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Illustration of a person reading a book while on roller skates
(Asia Pietrzyk / For The Times)

The 65 best bookstores in L.A.

It shouldn’t be too surprising that a vast city of unique neighborhoods should abound in utterly distinctive local bookstores. These 65 shops include sleek temples of art books, dusty treasure chests of arcana, massive comics emporia, proudly Black-owned storefronts, bilingual learning centers, mom-and-pop labors of love, one soaring central library, a skylit Barnes & Noble and the beloved Skylight Books. Each listing gives a sense of the store’s vibe, its customers, its selection and testimonies from both customers and authors. You may not find your husband at Book Soup, as the children’s author Pseudonymous Bosch did, but you’ll never know unless you close your Amazon app and leave the house.

This story is part of Lit City, our comprehensive guide to the literary geography of Los Angeles. Hear from customers and shop owners at 10 selected stores and find out about authors’ most inspiring L.A. places.

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Des Pair Books

Echo Park Art
The Vibe: Small, laid-back and minimalist. This bookstore’s charm is in its attention to detail. The shop doubles as a gallery, its walls covered in work from a rotating list of visual artists.
The Books: New fiction, classics, art biographies, film, philosophy, a wide array of books (true to the store’s cheeky name) on existentialism and nihilism. Don’t miss its fun quarterly literary zine, Seasons of Des Pair.
The Customers: Locals, New Yorkers, creatives, book nerds dabbling in existentialism.
Testimony: “It’s got a good selection, a lot of smart books.... It seems like there are very specifically chosen books, like you can read any book and it’s going to be great.” — Elliott Hostetter, 42, Altadena
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The Open Book

Santa Clarita Rare & used
The Vibe: Like a thrift store for print, boasting a well-organized, eclectic selection of books, CDs, records, audiobooks, 8-track tapes, single-issue comics, old postcards and so much more — with an arch made of books ringing the entrance.
The Books: Extensive manga and comics sections for mature and younger readers, $1 and $5 books, Star Wars and Star Trek shelves, really old Bibles, labeled sections on critical race theory, extraterrestrial encounters and secret societies.
The Customers: Vintage-book collectors, seniors buying romance novels, young locals, College of the Canyons students and teachers.
Testimony: “I love all the friendly people. Every day I come here there’s always something new…. It’s easy to get interested in other things here even if you’re not a big reader.” — Christian Herrera, 22, Santa Clarita
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Book Soup

West Hollywood General
The Vibe: A cultural fixture since the 1970s, this self-proclaimed “bookseller to the great and infamous” supplements books and records with Hollywood touches including tarot cards and a blue felt statue of David in a shimmering gray scarf. Grab a store map to navigate the labyrinth.
The Books: Sections on the film industry, literary fiction, music business, dance, sports, cars and screenwriting are squeezed into floor-to-ceiling shelves; curated displays of book-to-screen adaptations, long-listed Women’s Prize for Fiction titles and a small-press corner.
The Customers: Aspiring and established musicians and writers, Hollywood-industry folks, Nicole Richie and other celebrities, tourists sauntering down Sunset, diehard locals.
Testimony: “My favorite L.A. bookstore if only because it is where I met my husband. This cute guy in a fringe jacket (hey, it was the ‘90s) was chatting with a friend of mine by the art books when we were briefly introduced. Later, we were introduced again at a party. I said, ‘Haven’t we met somewhere before?’ He thought it was a line, and it was — but it was also true. We have Book Soup to thank for 26 years and two kids.” — Raphael Simon, aka Pseudonymous Bosch
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Larry Edmunds Bookshop

Hollywood Specialty
The Vibe: A high-ceilinged haunt specializing in the art of film, with an array of movie posters ranging from “The Matrix” to “Minions.”
The Books: Local histories, international film, scripts, technical guides on film editing, screenwriting and acting techniques, women in film, criticism and a “yearbook” on the Cocoanut Grove.
The Customers: Turner Classic Movies evangelists, film critics, parents of child actors, tourists, screenwriters, A24 20-somethings.
Testimony: When I walked into Larry Edmunds, two sellers were locked in a debate about John Wayne, which then morphed into a detailed discussion about Shakespearean actors. Not being sick of film while working at a film-centric bookstore? I’d call that an endorsement.
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Counterpoint Records & Books

Hollywood Rare & used
The Vibe: Paradise for crate diggers and those who enjoy getting their hands dusty skimming through used books and records. Did you leave something in a book you sold to Counterpoint — perhaps a photo-booth reel or a ticket to the Democratic National Convention? Look for it up front; the store displays such found objects above the counter.
The Books: Biographies, books on the craft of theater, a tape wall, sheet music, works by recently departed luminaries, erotic art magazines, comics, coffee table books, VHS tapes and countless records, from film scores to funk.
The Customers: College radio DJs, DSA members, precocious teens, ex-hippies, burgeoning composers.
Testimony: “I used to come here before UCB shows. I’m a therapist, and I’m looking for therapy-related books. I have a ton of them and could always use more. I don’t feel like buying them from Amazon, because I hate Jeff Bezos.” — Michal Rogers, 34, Studio City
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Mystery Pier Books

Hollywood Hills West Rare & used
The Vibe: Located down a slim alley along the Sunset Strip in a small house with a lovely garden is this haven for first editions, rarities and unusual finds. (Keep walking down the steps, you’re in the right place!)
The Books: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” signed by Ken Kesey, a copy of “Ulysses” both illustrated and signed by Henri Matisse, bound scripts signed by directors and Anne Rice’s “The Feast of All Saints.”
The Customers: Collectors, cult literature enthusiasts, intrepid wanderers.
Testimony: “‘Frankenstein’ is my favorite book of all time, and to see the first two editions next to each other … that’s pretty amazing. I wouldn’t mind taking a look at that inscription from Bram Stoker....” — Aaron Rosenberg, 56, Hollywood
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SideShow Books

Pico-Robertson Rare & used
The Vibe: This hidden gem on the edge of West Hollywood is a floor-to-ceiling maze of organized chaos, which rewards the treasure hunter — just be careful not to knock anything over.
The Books: The potpourri on display encompasses a wide swath of pre-owned books and only a couple of shelves for new releases. The 14-year-old store hosts a variety of events on its back patio, from film screenings, poetry and comedy to workshops on writing and collage art.
The Customers: Diverse age groups that don’t follow the status quo and prefer a challenge to a pre-digested browsing experience.
Testimony: “We can find so many different little treasures you wouldn’t find in other bookstores. We’ll spend hours here looking at books, and the prices are great.” — Nicole Toka, 30
“This is a forest; it’s got its own nature. Usually when people discover the store, it’s like, ‘Oh, my God!’ Then I’ll apologize because it’s so messy, and they’ll say, ‘No, no, we love it!’” — Tony Jacobs, owner
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The Last Bookstore

Downtown L.A. Rare & used
The Vibe: A surrealist, steampunky labyrinth brimming with enchanting nooks, such as the 100-year-old bank vault-turned-antique-book annex — a visual feast, Flourish & Blotts come to life, secret passageways and all.
The Books: A red-lit “horror vault” filled with true crime, paranormal, UFO and serial killer titles; a gated annex with rare editions; a “danger room” for comics and graphic novels; and a maze-like section promoting “getting lost” (pro tip: Head through the 24-foot-tall book tunnel).
The Customers: Literary locals, book nerds in search of obscure gems, tourists seeking Instagram selfies and the visually obsessed — artists, production designers and celebs in plain clothes.
Testimony: “This is my fourth time here in the last month. I always find something new here — including new rooms! All these different nooks and crannies are filled with treasures.” — Miles Pertl, 31, Seattle
“An absolute work of art.” — Marie Lu
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Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth L.A.

Downtown L.A. Art
The Vibe: Airy, sunlit, museum bookstore feel, if the museum were a European kunsthalle in a repurposed flour mill — one with craft cocktails and scampering, live chickens in the courtyard.
The Books: Impressive collection of titles by and about female artists and artists of color; feminist theory; a children’s “book nook” featuring art-related baby books; cookbook eye candy galore!
The Customers: Artists, multilingual gallery hoppers and restaurant-goers waiting for tables at nearby Manuela; young families; fashionable Arts District neighbors — visitors who can afford to look like they can’t afford to buy the glossy art books.
Testimony: “It’s always fun to come here. It feels approachable and not too overwhelming. Very well curated.” — William Rollins, 49, Los Angeles and Mexico
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Hennessey + Ingalls

Downtown L.A. Art
The Vibe: Spacious, bright and well-organized, dedicated to the visual arts, architecture and design in L.A.’s hip Arts District. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable.
The Books: Everything from industrial design, woodworking, tattoos and architecture drawing to gardening, ceramics, sewing and art movements. Check out the greeting cards and the rare-books section tucked in the back.
The Customers: Art and architecture students; creative hobbyists; graphic designers; art historians; industry folks; out-of-print-book collectors.
Testimony: “There aren’t many bookstores that have an extensive art selection like this.... It’s harder to find material like this. I just started getting into generative artificial intelligence art, so I’m looking for stuff that I haven’t seen before.” — David Dickinson, 42, Culver City
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Now Serving

Chinatown Cookbooks
The Vibe: Former food editor Amy Scattergood put it best: “[A] bookshop devoted entirely to cookbooks … is a memory palace for a thousand meals.” This small, dimly lit store is on the first floor of Far East Plaza, home to the famous hot chicken joint Howlin’ Ray’s.
The Books: Fermentation; food science; entire books devoted to vegetables, meats, bread, Japanese drinks or mezcal; imports from Asia and Europe; a wall of small-press periodicals and kitchen essentials and sauces, too.
The Customers: Foodies, cookbook collectors, bakers, cooks, culinary students and newly independent 20-somethings learning to stock their pantries.
Testimony: “They have an interesting selection. It’s curated well. I never get to come to Chinatown, so I like to come to this bookstore when I can.” — Moses Kong, 30, West Hollywood
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Stories Books & Cafe

Echo Park General
The Vibe: An artsy, quaint new-and-used shop with a spacious outdoor patio for special events and warm L.A. days. The indoor cafe provides sustenance for browsing and in-house reading.
The Books: New York Review Books Classics; signed vintage copies of John Fante’s “Ask the Dust,” Albert Camus’ “Exile and the Kingdom” and others behind glass; robust, idiosyncratic sections on philosophy, metaphysics, religion and the occult.
The Customers: Echo Park hipsters, creative types, artists, a high count of tattoos and piercings.
Testimony: “This place also has $5 beer, which for Sunset Boulevard is pretty great. It also has coffee and chamomile tea, so it’s a good place if you’re trying to wean yourself off of something.… Good books, good coffee, good vibes, an environment of acceptance.” — Taylor Wentworth, 31, Echo Park
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Skylight Books

Los Feliz General
The Vibe: A welcoming, skylit anchor of Los Feliz for 26 years. A large ficus tree, as old as the store itself, stands in the middle. Hang out long enough and you might catch a glimpse of the stoic, elusive bookstore cat, Franny.
The Books: Curated display of “Newly Translated Literature” and an eclectic selection of books on Los Angeles and California history and culture. Check out the Arts Annex two doors down for limited-run comics, zines and more.
The Customers: Tourists, locals, writers, former locals who miss their neighborhood bookstore, North Vermont passersby.
Testimony: “I love checking out the Los Angeles history. They also have good philosophy, anarchy, weird psychedelic drug trip stuff that I’m always interested in.” — Erik Bartz, 36, Palm Springs, with a copy of “Native Intoxicants of North America” tucked under his arm
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Secret Headquarters

Silver Lake Comics
The Vibe: In a nutshell? “Operation illustration.” Edwardian reading room meets top secret hideaway for Cold War-era spies on the run — oh, and comic book fans of all stripes.
The Books: A large “split personality” oval table featuring mainstream new releases on one side, indie releases on the other; beautiful selection of small-press and handmade books; of-the-moment LGBTQ+ section; idiosyncratic staff picks.
The Customers: Silver Lake hipsters, comics nerds and comics-curious alike, lovers of art books and indie zines, serial junkies and those seeking a well-curated collection.
Testimony: “This is my happy place — some days I wake up depressed, and then I come here. I buy something every time.” — Alida Jay, 34, Silver Lake, accompanied by her Shih Tzu-Chihuahua mix, Tina
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Chevalier’s Books

Windsor Square General
The Vibe: With its spacious, neat storefront (having recently moved across the street), an iconic cornerstone of Larchmont Village. Established in 1940, it boasts an expansive children’s corner with lounging chairs for story time.
The Books: Marvel and DC Comics encyclopedias, New York Review Classics, large psychology and spirituality sections and useful seasonal displays (e.g., Women’s History Month).
The Customers: The neighborhood’s YA and middle grade authors, local workers, farmers market shoppers, young families and middle-school students trawling for graphic novels.
Testimony: “I have spent so many lovely hours there with my kiddos. It’s a cornerstone of my neighborhood.” — Julie Buxbaum
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Libros Schmibros Lending Library

Boyle Heights Lending/Communal
The Vibe: Community reading room meets donation-based lending library in a historic storefront across from vibrant Mariachi Plaza. Membership is free, and users can check out up to three books per month, or purchase them for half-off the cover price.
The Books: A true melting pot of titles includes robust Mexican/Chicanx studies and Latinx literature sections as well as general-interest Spanish-language books and a healthy selection of fiction new and old.
The Customers: Teens and teachers from nearby Mendez high school; neighborhood patrons of all ages. Dedicated readers from across the city.
Testimony: “We started in 2010 with just a dumb name and a dream. Our neighborhood, which had about one book for every 300 people, was threatening to become even more of a book desert. So we opened a ‘storefront bilingual lending library,’ and Boyle Heights’ love of good reading did the rest.” — David Kipen, founder
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Other Books, Comics & Zines

Boyle Heights Comics
The Vibe: A cluttered storefront thrift-store feel, with books piled on tables, shelves, chairs and the floor alongside handcrafted jewelry and postcards. Racks of clothing from a vintage shop next door have somehow made their way inside.
The Books: Comics and zines with an emphasis on POC creators, authors, illustrators and independent presses; new and used books with a similar focus. There’s a “Libros en español” section that includes translated books like Octavia Butler’s “La Estirpe de Lilith” (“Lilith’s Brood”).
The Customers: An eclectic mix of hardcore zine, manga and alt-comic fans supplemened with curious neighborhood passersby.
Testimony: “I like this store, ‘cause it feels like a personal collection of books that’s kind of overgrown. There’s these personal touches throughout the store that make it feel really comfortable and interesting to rummage through.” — Grace Baek, Los Angeles
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Re/Arte Centro Literario

Boyle Heights Bilingual
The Vibe: This 10-month-old bookstore, art gallery and community space is set to reopen in mid-April after relocating. The new haunt will have a patio and sell coffee. “It’ll be colorful yet peaceful,” said owner Viva Padilla, who was inspired by a recent trip to Colima, Mexico. “A place of respite.”
The Books: Books in English and Spanish from Mexico, the diaspora and across the Latin Americas, local poets and writers, Western classics from Shakespeare down, Chicano history , psychology, philosophy and art as well as bilingual children’s books that are pay-what-you-wish.
The Customers: Local authors, professors, activists, curious passersby and especially Boyle Heights’ Spanish-speaking communities.
Testimony: “People seem to like ... that I don’t just carry everything and anything. They like that I have a very particular taste for poetry, politics and literature. But most of the compliments I get are for the events.” — Viva Padilla, 36, owner
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Gatsby Books

Long Beach General
The Vibe: The small, strip-mall space is a haven for autodidacts, complete with a friendly bookstore cat, Ruby, and Django Reinhardt or Chet Baker (or whatever LP customers choose) playing in the background.
The Books: Literature, poetry and philosophy are standout sections among the new and gently used titles. The works of late poet Gerald Locklin, a defining Long Beach voice, are always in stock and in demand. And, yes, Gatsby has pretty much everything that Fitzgerald guy wrote.
The Customers: City college and Cal State Long Beach students picking up titles for classes, local book club members and the occasional barfly from Tracy’s next door searching for enlightenment.
Testimony: “A well-organized and eclectic selection of titles makes it the perfect bookstore. I love that there’s something for everyone at this shop — including a very friendly store cat.” — Mary Dixon, Long Beach
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Planet Books

Signal Hill Rare & used
The Vibe: An airy converted warehouse that feels like a giant version of the box of miscellany your folks have been keeping in the attic for years — because, you know, there’s stuff in there that’s really worth something.
The Books: “The Rise of David Bowie: 1972-1973,” “Death Is a Lonely Business” (signed by Ray Bradbury), “Fortune of Fear” (Book 5 in L. Ron Hubbard’s “Mission Earth” series), “Atlas Shrugged.” Well-defined sections include vintage sci-fi, westerns, chess, Indigenous, science, counterculture, yearbooks and vintage kids’ books.
The Customers: Weekend treasure-hunters who don’t mind losing track of time if it leads them to copies of “Screen World” from 1949 to 1976 or a copy of David Sedaris’ “Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls” which the author has signed, “To Jane on your Birthday.”
Testimony: “I couldn’t keep this place if I didn’t have another company,” co-owner Michael Munns said with a chuckle, right before giving credit to the employee on hand for the brilliant juxtaposition of the store’s Judaism and gender studies sections.
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Page Against the Machine

Long Beach Specialty
The Vibe: A neat and cozy progressive bookstore with a killer name near the eastern edge of Long Beach’s Retro Row where readers feel free to pop in with their pooches as they pick up punk zines and political anthologies.
The Books: A thoughtful selection of new and used materials around social movements, activism, history, sustainability, heavy on nonfiction. Zines, socially conscious children’s books and political posters round out the one-stop shop for the inheritors of the mimeograph revolution.
The Customers: A mix of regulars, more young than old, drawn to the store’s politics, and curious passersby who peek in on their way to the bakery or vegan ice cream shop.
Testimony: “I really like their zine collection. And they sometimes have events with music. I just really like the vibe of the store.” — Samantha Shaw, a regular
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The Pop-Hop Books & Print

Highland Park Art
The Vibe: A narrow shop in the ground zero of L.A. hipsterdom channels a studiously disheveled vibe; you’ll find new fiction and books about race displayed before shelves stuffed with used books of poetry, politics and art, as well as cannabis growing guides, a basket full of sage smudge sticks and an accordion.
The Books: A mix that leans arty and political, with a small but smart selection of children’s books. But you’ve come for the stand of zines by the front door, where artists and writers armed with little more than staples and access to an unguarded office copier conjure truly bizarre worlds.
The Customers: Young, hip and likely paying off art school loans — yet still finding ways to come up with enough cash for that exceedingly rare copy of Frédéric Post’s “Anonymous Engravings on Ecstasy Pills.”
Testimony: “I really love it because of how well-curated their shelves are for POC writers, and they also have a large collection of zines.” — Cherisse Yanit Nadal
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The Iliad Bookshop

North Hollywood Rare & used
The Vibe: A cavernous literary funhouse ideal for those who love the hunt for a great used book as much as sitting down with one.
The Books: If you have a niche interest, want to delve into a subculture, or need to study for “Jeopardy!,” this is the place. Interested in armor? There’s a section for that. Care to pick up a volume about nostalgia, tiki or the World’s Fair? The oddities aisle has you covered. Don’t miss the free books out front or the massive clearance section by the registers.
The Customers: Couples living in the neighborhood, college students, families.
Testimony: “I’m gonna say Iliad Books is my favorite. They’re a used store, and as such more archival than current in their stock. I love that place.” — Matthew Specktor
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Tía Chucha’s Centro Cultural

Sylmar Bilingual
The Vibe: An anonymous-looking strip mall harbors this bright, humming shop co-founded by L.A. poet laureate Luis J. Rodriguez. Step inside and you’re greeted by a bold mural by Kalli Arte Collective that offers a clue that this is more than a store; it’s a cultural center, hosting workshops in painting, music and Indigenous dance — as well as occasional weekend mercaditos, where, in addition to lots of books, you’ll turn up artisan earrings or fragrant teas concocted by a Chicana herbalist.
The Books: The selection leans BIPOC, with poet Jimmy Santiago Baca sharing shelf space with novelist Tommy Orange and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors. Particularly worthwhile are the children’s section and one devoted to Tía Chucha Press, which publishes emerging poets.
The Customers: Multigenerational families hunting for a read at every age and Valley Xicanx xipsters looking to marinate in ancestral knowledge.
Testimony: “Tía Chucha’s Centro Cultural has been the literary heart of Sylmar. The community has been badly underserved throughout the years, but this wonderful bookstore and cultural center has been part of it for almost a generation.” — Dan Olivas
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Pages, A Bookstore

Manhattan Beach General
The Vibe: An intimate, inviting haven for beach-y bibliophiles a block from the Strand where the smell of books intermingles with the ocean breeze wafting in through the open door.
The Books: A lovingly curated selection with ample staff picks and a section dedicated to coffee table books on surfing and the coast.
The Customers: Attire is decidedly flip-flops-and-yoga-pants casual, but the 12-year-old store, owned by three local book-loving moms, also draws families to story time sessions and serious readers to author events and book-club meetings.
Testimony: “The staff is great at recommending books. It’s a treasure to the community.” — Kathy Christie, Rancho Palos Verdes
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Dave's Olde Book Shop

Redondo Beach Rare & used
The Vibe: A portal to a world of soft jazz, collectible books and curios, the kind of place you might go lose yourself while sheltering from the rain, if this was a city that got any. Store cat Agatha Christie has her own Instagram.
The Books: Anything from an illustrated version of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” to a fragile 19th century volume of “The History of Pirates.” Vintage photography and coffee table books as well as leather-bound versions of the classics.
The Customers: Popular with the beach city locals but also a destination for book lovers from out of state. Agatha is also a draw.
Testimony: “The cool thing about this store that really is our bread and butter is we get books that are just rare. For people who come in here, it’s just a treasure hunt.” — Rodrigo Barreto, who helps run the store
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The Salt Eaters Bookshop

Inglewood Black-owned

The Vibe: Located in Inglewood’s vibrant downtown and named for a Toni Cade Bambara novel, this shop is for and by the Black community. A tapestry of Pam Grier hangs by a record player where you can scratch some records. A mesmerizing Art by Egypt mural of Latasha Harlins, a 15-year-old Black girl fatally shot in 1991, dominated a corner for donations to the Free Black Women’s Library.
The Books: Books for younger readers model the notion of teaching pride and representation from the start, centering Black protagonists in books such as “A History of Me,” “The Proudest Blue” and “Dancing in the Wings.”
The Customers: “You can find great diversity from your hot girls to your church ladies,” said Jehan Giles, a librarian and loyal customer. A Thursday afternoon hosted a group of avant-garde, well-read, gender nonconforming late 20-somethings.
Testimony: “As much as it’s a bookstore, we really see it as a meeting place, a watering hole, just a neutral safe space to come to and put your dreams out or just sit down with a cup of coffee.... The point is to display the diversity in the fullness of the black fem, non-male experience.” — Raven Powers, employee
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Reparations Club

Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw Black-owned
The Vibe: If Urban Outfitters were curated specifically for Black women, it might look like this. Black woman-owned, it houses records by the door and carries hard to find pieces from Black brands. Owner Jazzi McGilbert calls it “one-stop shopping for Black-owned things.”
The Books: Genres span poetry, sci-fi, self-help, art, spirituality, fiction and nonfiction. There’s also a section for young readers (featuring Matthew A. Cherry’s “Hair Love,” which was adapted into an Oscar-winning short). Staff picks shout out Lorna Simpson, bell hooks, Tananarive Due and others.
The Customers: “Lately we’ve been getting a lot more Black tourism,” said McGilbert. “A lot of USC students, a lot of TikTokers,” and out-of-towners “looking very intentionally when they’re traveling for Black-owned businesses. I think in many ways we’re one of the photogenic ones.”
Testimony: “The first place I went after Toni Morrison passed away. Asha Grant and Sanura Williams hosted a memorial for her there, and folks from all over the city were able to come together and find comfort.” — Bridgette Bianca
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Malik Books (Baldwin Hills)

Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw Black-owned
The Vibe: The mothership store (with a sister shop in Culver City) is indeed a vibe: cozy and chill, with music filling the air. It feels as if it’s your own personal library.
The Books: Start at the back wall of biographies, including a children’s book about Elijah Cummings, then move on into the Tulsa Massacre, Juneteenth and the Black Panthers. Pass by fashion icon Virgil Abloh’s “Abloh-isms” and Marlon James’ fantasies to get to a table stacked with Nipsey Hussle’s favorite books.
The Customers: A mature set … and “we get a lot of people from out of town,” said Matthew Thimbrel, who has been working at the store for two years. “People get amazed walking in here, seeing people of color that look like them looking back at them.”
Testimony: “I feel good, because I’m working at a place that’s unique and different,” said Thimbrel. One browser marveled, “This store is filled with Black history.”
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Malik Books (Culver City)

Culver City Black-owned
The Vibe: Past a shopping-mall storefront at the bottom of the food court escalator, one-page biographies of Black cultural icons decorate the walls. Every facet of the shop — from the music selection to posters bearing the words “End racism now!” — is a celebration of Black history, activism and culture.
The Books: The front-window display encapsulates the breadth of material, spotlighting Black heroes. Adult selections included “The Life and Times of Nipsey Hussle” and “The 1619 Project,” while the children’s table featured Amanda Gorman.
The Customers: Some nomadic mall-goers encountering the store for the first time as well as loyal regulars browsing with purpose and chatting it up with the staff — including and especially Malik himself.
Testimony: “Everybody’s really cool in here and really nice, and I just enjoy the energy. I didn’t think there would be any Black-owned bookstores in, like, a mall.” — Imani-Kelai Sumter, 22, Inglewood
“In Australia, It’s really hard to find books that represent [our son].... I love coming here just to get him children’s books. They’ve even got little puzzles ... and the pictures actually look like him.” — Surabi Manoharan, 31, Melbourne, Australia
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Eso Won Books

Leimert Park Black-owned
The Vibe: Ultra-cool, both relaxing and inspiring, with Black art on the walls and blues/R&B playing in the background, right in the hub of historic Leimert Park.
The Books: A massive range devoted to Black culture, with everything from histories and biographies to fiction, children’s books and movies and a small selection of music CDs and postcards.
The Customers: People from the surrounding neighborhood as well as folks from other regions seeking works that might be harder to find in mainstream bookstores.
Testimony: “It always feels like going home to me. I can count on buying more than what was on my list. Either my eye will fall onto something, or one of the owners, James or Tom, will tell me about something I hadn’t seen or read about before. It helps when people know and understand who you are.” — Lynell George
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La Librería

Mid-City Bilingual
The Vibe: This woman-owned shop caters to young readers interested in improving their Spanish literacy. “The majority of our business right now is supplying bilingual and Spanish books to dual immersion programs across the country,” said employee Maria Guerra.
The Books: Pre-K through 12th-grade-level books for children and young adults along with YA classics and contemporary stories by authors such as Gilles Barraqué and Amaia Arrazola.
The Customers: Mostly families. “The store does cater to younger audiences,” said Guerra. “But we’re also seeing a lot of young adults and a lot of people who are reclaiming Spanish as a heritage language.”
Testimony: “I studied Chicano studies at UCLA, so I know the history of Spanish being prohibited as a functioning language in the U.S. For me, this is a big part of reclaiming Spanish and promoting its value.” — Maria Guerra, 31, Mid City
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Vroman’s Bookstore

Pasadena General
The Vibe: A motif of forest-green and chestnut-brown might imply you’ve stepped inside a “shhh-quiet” reading room; that’s quickly offset by a tumble of whimsical gifts and notions. Don’t miss the alluring array of fine paper and writing instruments.
The Books: Vroman’s is a browser’s paradise. Come for the “New Arrivals,” stay for the ultra-bookish “Bibliophilia.” “California and the West’’ and “Local Authors” sections highlight independent presses. The upstairs young readers section’s clubhouse ambience calls forth your inner child.
The Customers: Longtime Pasadenans who know to order their personalized holiday cards months in advance; writers, artists, cooks, PCC and Caltech professors/students retrieving special orders; tourists scouring the plentiful site-specific souvenirs.
Testimony: “I browse, run into friends ... buy too many books, imagine a world where I’m actually going to read all the books I buy, and for an hour I’m a version of myself that feels most identifiably me.” — Eve Bachrach, Los Angeles
“Hurrying up the staircase for the first time [for a reading], I emerged into a welcoming space for intellectualism, poetry and creativity; it felt like water in the desert.” — Cody Sisco, Mt. Washington
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Vroman’s Hastings Ranch

Pasadena General
The Vibe: Satellite location of the famed Pasadena bookseller that’s as stately and well-stocked as its anchor location. Located in a strip mall by a Chuck E. Cheese, it looks slight from outside but has a deep selection of bestsellers, a huge fiction section and a bounty of cookbooks.
The Books: A potpourri of new and classic fiction and nonfiction, cookbooks, self-help books, graphic novels and gaming. It’s a hard place to leave empty-handed.
The Customers: Errand-runners looking for a respite; serious readers who prefer browsing in a clean, well-lighted place to pointing and clicking at the online superstore.
Testimony: “My family of four, we love coming here, and my girls always find something good. We live in the neighborhood, and I go to other places, too, but this is convenient.” — Angelica Messman, 58
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Once Upon a Time Bookstore

La Crescenta-Montrose Children's
The Vibe: Homey mom-and-pop children’s shop with small-town friendliness and a sociable shop tabby named Pippi. The Crescenta Valley institution, in business since 1966, bills itself as the oldest children’s bookstore in America.
The Books: Thoughtfully arranged, easily browsable shelves and displays showcase new titles and classics, from “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” to “Ivy & Bean,” Sandra Boynton, Roald Dahl, Mo Willems and beyond. There’s also a well-curated shelf of adult new releases and classics.
The Customers: Regulars who have shopped here as kids and now buy books for their own children; neighborhood denizens involved in the store’s long-running book clubs; at least one Pulitzer Prize-winning culture columnist (Mary McNamara is a regular).
Testimony: “I’ve grown up at this bookstore from Day One, even when it was way down the street. It’s like my second home.” — Robin McGlynn, 62
“It’s really a gem, and books are the ultimate gift. If you’re looking for something, they have it.” — Jim McGlynn, 60
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Lost Books

La Crescenta-Montrose Specialty
The Vibe: Selling plants as well as new and used books, records and DVDs, it’s a leafy bower of instant tranquillity and Instagram possibility. Sister to the Last Bookstore, it beckons shoppers on Honolulu with a living tunnel of plants that curves into a space filled with diverse leaves of both the paper and plant variety.
The Books: Curated eclectic, old and new — “Tarantino: A Retrospective” shares space with “English Cameo Glass”; “The Prophet” sits shoulder-to-shoulder with “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Mayor of Casterbridge.”
The Customers: Awe-struck locals who didn’t realize there was a new bookstore in town, young women who know a good selfie spot when they see one, book-and-plant-lovers who finally feel seen.
Testimony: “My husband and I were passing by, and I said, ‘Oh, look: a plant store; how beautiful.’ And he said, ‘It’s a bookstore,’ and we both lost our minds. We come here all the time now.” — Lori Bedikian
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Village Well Books & Coffee

Culver City General
The Vibe: A sleek space with a trendy café boasting the most L.A. menu you could imagine. (Avocado toast and almond butter toast!) With tables, electrical outlets and orange upholstered chairs, the store practically begs you to grab a coffee and a book and stay awhile.
The Books: Shelves surrounding the dining area are lined with nutrition and cookbooks from Julia Child, Gwyneth Paltrow and the rest. Other sections include a “Banned Books” display and an activism table spotlighting criminal justice reform.
The Customers: Students and remote workers posted up with their laptops and lattes, socially conscious Culver Citizens looking to support an accessible local business.
Testimony: “I have the day off. I got paid with a bonus, so I’ve got a pile of books. I come in maybe once or twice a week. Me and my family, we’ve been coming since they opened up.… Everything about it works for us.” — Joe Benincase, 34, Culver City
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Diesel, a Bookstore

Santa Monica General
The Vibe: A small, tidy space in the farmhouse-chic Brentwood Country Mart where attentive staff caters to well-heeled readers with a curated selection of the buzziest books and enough kids’ fare to keep everyone occupied on family trips to Tahoe.
The Books: “The Bridge of San Luis Rey,” “Great Circle,” “365 Words for Clever Kids!”
The Customers: Tony West Siders supplemented by crunchier old-timers down from Topanga in search of reading material. More Botox than the usual bookish crowd, but deeply read and very loyal.
Testimony: “It’s a mile from my house, my home away from home. It’s basically Cheers, but with books.” — Antoine Wilson
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Children’s Book World

Rancho Park Children's
The Vibe: Spacious, well-organized haven for book-hungry kids and the grown-ups who love them. Expert staff point to shelves for every interest while accommodating parents in thoughtful ways (putting books on hold for a dad whose baby had a diaper blowout; tucking the branded Marvel stuff in an obscure corner past more nutritious material).
The Books: You name it. “Pat the Bunny” to “Antiracist Baby,” Percy Jackson to the very latest of Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales.
The Customers: A happy mix of wandering toddlers, avid tweens, neighbors striking up conversations and grandparents prowling for birthday treats.
Testimony: “You can give a couple of examples of what your kid likes and dislikes, and anyone working there will immediately suggest half a dozen gems, new and old.” — Claire Joyce
“Great vibe. Excellent selection. Friendly salespeople.... And now they carry a well-curated collection of books for us grown-ups too!” — Sonya Sones
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Arcana: Books on the Arts

Culver City Art
The Vibe: Books on art and design get a setting worthy of their subject matter in this Helms Bakery District shop whose elegant interiors were designed by esteemed L.A. architects Johnston Marklee. In fact, proprietor Lee Kaplan’s longtime shop is more august temple than grubby bookstore, with meticulous selection and careful arrangement — so don’t even think of setting foot in here with your dripping tumbler of iced coffee.
The Books: Coffee table tomes on Cold War-era photography mingle with books devoted to typography, street art monographs, Danny Trejo’s autobiography and a critical study of conceptualist Bas Jan Ader.
The Customers: Where the art world’s paint-splattered tote bag set intersects with fashionistas in stylish Japanese puffers.
Testimony: “I go to used bookstores a lot and look under the art section and find treasures, but the amount of legwork is intense,” says L.A. artist Gary Cannone, who once exhibited a series of conceptual-art parody album covers at the shop. “Whereas this store has all these books on obscure people that I am probably one of the eight people in the world that is into them.”
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Small World Books

Venice General
The Vibe: Wade through the dining patio of the neighboring Sidewalk Cafe to get to the charming oceanfront entrance across from the Venice Beach Skate Park. Inside is a shelter from the tourists — give or take the beach music wafting in from a souvenir shop.
The Books: Highlights include a display of miniature books convenient for travelers — who make up much of the store’s clientele — and a seasonal table spotlighting Irish authors for St. Patrick’s Day.
The Customers: Mostly young, backpack-wearing tourists. According to the staff, some Europeans make a point of visiting Small World annually; other visitors happen upon it during their beach excursions.
Testimony: “I liked that it was kind of hidden and off the beaten path … I like the recommendation notes.... I’ve read more of those than I have the backs of books.” — Annika Johnson, 23, Austin, Texas
“It’s a good mix of some classics and some new books.… I would describe the vibe as very down to earth, kind of intimate.” — Sander Karabagega Svenningsen, 21, Thy, Denmark
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Angel City Books & Records

Santa Monica Rare & used
The Vibe: On a quiet strip with the most convenient parking spots you’ll find near the beach, its front display is a time capsule of classic rock. Situated among vinyl records by the Rolling Stones, David Bowie and the Beatles is a typewritten message from the store’s owner: “love is all we have.”
The Books: Used editions of “Moby-Dick,” “The Jungle Book,” “Life of Pi” and a whole shelf dedicated to art books — not to mention rows of records spanning jazz, blues, reggae, folk, country and other genres.
The Customers: Per owner Rocco Ingala, patrons range from families and “youngsters to senior citizens.”
Testimony: “I’m happy to say a lot of people are still interested in the classics — good literature, rather than the trendy books. … I’ve had people coming in here with their parents when they were 10 years old, and now they’re still coming in after college. That’s exciting — I’ve been here long enough to see that much history happen before my eyes.” — Rocco Ingala, owner
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Barnes & Noble at the Grove

Fairfax General
The Vibe: Yes, it’s a B&N but decked out in full Grove regalia — faux-Deco/Italianate edifice, giant atrium housing three floors of books under angled skylights and a readers’ stage complete with footlights. Everything for everyone (and they validate).
The Books: All that acreage allows for some discoveries: A signed-books shelf; a romance section bigger than many stores; cute display tables such as “#WitchTok,” Harry Styles fan fare and “Highly Recommended” (for weed cookbooks).
The Customers: Valley parents trolling the Harry Potter section with their kids; teenage goths trolling the fantasy shelves without their parents, a high-low cross-section of city dwellers, tourists and the occasional celebrity.
Testimony: “If you wait in the aisles long enough, you might see the star of a CW show pick up your book ... and then set it back down.” — Tod Goldberg
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Bel Canto Books

Long Beach General
The Vibe: A corner space at the Hangout, a collective of small business and independent artists, where one can browse books, grab a glass and nosh at the wine bar and cafe, sit in the garden, shop plants or housewares and participate in one of the many authors’ events and craft workshops held each month.
The Books: An area focusing on books by and about women and BIPOC; a shelf of “Burning Issues,” Bel Canto’s book club, emphasizing topics such as climate change — and a range of young adult, travel, cookbooks and graphic novels.
The Customers: Passionate readers looking for a range of underrepresented voices, for whom books are a portal to community engagement.
Testimony: “The owner, Jhoanna, curates a diverse selection of books, and it’s in a beautiful space in Retro Row. Long Beach is a big city, but it feels like a small town, so I always ... see someone I know when I stop by.” — Elise Bryant
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The Ripped Bodice

Culver City Romance
The Vibe: Mannequins in vintage frocks and flower baskets greet you upon entering one of the country’s only romance bookstores. Whimsical and delicately decorated with handcrafted literary art pieces — book chandeliers and book butterflies — the shop’s theme is love, obviously. The bathroom walls are covered in a rainbow of affirmational sticky notes from patrons past.
The Books: All your standard, steamy romance fare, plus a “blind date with a book” mystery shelf as well as an inclusive Valentine’s Day display — from “A Quick & Easy Guide to Sex & Disability” to “Thriving in Sex Work: A Guide to Staying Sane in the Sex Industry.”
The Customers: Teenagers from the high school down the street; 80-somethings who’ve been reading romance their entire lives. Clientele skews female, but customers of all genders shop for themselves and others.
Testimony: “I still remember watching a Harry and Meghan wedding viewing party there on the big screen. Just a joyful space.” — Aminah Mae Safi
“I came to visit a friend, and I just really wanted to come to this bookstore, so this was my last stop before I go home tonight.… It’s just so perfect, so cute, and it’s nice to see all the books I like laid out — not in the back.” — Sierra Moore, 23, West Hartford, Conn.
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Los Angeles Central Library

Downtown L.A. Lending/Communal
The Vibe: The hub for the 72-branch Los Angeles Public Library, this magical building is a downtown landmark, housing more than 2.8 million books across eight levels. There are also art galleries, a puppet theater and a creator’s studio, the Octavia Lab, named after Octavia Butler.
The Books: Extensive Californiana, Mexicana and Pacific Voyages special collections; one of the largest collections of cookbooks in the state; a first edition copy of James Joyce’s “Ulysses”; a Rare Books Room that holds thousands of monographs; 15,000 restaurant menus focusing on L.A.
The Patrons: Everyone: the city’s unhoused; teenagers seeking quiet; academics and researchers; history buffs; architects; families; art aficionados; tourists; authors; immigrants seeking citizenship resources.
Testimony: “First of all, they have a real children’s section versus a corner in a regular library where everyone is shushing your children all day.... A bibliophile’s dream. It’s an architect’s dream as well. You feel like you’re standing in the Sistine Chapel.” — Unique Mills, 38, West Adams
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The Claremont Forum Bookshop

Claremont Rare & used
The Vibe: Well-organized yard sale meets bare-bones activist headquarters inside the largest historic building in Claremont, a respectfully converted citrus-packing facility that once housed the state’s first agricultural cooperative.
The Books: All are used, all are donated and all are priced to sell (from $1 to $5). All the nonprofit’s proceeds support the Prison Library Project. Shelves are organized by an impressive range of subjects, as in any major bookstore.
The Customers: As diverse as the books: children, hipsters, college kids, young adults, suburbanites, community organizers, misfits, retirees and professors.
Testimony: “I like what this place stands for. It’s one on my favorite bookstores. It’s got a great selection. It’s inexpensive. I live in community housing, and I’m starting a library there; that’s why I’m loading up this box of books.” — Jessica Barragan, 30, Claremont
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Espacio 1839

Boyle Heights Bilingual
The Vibe: A Latin-American art mecca, open Friday through Sunday. Scattered among the shelves are distinctive lapel pins, costume T-shirts and a variety of vibrant arts and gadgets. Tucked into the shop is a podcast recording studio where high school journalists can start their journey behind the mic.
The Books: “Funeral for Flaca,” “Corazón,” “Olga Dies Dreaming.”
The Customers: Offering artistic workshops that range from papier-mâché to etching on different materials, the store attracts eclectic artists interested in all things Latino and Boyle Heights.
Testimony: “It’s crazy how they’ve managed to put everything that is Boyle Heights into one place.” — Elvis Diaz, 32, a loyal customer looking to replace a lapel pin he bought from the bookstore seven years ago
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Cafe con Libros

Pomona Lending/Communal
The Vibe: Welcoming and relaxed, this storefront in the Pomona Arts Colony is also a lending library, art gallery, gift shop and hub of activities both organized and free-form. Lots of big comfy sofas and even more nooks and crannies make for a space to get lost in.
The Books: An excellent selection of BIPOC titles, both historical and contemporary, as well as feminist classics and off-the-beaten path gems. Interspersed among the conventional shelves are more curated sections including “Strong Female Voices,” “Feminist Lit” and “Black Female Authors.”
The Customers: People inclined to read before they buy, artists, activists, young people, younger people, regulars, first-timers and students, from grade to grad school.
Testimony: “I like supporting small, local businesses. It’s my first time here, and I like it, because I can find so many titles I typically wouldn’t see in larger bookstores. It’s like a great library.” — Thomas M., 30, Corona
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Alias Books East

Atwater Village Rare & used
The Vibe: Squeezed in among the lunch spots in gentrified Atwater Village, this offshoot of a now-defunct West L.A. institution is the place to find pristine used copies of the novels you pretended to read in college and out-of-print titles you never would have thought to pick up. Big budget-conscious Master of Fine Arts energy.
The Books: “The Waste Books.” “Senryu: Japanese Satirical Verses” (first edition). “A ZBC of Ezra Pound.” “Blago Bung, Blago Bung, Bosso Fataka!: First Texts of German Dada.”
The Customers: Young millennial parents and Los Feliz actors looking beyond the bestsellers for the deep cuts. Stylish, but in a post-yoga class way.
Testimony: “It’s pretty cool, because it’s a very curated selection of books. You can find things that you wouldn’t typically find in the bigger chain stores. It’s a specialty shop.” — Kathryn Lockhart, Los Feliz
“I was looking for a children’s book for my unborn son. It’s not as full as I remember it when I used to go to the other location, but I still found something that I wouldn’t normally find at a regular bookstore.” — Dahhee Chung, San Gabriel
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$10 and Under Bookstore

Northridge Art
The Vibe: Don’t be fooled by the name; this is anything but a clearance outlet. It’s an open, bright, lovingly curated space packed with mostly used media at low prices, vintage music in the air, action figures on display and open-mics and artist showcases.
The Books: Assistant manager Jade touts the staffers’ various areas of expertise, with one likely to recommend “The Year of Magical Thinking,” another “The Count of Monte Cristo,” another “A Court of Thorns and Roses,” “Paper Girls” and so on.
The Customers: Jade says, “Anyone can come and enjoy books, not just the people who can afford the brand-new ones.… Our store’s groovy.”
Testimony: “They take the time to understand the people who come in here. I feel like it’s friendly, it’s welcoming. It uplifts me — the vibe, the perkiness.” — Lauren Rodriguez, Mission Hills
“They have plenty of stuff to find what you’re looking for — or what you weren’t looking for” — Jacob Martinez-Angulo, Los Angeles
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Sandpiper Books

Torrance General
The Vibe: Since coming under new ownership in January, this little store is on a mission to democratize reading, with eclectic picks for “independent minds.” Its unmistakable bright-green carpet reads Old World library, and it cultivates an air of serendipity to match.
The Books: The window display stays seasonal: “We Should All Be Feminists” and “Shirley Chisholm Dared” for women’s history month. There’s a sprawling “old books” display behind the desk, rounders featuring Star Trek titles and local history and a glass display of rare first editions dating to the 1700s.
The Customers: Adjacent to South Bay’s “Tito’s Tacos clone” Tom’s Tacos, Sandpiper mostly gets looky-loo foodies awaiting their orders, sprinkled in with beach tourists and local rare-book connoisseurs.
Testimony: “We save humanity one book at a time. Books are not a luxury, they’re a necessity.” — Karina Bass, longtime employee, who tells customers, “Don’t just feed your tummy, feed your brain.”
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Book Again

Torrance Rare & used
The Vibe: Decked out like a school library in the Rascals Teriyaki strip mall, this used shop run by retiree Sheryl is so defiantly untrendy it’s practically hip, right down to the odd hours (Check the website, with its plain-text newsletter and recipe for Orange Cream Cheese Frosting).
The Books: Bargain book shelves with romance and general nonfiction titles surround the entryway. Inside, there’s war fiction and adventure, Marvel picks and a large catch-all “mystery/horror/fantasy/sci-fi” section in the back.
The Customers: Browsers wandering in from the nearby Subway franchise or locals in the know looking to donate their wares.
Testimony: “I’m happy it still exists. We don’t have enough old-time bookstores.” — Karla Gomez, Hawthorne
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Book Alley

Pasadena Rare & used
The Vibe: In this oasis of tranquility on old Route 66, the eclectic offerings in the front window only hint at the large yet somehow cozy interior. On a recent Sunday, Fred Astaire quietly serenaded visitors from tucked-away speakers.
The Books: There are 50,000 titles in stock, all cataloged online — but browsing is where you make the real discoveries. New arrivals are prominently shown in each area with a particularly impressive display of arts, architecture and photography works.
The Customers: Collectors, locals, people in flannel and rock shirts (Chili Peppers, Stones, Beatles) spanning a wide age range, with a recent uptick in millennial sightings.
Testimony: “The selection is amazing. The prices are great. You can get lost in here for hours.” — Kris Jenkins, Pasadena
“It’s a physical space I can get into. Opening books, actually taking them off the shelves … I like to read old stuff.” — Jordi Diaz, Alhambra
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Golden Apple Comics

Fairfax Comics
The Vibe: One of the oldest and biggest names in comic book shops — a nerdy, nostalgic institution that raises expectations. Might you see Samuel L. Jackson in the aisles? Maybe, but don’t count on it. A Spider-Man statue out front and cardboard cutouts of the Suicide Squad toward the back reflect the store’s embrace of new and old.
The Books: All the new issues to the right, trade paperbacks in the middle and lots of back issues to browse. There’s also a small local artists section and a counter in the back to help find what you want.
The Customers: Many locals, some celebrities and professionals, but being close to Pink’s Hot Dogs and the hot spot of Melrose Avenue, there are also a lot of curious browsers.
Testimony: “I know it’s the ‘celebrity spot.’ There’s a lot of signings here, and they get really great creators [to come]. Even the energy outside of the store ... you’re greeted by Spider-Man, you know exactly where you are!” — Hannah Rose May, Dublin, Ireland
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Comics Factory

Pasadena Comics
The Vibe: Friendly starter-kit collecting a block from Pasadena City College, bright and open and diversified, with statues and action figures, posters and more.
The Books: Comics (majors and indies), trade paperbacks, graphic novels, illustration books, kids’ books and a growing collection of manga. More small press and independently published books than other shops.
The Customers: People travel for its selection, but there are many loyal locals and some industry professionals. During the pandemic shutdown, many customers helped out by buying monthly gift cards until the books returned.
Testimony: “The people who work here are knowledgeable and kind and have good personal recommendations. I also like that there’s stuff here beyond comics. Good illustration books, toys. They just have a good vibe, you know?” — Eric Buckingham, Los Angeles
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The Book Jewel

Westchester General
The Vibe: Modern Sophisticate, as if Pottery Barn helped inspire this space. The inviting 2-year-old Westchester shop offers an impressive collection, merchandise (prosocial socks, anyone?) and a sitting area with a leather couch, fireplace and mantel adorned with a photo of the owners’ late mother, Jewel.
The Books: Nearly 10,000 titles — literature, bestsellers, new releases and other genres including travel, history and Hollywood. The children’s and YA section is impressive. Most books are new, but customers can donate “gently used” titles in exchange for used books.
The Customers: Long-timers have fond memories of the location, once home to Karl’s toy store. On Sundays, shoppers from the nearby farmers market wander in. The store, locally owned by siblings Karen Dial and Jim Drollinger, hosts monthly social events for LGBTQ teens and promotes local artisans and authors.
Testimony: “It’s always been the family’s dream to run a community bookstore to honor their mother, who lived a very community-minded life.” — Valentin Zuniga, assistant manager
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BookOff Del Amo Fashion Center

Torrance Rare & used
The Vibe: It’s as if Tower Records downsized into a seller of books. A Japanese used bookstore chain founded in the ‘90s, BookOff wants you to stay awhile; you can tell by the sleek shelves, bright lighting, danceable music and unobstructed aisles.
The Books: “Used” doesn’t mean “in bad condition.” What it does mean is that the selection is as eclectic as the clientele. You’ll find “Talon of God,” by Wesley Snipes; L. Ron Hubbard’s Mission Earth volumes 3 through 10; a Harry Potter set in a box straight out of Hogwarts.
The Customers: Mothers and daughters, teens hanging out in the gaming and crafting sections, grown-ups of all Gens sharing comics knowledge and the staffers themselves taking a peek at what was for sale.
Testimony: “If we go to the mall, we’ll stop here every single time,” said Melissa Doan, 36, who was there with her children, 13 and 7. She was standing in the $1 “Great Deals” section at the back looking through fiction while her youngest was sitting in a chair reading. “It has a really good bargain section, affordable for teachers.”
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MiJa Books

Lakewood Children's
The Vibe: A small, brightly lit gem for children draws you in with colorful displays of books highlighting characters of color. Opened late last year, the shop grew out of its owners’ efforts to build a diverse home library for their Afro-Latina daughter.
The Books: All kinds of books centering children of color: A Little Golden Book featuring Spider-Man Miles Morales; a graphic novel based on Maya mythology; a bilingual board book about learning to code; a poetry anthology by Boricua writer Elisabet Velasquez. There are also titles in Spanish, Mandarin, indigenous and other languages.
The Customers: Families and educators who formed a loyal following when the bookstore launched online during the pandemic, with mall-goers sprinkled in.
Testimony: “To go in and to have [my son] completely drawn to everything he saw on the shelf was just incredible. I teared up. I told everyone about it.” — Amber Harewood Dickens, 36, Signal Hill
“That you can walk into the store and pick up a book and maybe that character looks like you, or the abuela is like your child’s abuela; all of these things make your child feel like they matter.” — Aurora Anaya-Cerda, Whittier
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House of Secrets

Burbank Comics
The Vibe: Situated on a nondescript corner with a Plastic Man bench outside the front door — just in case you forgot where you were going. Packed with trade paperback books and graphic novels on homey wooden bookshelves, while stand-alone areas display choice vintage stock. Prime example: “House of Secrets” No. 92 — the first appearance of Swamp Thing, up to $2,700 on EBay and the store’s namesake item.
The Books: New and old issues, compilations and graphic novels galore. The layout showcases variety without seeming overstuffed, keeping new releases the central focus.
The Customers: Mostly neighborhood, but being close to big studios in Burbank, it attracts some lookers on the hunt for background on the next loose piece of IP.
Testimony: “There’s various other places around the area, but they’re more ‘human’ here. You feel like you’re at home here, and that’s a big deal.” — Dino Baez, Calabasas
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All Power Books

West Adams Lending/Communal
The Vibe: Tucked between a tattoo shop and a market, All Power takes literary activism to another level. Although there are books for sale, the mission is mutual aid. The space hosts an L.A. Community Fridge, includes a free “store” filled with daily essentials and offers Wi-Fi and meeting space.
The Books: Decades of literature from revolutionary writers; zines and resources for organizing include union informational pamphlets (free of charge).
The Customers: Local community members and radical thinkers looking to find a space with like-minded folks and literature that expands their thinking.
Testimony: “We want this space to be a welcoming one. No one’s looked down upon for seeking knowledge.” — Kai Nguyen, co-organizer, Echo Park
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Taschen Books

Beverly Hills Art
The Vibe: Library, remixed: In the Beverly Hills outpost of the renowned seller of art books, loud squares of graphic art — including on the ceiling — look down on one long, dim space with illuminated walnut shelves running down either side.
The Books: Luxury hotels of Africa and the Mediterranean; David Hockney; Star Wars archives; big penises; Monet watercolors; Bauhaus; even former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “favorite Taschen book,” “Los Angeles: Portrait of a City.” If you’re in the market for a tome big enough for your coffee table (or bigger), it’ll have something to your taste.
The Customers: Not exactly the museum-donor crowd: Clientele on a recent Sunday morning was uniformly young and stylishly unkempt, including the out-of-towners.
Testimony: “It’s a diverse mess that ends up tying together.” — Angie Arreola, 19, Reedley, Calif.
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Kinokuniya Los Angeles

Downtown L.A. Art
The Vibe: Little Tokyo’s L.A. branch of the nearly century-old Japanese books chain has functional decor, putting its colorful products first: aisle after aisle of meticulously organized manga; shelves upon shelves of pens and markers; anime-adjacent DVDs, plushies and keychains.
The Books: Not just more manga than you’ve ever seen, but also a deep selection of gorgeous art books; a curated lit selection mixing Japanese-American authors and sci-fantasy. (Julie Otsuka; “Dune.”)
The Customers: A diverse group converging over narrow interests: teenage pink-haired comic obsessives, black-clad art-school students cooing over limited editions, a smattering of families and the occasional cosplay outfit straight out of Harajuku.
Testimony: “I was browsing for books by my favorite artists, because I’m an art student. Normally they’re only published in Asia; it’s content you can’t get anywhere unless you pay for very expensive shipping.” — Cindy, Houston, Texas
“My dad brought me here when I was in elementary school. Grew up reading manga and Japanese books, and I’ve been coming here ever since.” — Kyoka, Torrance
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Abril Books

Glendale Bilingual
The Vibe: Tucked inside Angela Plaza, this 40-plus-year-old shop — recently pushed out from its long-standing Broadway location by rising rent — specializes in Armenian books, music, movies, posters and gifts.
The Books: Philosophy, architecture, memoirs, an extensive collection on the Armenian genocide in English and Armenian, books on medieval Armenia, poetry, religion, sheet music, cookbooks traditional and vegan. Also, Armenian translations of English-language bestsellers and classics.
The Customers: Students learning Armenian, Armenians learning English, cookbook collectors, bilingual parents, musicians seeking sheet music and librarians.
Testimony: “A lot of people have memories of this place because they grew up coming here. People say we have the most diverse Armenia-related books, because we have books from Armenia, from Lebanon, from Syria, from the diaspora, from all over. We have a very unique collection.” — Arno Yeretzian, 46, owner
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Ketabsara Persian Books

Westwood Bilingual
The Vibe: Behind an unassuming storefront on a strip lined with Persian shops, rows of new and used tomes stand against walls decorated with canvases painted with Perisan calligraphy drawn by the owner, Masud Valipour, who scripts in quiet moments.
The Books: Classic and contemporary poetry, novels and political texts in Persian, and a few English language books, including translations of Rumi and Forugh Farrokhzad. There are also a few children’s books and language guides. Valipour’s calligraphy art of Persian verse and commissioned designs of customers’ names are the main draw.
The Customers: The clientele skews older, Valipour says — Iranian American men and women looking for books on politics, novels or even self-care in Persian. But you’ll also find young students seeking English translations of the great Persian poets.
Testimony: “It’s very organized and put together. It’s worth it to shop here.” — Hilda Bayanfar, who was picking up a book for a baby shower on how to learn Persian.
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