Tour The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles

For twenty years, Los Angeles Times has hosted the largest book festival in the country in the City of Angels, but when people call LA an industry town, we all know the industry isn’t publishing. No matter what New Yorkers say, we do walk and read books in LA.   And Los Angeles has been home to some great independent bookstores.

As a child I remember going with my parents to Pickwick Bookshop on Hollywood Boulevard.  While they transacted their business, I headed back to the children’s department.  I used to sit on the floor in front of the bay with all the books in the Wizard of Oz series, with the wonderful designs on the dust jacket spines.  When my mother took me along with her to UCLA, sometimes we would swing by Campbell’s Bookstore before getting on the freeway to go home.  She probably bought textbooks for classes, while the future rare book curator snuck off to admire the stuffed Winnie the Pooh characters made in England.  Of Dutton’s in Brentwood, which occupied a building originally designed by a notable local architect as a small office complex around a central courtyard, novelist Carolyn See said,  “If you weren’t the drinking kind, you could go there the way you would a bar.”

last bookstore bonaventure

Looking up in the Bonaventure lobby.

These three bookstores are gone, along with Acres of Books, one Mr. Cotsen’s  early hunting grounds, but the tradition lives on at The Last Book Store on downtown’s South Spring Street, a stone’s throw away from the Westin Bonaventure, where I was attending a conference last spring.  It bills itself as the Golden State’s largest new and used book and record store. After listening to papers for two days, it was time for some retail therapy in the children’s department of The Last Bookstore, whose motto is, “What are you waiting for?  We won’t be here forever!”  It currently occupies a space that once was a bank building.

This is a bird’s eye view of the store from the second floor where the vault used to be.  Thanks to my colleague, Col. Scott Krawzcyk, for taking these great interior photos, which were beyond my Samsung Galaxy…

last bookstore 2nd Floor skI’ve been in a  Pasadena restaurant with book walls, but they were nothing like this.  I’d commission one for Cotsen but there would be issues the first time a book was paged for a patron.  So much for creative solutions to rare book storage…

last bookstore book arch skI forgot to ask the name of the artists who dreamed up the store’s book sculptures, but they have a standing invitation to visit our Bookscape gallery.

placeholder textI doubt I would find this monograph about Mary Blair, who worked for Disney, on the tables of art books in any self-respecting Northeast indie bookstore, even if this year is the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice in Wonderland.  placeholder textHere is the back wall of the children’s department.  It was nice to see several parents reading with their children in the cavernous space.

placeholder textThese, and other books with even more inappropriate cover designs juxtaposing food and fashion, were sitting on top of the bookcases where the picture books were shelved.

placeholder textlast bookstore tofu




Proof that BabyLit board books,  highlighted in a post earlier this year, are a bi-coastal phenomenon.  I had not seen the Damien Hirst ABC before and was pleasantly surprised that did not reek of formaldyhyde.

last bookstore board booksA shelf of classics, with Lauren Child’s quirky cover for Anne of Green Gables prominently featured.  Somebody with a sense of humor put Touching Spirit Bear next to The House at Pooh Corner.  Milne is probably rolling in his grave.

last bookstore classic kidOf course there was a lot of Francesca Lia Block in the YA section.  That cover for Weetzie Bat looks way too wholesome.

last bookstore francesca lia blockThe congenial bookseller efficiently rang up my pile of loot for Cotsen.

last bookstore booksellerAnd the nymph by the exit–who could resist this siren call to come back again real soon?    Gotta love her, gotta love The Last Book Store.  It’s sooooooooo LA.

last bookstore mannequinFor another view of downtown Los Angeles, check out Cotsen’s virtual exhibition about illustrator Leo Politi.

For a peek into foreign bookstores, read Minjie Chen’s post on her visit to Shanghai and Abu Dhabi in 2016.