed, it’s a place more associated with the film industry and the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. However, if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find a big literary scene in LA; and as well as housing California’s largest new and used bookstore, the city also has a wealth of other quirky and independent literary havens. From a vintage van with books for sale, to a cinema gift shop that should be top of your bookish bucket list, here are LA’s best bookstores.
The only exclusively romance books bookstore in the United States, The Ripped Bodice is a haven of love literature based in Culver City. Opened by sisters Bea and Leah Koch, the light filled space boasts the loveliest of interiors, with pretty pink and nude tones and a vintage-inspired feel, making the bookstore worth a visit for the delicate decor alone. With an unapologetically pink storefront, victorian sofas and beautifully displayed books, The Ripped Bodice is a must visit destination for romance aficionados far and wide.
While Abbot Kinney comes in as a contender for my favourite part of Venice – due to its stylish shops, beautiful boutiques and limitless foodie fare – the place I make a beeline for is the beach boulevard’s Small World Books. Tucked away behind a busy beachfront restaurant, while its entrance is unassuming, what lies within is anything but. With bespoke recommendations, a sale section and an impressive selection of literature, it’s impossible to leave empty handed. Indeed, two of the best books I’ve read while living stateside have been bought from this store: Under the Influence by Joyce Maynard, and Behold the Dreamers by Obolo Mbue.
I’ve already written about a lonely Labour Day weekend in which I made a literary pilgrimage to downtown LA’s The Last Bookstore, and waxed lyrical many, many time about how much I love this homage to literarture. Indeed no self-respecting list of LA’s best bookstores would be complete without a loving mention of California’s biggest new and used book haven. Boasting an onsite labyrinth, home to not only the tunnel of books, but also to a massive, chaotic, maze-like space housing more than 100,000 used books, a bookcase featuring flying books created by artist David Lovejoy, colour-coded shelves and a futuristic reading room filled with science fiction and fantasy titles, it truly is a temple of tomes and without question one of LA’s best bookstores.
A brilliantly bookish idea if ever there was one is Twenty Stories LA. Founded by writers Alexa Trembly and Emory Harkins, Twenty Stories’ goal is to mobilize all things literary in Los Angeles and beyond. Launching on November 4th, Twenty Stories is a converted vintage truck that will be home to twenty new titles each month, ranging from fiction to poetry and beyond. Promoting both innovative and emerging writers and presses, as well as established authors in the literary community, Trembly and Harkins hope to grow LA’s literary scene by showcasing literature in new spaces.
I first came across Counterpoint Book and Records when I was visiting a stand up comedy show at Upright Citizen’s Brigade in Franklin village. Located on a bustling street with an ice cream parlour and ample eateries whose outdoor tables are always abuzz with wine and laughter and friends and food, it was the luminescent sign; the word books that caught my eye, and so in I floated. With a homely atmosphere, friendly staff and floor to ceiling shelves of books waiting to be read, it’s the type of place I could have spent hours; lucky for me it’s open late; not so lucky: my boyfriend doesn’t share the same sentiment. The highlight: climbing a ladder to retrieve the book I had my eye on – Jeffrey Eugenides The Virgin Suicides. The perfect neighbourhood hangout, and undoubtedly one of LA’s best bookstores.
ArcLight Cinema, Sunset Boulevard
While the ArcLight cinema on Sunset Boulevard isn’t a bookshop per se, the cinema’s onsite gift shop is a serious treasure trove for book lovers. Unlike conventional bookstores that have endless rows of books on offer, the gift shop has a carefully curated selection of tomes, chosen by various esteemed figures. Each of the shelves holds ten different titles, curated by the likes of Trevor Noah and Neil Gaiman as the ten books they would take to a desert island. Boasting beautiful editions and everything from memoirs to classics, it’s a unique and wonderful concept and without question one of LA’s most brilliant bookish gems.
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