This is a must stop for any book lover:
There's no denying the significance of San Francisco's City Lights Bookstore, recognized as an official historic landmark for its role in beat culture. But the Last Bookstore has grown along with L.A.'s revitalized downtown and now holds the title of California's largest used and new bookstore
. Its 22,000 square feet on two floors of the Spring Arts Tower hold 250,000 books, as well as thousands of vinyl records and graphic novels. The building also includes the Labyrinth Above the Last Bookstore, which features the gallery shops of local artists and mind-boggling installation art, such as a tunnel made from stacks of old tomes.
Not only is the Los Angeles Central Library the country's third-largest public library
, with a catalog of more than 6 million items, it's an architectural landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Free docent tours of the building and its art are offered whenever the library's open, and there's a free tour of the surrounding Maguire Gardens on Saturdays. So, who says LA is all about glamour, glitz, and fancy cars? Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Yoplait, there is a
culture there, after all! I just had to stop at The Last Bookstore. The owner is a young fellow, named Josh Spencer. "A 1996 moped accident left Spencer with no sensation below the waist, but even as he was building his book business online, he never let his wheelchair stop him from driving to yard, garage and library sales to pick up inventory. Faced with stairs, he says, "I had two people carry me, and it would cost me twice as much to get books." This is from their website:
The bookstore downstairs is exciting enough, but the best treasures are kept upstairs. Visiting the mezzanine level, browsers are greeted by hanging books, suspended in flight as they erupt from a bookcase. Further on, there are tunnels built from books, hidden side rooms with more than 100,000 used books for sale, plus freestanding sculptures and mobiles.
This is the Spring Arts Collective
, an eclectic space displaying the work of five artists: it’s filled with sculptures and paintings, bold prints and metalwork.
The Last Bookstore’s home page tells a bleak truth: “What are you waiting for? We won’t be here forever.” Independent bookstores are in decline as
online booksellers dominate the market, but I’m rooting for this one to be the last bookstore standing.
The Last Bookstore is located in an abandoned bank building at 453 So. Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles.
More from Atlas Obscura:
Enter The Last Bookstore, an iconic LA bookstore with a not-so-subtly symbolic name housed in the grand atrium of what was once a bank.
The marble pillars and mile-high ceiling remain from the old bank, but in place of patrons and guarded stacks of cash, bookshelves line the walls and artful displays of books abound.
Not to imply that everything is brand new and sparkly. The bookstore actually specializes in reasonably priced used books, and takes great pride in offering a selection of well-kept vintage books as well. Anyone who’s ever loved a vintage book will know exactly what that means for the musty, decadent smell that hangs in the air in this seemingly sacred place.
Almost as if to make a point about beauty in disarray, the bookshelves are placed every which way all throughout the store, and sculptures
have been custom-built from overstocked or damaged copies. There are even hidden nooks, like the old bank vault itself, where books are winkingly displayed.
It certainly is larger than City Lights, though maybe not as charming. But bookstores in general are a good thing. Remember the Tom Hanks Meg Ryan movie, "You've Got Mail"? I love to visit the big old bookstores, like Powell's Books in Portland, and Elliott Bay Bookstore in Seattle. I could spend hours there!
Joe (Tom Hanks) belongs to the Fox family which runs Fox Books
— a chain of mega bookstores. Kathleen (Meg Ryan) runs the independent bookstore
"The Shop Around The Corner" that her mother ran before her. It is a love story in the end. It was a nice but quick visit. I bought 3 books for a total of $17!!!
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