Los Angeles, in all of it’s progressive and cultural glory, is home to a handful of the country’s best independent bookstores. In the age-of-amazon, it’s certainly an uphill battle for any bookstore to remain afloat, but, like Powell’s in Portland and The Strand in NYC, these brick and mortor shops are moving , and here’s why…
Skylight Books in Los Feliz is the smallest on our list, but packs a literary punch… So to speak… (We, on the other hand, obviously don’t…) Since 1996 Skylight has been tucked into a really neat/walkable area, on Vermont avenue, next to the Los Feliz 3 movie theater, and a bevy of cafe’s and restaurants. They have a great “staff picks” section, and they stay on the cutting edge of literary fiction, books on music, art, film and theatre, Los Angeles regional culture and history, graphic literature, children’s books, political theory and more. The also host great events, readings, and book clubs.
Book Soup, in the heart of the Sunset strip, is another great indie book store that’s been serving up good reads since 1975. They source their floor-to-ceiling stacks from independent publishers, as well as university & international presses, so their selection is very unique. Similar to Skylight, they specialize in art, film, photography, music, controversial non-fiction, and literary fiction. They have some seriously collectable stuff: signed copies, rare editions, and a ridiculously cool $1,500 book on Gibson Guitars. Their staff is very friendly and knowledgeable (and opinionated), and they host some really neat signings and events.
The Last Bookstore in Downtown LA is really something. After setting up shop in it’s current location, a former bank (as evident by the vault door in the back), in 2011, it’s been buying and selling books en masse, with incredible support from the budding downtown community. As one of the few bookstores in LA that is actually buying used books, it’s become a trading floor (bank pun?) for intellectuals trying to change out their bookshelves. The edifice itself is wonderful; vaulted ceilings, towering columns, and a stage in the center that hosts open mic’s, readings, talks, and potluck discussions. Their events calendar is the most unique of all of the bookstores we’ve seen. To make the space even more badass, they’ve got a record store and coffee shop up and running under the same roof.
Last but certainly not least, The Iliad may be the best used bookstore in Los Angeles, and is a must-visit for any bibliophile or avid reader. With over 125,000 mostly used books on location, and an undisclosed number stored off-site, there’s a good chance that The Iliad will have what you’re looking for, whether it’s classic fiction, obscure poetry, California history, film and television, or the occult; if they don’t, they’ll do everything they can to help you find it.
The Iliad is also one of those increasingly rare places where you can endlessly browse. As a respite from the madness of the city and loud bookstore chains that all sell the same things, the stacks of The Iliad are filled with years worth of history, unique editions, and authors and subjects waiting to be explored. There are couched and a store cat, as well as soothing colors and a friendly staff. This used to grace Lankershim Boulevard, at their past location, and should give you some idea of how much the owners care about the place.