It had been a lonely Labour Day weekend. Prior to moving to LA, I’d had visions spending it on the beach with my other half; free-flowing prosseco, cocktails at sunset, smug in the knowledge that we were living the ultimate Californian dream..
The reality was quite different: my boyfriend was dancing for sixteen hours a day, and I was alone, lonely and bored at our apartment in North Hollywood, with hours upon hours ahead of me, that even the most avid of readers would struggle to fill. The little money I had would barely cover a brunch; and even if it did I had no-one with whom to share it.
And so, after a morning spent feeling sorry for myself, bemoaning both a lack of social life and friends in the new city I was to call home for three months, I did what any self-respecting bookworm would do, and made a trip across town to visit The Last Bookstore. The sort of place that frequents most beautiful bookstores in the world lists, it’s a literary treasure trove in downtown LA, a haven of unread books, and an architectural dream, featuring a tunnel made entirely of books, hanging novels and hidden side rooms home to endless shelves of well worn books.
As anyone who’s lived in LA can attest to, navigating one’s way around the city without a car can be something of a logistical nightmare. And while I’m within easy reach of the North Hollywood metro line, that goes directly to the Lankershim and Chandler station – just a few minutes walk from The Last Bookstore – the journey itself, as it often is in LA, was both colourful and excessively long. A deep aroma of fragrant weed scents the metro stations, and the train carriages are either eerily deserted, or filled with the sort of characters that as I wouldn’t want to meet down a dark alley either late at night or in the bright lights of a morning. I can’t remember the book I was reading en route to The Last Bookstore; but suffice it to say I kept my head down for most of the journey.
Despite its generous size – The Last Bookstore is California’s largest new and used bookstore, and boasts both endless shelves and countless rooms filled with books – as soon as I walked through the doors, I immediately felt at home. And while the ground floor’s impressive selection of books make it worthy of your browsing time; the magic really happens upstairs. Here lies the 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. From a bookcase featuring flying books created by artist David Lovejoy, to colour-coded shelves and a futuristic reading room filled with science fiction and fantasy titles, it truly is a temple of tomes.
I lost count of the number of hours I spent perusing the shelves, and exploring the various reading rooms before curling up in one of the worn leather armchairs to begin a memoir that wasn’t on my buying pile. I left with three books that had been on my American lit list – John Irving’s The World According to Garp, Jonathan Frazen’s The Corrections and A Visit from the Good Squad by Jennifer Egan, knowing that my money was better spent on books, than on any fancy brunch. Satiated and solaced by my endless love for literature, I journeyed home with my three unread treasures.
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