The best thing about L.A.’s new bookstores: They’re all over the map

Inside Zibby's Bookshop in Santa Monica.
(Photo illustration by Los Angeles Times; photographs by Christina House / Los Angeles Times and Getty Images)

Change is a constant in Los Angeles, where the pandemic forced some bookstores to shut down even as others sprang up before customers could even return. On this front, 2023 feels auspicious. This weekend, two new booksellers will put up shingles at near-opposite ends of the county: Octavia’s Bookshelf in Pasadena and Zibby’s Bookshop in Santa Monica. In between, in Highland Park, indie-press-owned North Figueroa Bookshop is ramping up events after launching last November. Together they reinforce the impression established by The Times’ 2022 list of 65 L.A. bookstores: The city boasts a phenomenal variety of style, selection and taste — meaning there’s a book for every reader and an origin story behind every store.


Octavia Butler inspires a pathbreaking Black-owned bookshop

Nikki High in her brand-new bookstore, Octavia's Bookshelf.
Nikki High in her new store, Octavia’s Bookshelf, not far from the stomping grounds of its late namesake, Octavia E. Butler, in Pasadena.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Nikki High spent most of her life around her native Altadena, dreaming of starting a bookshop in honor of beloved local author Octavia E. Butler. High traveled frequently during her 15 years working in marketing for Trader Joe’s, visiting new locations and quietly hitting up bookstore owners for advice. Last year, she decided to make the leap, quitting her job and planning Octavia’s Bookshelf, whose stock will replicate what she believes “our queen of Pasadena” might have had in her home library. > GO TO STORY


A store funded by publishers, but as indie as it gets

North Figueroa Bookshop's team: Madeline Gobbo, Chris Heiser and Tyson Cornell.
North Figueroa Bookshop’s team: store manager (and illustrator) Madeline Gobbo, Unnamed Press publisher Chris Heiser and Tyson Cornell, founder of Rare Bird Lit.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Like many gentrifying neighborhoods, Highland Park isn’t the easiest place for a store to settle in, long term. Most bookstores have come and gone, but that might change with North Figueroa Bookshop, the product of a collaboration between two local indie publishers — Chris Heiser of Unnamed Press and Tyson Cornell of Rare Bird Lit — who also enlisted two bigger presses to sponsor their new shop. They hope it becomes a sustainable model of bookselling, a kind of craft brewery for books. > GO TO STORY


A Manhattan bookfluencer lands in Santa Monica

A woman stands against a wall with her arms folded
From her wildly successful podcast, Zibby Owens has built a media empire. Her first bookstore, Zibby’s Bookshop, opens in Santa Monica on Feb. 18.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

In a few years, Zibby Owens has grown a single podcast, “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books,” into a sprawling business that includes a magazine, an events series, a new publishing company and, beginning this weekend, Zibby’s Bookshop. Far from her primary home in Manhattan, Owens brings her book-club-oriented selections to a bookshop-starved corner of Santa Monica. And she’s here to stay. “There is something about books,” Owens says, “that will never really go away.” > GO TO STORY