Beyond Borders and Barnes & Noble, Los Angeles is home to a decreasing amount of great independent bookstores. Some are practically cultural institutions, part of LA's short history and community. Others carry certain genres of books or collectibles. Often these indie booksellers host cool readings and book-related events.
Some worry that these smaller book retailers are at risk of extinction--being swallowed up by corporate bookselling giants and online shopping. When Dutton's Books of Brentwood (founded in 1961) closed its doors, a range of news sources like the Los Angeles Times and LA Observed, reported a wave of sadness among natives, and loyal customers like Dustin Hoffman and Diane Keaton.
Indeed as time goes on, this list is sadly losing much of its content, as the mom n' pops drop like flies. But I hope that whatever nub of a list is left, it will encourage people to support independent bookstores in LA even more as they are rare, precious, and fast becoming extinct.
The Bodhi Tree Bookstore
This very important LA hub of the New Age and alternative thought community closed its doors after 41 years on December 31, 2011. It promises to 'reincarnate' at a different location but no one knows for sure whether it will indeed. Read my eulogy to the Bodhi Tree Bookstore on the LA blog.
8585 Melrose Ave.
West Hollywood, CA 90069-5199
This bookstore's motto sums it up: "Bookseller to the Great and Famous." Since the '80s, this incredible spot has been selling a range of new books to Angelinos in need of inspiration. One of its greatest assets might be its impressive collection of art books. Book Soup is also great for city guides and entertainment industry biographies. Just next door to the main shop, readings are held. Some past guests have included Mohammed Ali, David Mamet, Annie Leibovitz, Jena Jameson, Shaquille O'Neal, Robert Evans and Viggo Mortensen.
818 Sunset Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Sadly, LA's oldest bookstore closed its doors in the summer of 2010. Dawson's first opened in Downtown in 1905 and then moved to Larchmont Village in 1968. However, owner and book expert Michael Dawson is maintaining a related business online. His specialty is rare books about LA and California history, as well as photography--some of it by well-known artists like Ansel Adams and Edward Weston.
Written up in Vanity Fair, this small Beverly Glen/Bel Air retailer bills itself as "a rare and antiquarian bookseller." A collectors' paradise, it showcases books and book-related collectibles which may be a little rich for some people's blood. You may be flipping through some of the literary artifacts upstairs, for instance, and run across an item for tens of thousands of dollars. Handle with care! But Dragon Books also has far more reasonable volumes. The store is irresistibly charming in a nostalgic way, recalling an old-fashioned study, library or gentleman's smoking room.
2954 Beverly Glen Circle
Bel Air, CA 90077
As the name implies, independent, community-focused bookstores are becoming increasingly rare. This socially conscious literary hub not only offers the usual bookstore amenities (author events, etc.) but also accepts book donations which it distributes to needy organizations, and focuses on partnering with local charities and events. Rare books and vintages records abound in this opulent looking shop, which was voted 'Best Bookstore in Downtown' by the LA Weekly (2012).
453 S. Spring St.
Los Angeles, CA 90013
If you're an avid reader who lives on the East Side, chances are you've at least heard of Skylight Books in the Los Feliz area. The hip bookseller says it has a clientele of local artists, musicians, writer and scholars. Its inventory includes everything from literary fiction, music and children's books to graphic literature, film and theater, and LA local culture books. It posts a list of indie bestsellers as well as a list of cutting edge "next" indie literary works. Skylight also throws author events and fiction, non-fiction, poetry, solo and group readings.
1818 N. Vermont Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90027