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.
Des Pair Books
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
The Open Book
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
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
Larry Edmunds Bookshop
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.
Counterpoint Records & Books
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
Mystery Pier Books
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
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
The Last Bookstore
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
Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth L.A.
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
Hennessey + Ingalls
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
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
Stories Books & Cafe
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
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
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
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
Libros Schmibros Lending Library
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
Other Books, Comics & Zines
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
Re/Arte Centro Literario
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
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
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.
Page Against the Machine
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
The Pop-Hop Books & Print
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
The Iliad Bookshop
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
Tía Chucha’s Centro Cultural
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
Pages, A Bookstore
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
Dave's Olde Book Shop
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
The Salt Eaters Bookshop
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
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
Malik Books (Baldwin Hills)
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.”
Malik Books (Culver City)
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
Eso Won Books
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
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
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
Vroman’s Hastings Ranch
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
Once Upon a Time Bookstore
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
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
Village Well Books & Coffee
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
Diesel, a Bookstore
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
Children’s Book World
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
Arcana: Books on the Arts
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.”
Small World Books
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
Angel City Books & Records
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
Barnes & Noble at the Grove
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
Bel Canto Books
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
The Ripped Bodice
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.
Los Angeles Central Library
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
The Claremont Forum Bookshop
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
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
Cafe con Libros
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
Alias Books East
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
$10 and Under Bookstore
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
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.”
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
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
Golden Apple Comics
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
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
The Book 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
BookOff Del Amo Fashion Center
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.”
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
House of Secrets
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
All Power Books
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
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.
Kinokuniya Los Angeles
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
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
Ketabsara Persian Books
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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