What’s sadder: the impending extinction of bookstores in Los Angeles or the fact that tigers are on the endangered species list?
That was a rhetorical question, you savage. How could you possibly rank the horror of the curtain closing on our literary oases and the fact that our favorite striped felines are circling the drain?
You can’t. But you also can’t sit idly by as your fellow hombre streams books online and blasts the AC with the windows down. So what can you do? For the air conditioning issue, I defer you to NOAA
. But to save the independent bookstores in Los Angeles, heed John Waters’ advice:
“If you go home with somebody and they don't have books, don’t fuck them.”
I know what you’re thinking: I can order books to my door on Amazon and still get laid.
Well, hell—while you’re at it, why don’t you just order all your dates on Tinder, your food on Postmates, and your university degrees from the University of Phoenix!?
Oh wait, you already do.
Take some stock in yourself, Los Angeles. Get out of your pajamas and help sustain the LA bookstore scene.
But don’t just take our word for it, take it from the mouth of a wordsmith. Author Amelia Gray of the delightful, surreal and insanely absurd “Date Night,
” which she read at Lucky Peach’s
Eating Out Loud event, calls Los Angeles home and thinks that the bookstore scene here is a little bit like LA itself:
“A mix of big names and weirdos, everyone vying for their place under the sun while trying not to get too much damage on the old pages.”
So we asked Amelia—fiction author of AM/PM, Museum of the Weird, THREATS, Gutshot and contributor to the New Yorker and the NYT—for her six favorite bookstores in LA.
Here are her top picks and why:
Image courtesy of Lindsay George
Amelia Gray: The godfather of the East Side; pray it never comes to you asking you for a favor in exchange for all the times you’ve called looking for that one book, the one everyone else is out of, can you put it on hold please, I’m on my way, no I promise, I’m getting in the car right now. Also they have a cat. Her name is Franny.
Alias Books East
Images courtesy of Alias Books East
AG: You might not find what you want in this super-curated shop, but you’ll find what you need. I always find something cool here; history, philosophy, and esoteric sections are very strong, as is the taste level of the owner, who I’m pretty sure is a powerful wizard who will put a curse on you if you ask him to direct you to his Hunger Games section.
& Pens Press
AG: Stumbling into this artist-run project space and bookstore is like finding yourself in the den of the most aloof artbois you knew in high school. There are zines, art books, rare hardbacks and graphic novels that you have to own immediately upon learning of their existence. Two or three people in the store during weekend business hours may all work there. Maybe nobody works there. Maybe I work there? Maybe I need to earn some money because I spent mine on cool zines.
Images courtesy of Russell Gearhart Photography
AG: The buyers’ good taste and attention to detail keep these shelves feeling both current and classic, and they always bring in readers that make it worth the drive to the Sunset Strip. Side note, I’ve also seen more celebrities wandering these aisles than any other bookstore, likely due to its proximity to both SoulCycle and Equinox.
AG: You can lose an afternoon in this unassuming shop, because it has it all: trade paperbacks, Salinger first editions, college kids studying for organic chemistry, Oprah picks, chocolate cookies, well-placed benches, sunny patios, coffee …
Images courtesy of Chevalier's Books
AG: Bonus points to this Larchmont spot, which has hung onto its comfy neighborhood feel despite being so deep in a hip street that you’ll have to roll your car into the Peet’s Coffee & Tea after circling the block one too many times and descending into personal madness. Readings here bring out the locals. Their kids’ section is impressive; a great place to let them explore while you’re in the street getting into a fistfight with a parking meter.
Arden Shore is a writer, dot connector and sock collector from Los Angeles. She dedicates this article to the fallen bookstores of the world. Follow her meanderings @ardyparty.
Feature Image of Book Soup courtesy of Russell Gearhart Photography