Some people collect fancy shoes and designer bags. Some people collect the latest tech toys. Some people collect superhero action figures. I collect vintage books. In a world that has become increasingly digital, virtual and cloud-based as the new normal, I have made it my personal mission to save the world’s beautiful orphaned literature—one book at a time. If you, like me, still love the feeling of holding a REAL BOOK in your hands when you read—smelling the musty paper, feeling the crispness pass through your fingers as you turn each page, folding corners and underlining paragraphs of the passages that sing to you—then you must treat yourself to a visit to LA’s book lover’s paradise, The Last Bookstore.
Located Downtown on the corner of 5th & Spring, The Last Bookstore is a giant two-story mecca that feels like an enormous gleeful protest to the rapid disappearance of the art of the paper book. In the midst of the digital revolution, The Last Bookstore is clearly making their final stand.
The first floor houses a huge open space filled with their “new” arrivals. New in quotes because they sell both new and used books interspersed throughout all their shelves. To the left as you enter is the recently added Arts & Rare Book Annex. Home to beautiful books on art, music, theater, film and fashion, the crown jewel is the glass bookshelf filled with rare first editions and autographed copies from the likes of Kerouac and Salinger, just to name a few.
As you wander the store, you’ll discover many hidden offshoot rooms, each with its own unique theme and whimsically quirky design, lending a feel that’s much more Willy Wonka than Barnes & Noble. For those brave enough to wander to the dark back corner, you will be rewarded for your journey. Pass through the metal vault door and enter my personal favorite pièce de résistance—the vintage book room.
Adorned with dim old-fashioned reading lights and a wood bench in the center of overflowing shelves, it feels like your grandpa’s library. Some of the books come from more modern 70’s & 80’s collections that were meant to mimic the look of antique books. (Funny enough, even those are considered true vintage now.) But there are hundreds of books that are true-blue real-deal antique and vintage stemming from the late 1800’s through the 1960’s, mostly in beautiful condition. This is the room I could get lost in for hours, pouring over each and every title searching for buried book treasures.
For the music lovers, watch out. The record section on the ground floor is another place where you can literally lose hours of your life. Possibly days. Well-curated LP’s cram the middle stalls divided by artist and genre, while dollar records line the walls for you to do the dirty work and discover what amazing finds might lie beneath as you flip through covers. WARNING: Do not enter this section unless you have at least an hour to spare. You will get sucked in. You will spend your dinner money. So plan accordingly.
Meander your way upstairs to the second floor. But only if you are psychologically and spiritually prepared to handle even more Book Nirvana. Upon arrival, you are greeted by a flying book sculpture that makes you wonder if you just apparated into Hogwarts. As you wander the sci fi paperback racks, you suddenly find yourself at a book window. Yes, that’s right—a window made of books. Wait. Maybe you’ve apparated into the new Wes Anderson film…was that Bill Murray slinking by? The horror room is equal parts intergalactic and submarine. And the book tunnel—yes, that’s right, a tunnel made of books—leads you to another land like Dorothy heading to the Emerald City. Waiting on the other side is the dollar book room filled with books as far as the eye can see, some organized into literal rainbows of color. (Full disclosure: some books are $1.99.)
Be sure to walk all the way around the second floor to the artists’ stalls where local artists show and sell their work. We were big fans of David Lovejoy’s shop, filled with gorgeous repurposed old-timey trinkets and treasures. His magnifying glass “curtains” are a visual delight. Take some time to look through the hanging glasses down onto the street below. At just the right distance, the whole world flips upside down. Wait…come to think of it, maybe we’ve wondered through the looking glass. And found ourselves here in Wonderland. Is that a Cheshire Cat smile hanging outside the window…or just the waning moon in the Downtown sky?
You can sell or trade your books and records at the downstairs trading post. Join the revolution and help keep tangible art alive!
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For exact location & hours, visit The Last Bookstore’s website: http://lastbookstorela.com.
Words by Christina Huntington // Photography by Sarah Prikryl
© 2016 Sirens and Scoundrels