Latest Best of LA

Best Independent Bookstores In Los Angeles

January 18, 2015 12:01 AM

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(credit: shutterstock)

(credit: shutterstock)

These days, it can be pretty difficult to find a bookstore, let alone one that is considered independent from a large chain. The best independent bookstores reflect and serve their community and provide an essential space for ideas and discovery through interesting stock, author events, and literary gatherings. 

featured skylight books Best Independent Bookstores In Los Angeles

(credit: Skylight Books)

Skylight Books
1818 North Vermont Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 660-1175

This general bookstore, which sits in Los Feliz and opened in 1996 on the former site of the famed local bookstore Chatterton’s, boasts an eclectic clientele including many local artists, writers, scholars and musicians from around L.A. Because of their patrons, they offer some of the best titles around in literary fiction, books on music, art, film and theatre. In addition, expect to find books on Los Angeles and its history, children’s books, and much more.

(credit: Monica S./Yelp)

(credit: Monica S./Yelp)

Downtowne Bookstore
3582 Main St.
Riverside, CA 92501
(951) 682-1082

Tucked away off Riverside’s Main Street, this quant bookstore offers fine used books that will make you want to come back time and time again to explore their titles.  With squeaky, well-worn wooden floors covered in throw rugs, original art from local artists, and occasionally bowls of fresh fruit, Downtowne Bookstore is both well-stocked and cozy. In addition to a great selection, they also offer reasonable prices.

(credit: Laraine B./Yelp)

(credit: Laraine B./Yelp)

Stories Books
1716 Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(213) 413-3733

Located in Echo Park, Stories Books doubles as a coffee shop and restaurant where you can grab a bite or get a great latte as you browse the new and used books on the shelves. With booksellers that know their stock, and a lively atmosphere, books here include rare and collectables, fiction, history, art, photography, philosophy, children’s and much more. The abundance of paperback books supply a nice selection of authors and their backlists. Committed to promoting local authors, it’s the perfect place for readings and gatherings, especially in the mural-lined back patio.

featured book soup Best Independent Bookstores In Los Angeles

(credit: Book Soup)

Book Soup
8818 Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90069
(310) 659-3110

One of Los Angeles’ and Hollywood’s most storied bookstores, Book Soup offers not only a terrific selection of top notch books, but also events for authors you won’t find anywhere else in the city. Stocking an extensive selection of film books, biographies, art and photography and non-fiction works, Book Soup is the perfect stop for grown ups who love books.

(credit: Ryan F./Yelp)

(credit: Ryan F./Yelp)

Small World Books
1407 Ocean Front Walk
Venice, CA 90291
(310) 399-2360

For a bookstore, you might not think of a location on the Venice Boardwalk, but Small World Books makes it work perfectly. A general bookstore carrying a wide selection of titles published by both major and small presses, the store has been the winner of the Los Angeles Times bookstore of the week in 2011 for its great selection. Moved to the Venice Boardwalk in 1976 after years in Marina del Rey, the bookstore is about 2,000 square feet and offers contemporary fiction and nonfiction as well as anything from mysteries, science fiction, young adult, and art books to travel books and more.

featured vromans Best Independent Bookstores In Los Angeles


Vroman’s Bookstore
695 E Colorado Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91101
(626) 449-5320

Boasting itself as Southern California’s oldest and largest independent bookstore, Vroman’s is a reader’s haven. In fact, it’s commonplace to find customers talking about books or crowding the wall of employee recommendations. And, with events almost daily, it’s no wonder why readers and book lovers adore this place. Also known for its sideline products, this is the perfect stop to find the special gift for a booklover.

Kim Allen-Niesen writes Bookstore People blog which reviews independent bookstores all over the country and discusses various literary topics.
View Comments
  • Cindy E

    All these bookstores are great, but I cannot believe you left off the list the one and only bookstore I always visit when I go to LA – The Bodhi Tree Bookstore !!! It may be New Agey, but has been around since 1970 as a welcoming place for readers to collect, read, sip tea, and relax among rooms of lined with volumes of ideas, philosophies, and stories of all kinds. They have hosted many authors, and a variety of programs for the community. Anyplace that I enjoy so much that I delight in so much that I visit every time I go to LA, even when my time is short, is worthy of being on a best bookstore list for the region. Please add to this list The Bodhi Tree Bookstore on Melrose!!!!

    • Aim

      You better hurry its closing in November, for good.

  • Kim Allen-Niesen

    Love that bookstore! Thank you Cindy for the shout out and adding it to the list!

  • KS

    Portrait of a Bookstore has the nastiest employees on the planet! No one has ever recommended a book for me and it’s so small in there you can’t even turn around without them yelling at you not to break anything. It’s cute, for sure, but just a place to be seen.

    • Julie von Zerneck

      So sorry for you KS that you felt you were treated so badly at Portrait of a Bookstore. Please let us try and make it up to you in some way. Yes, we are small, maybe the smallest in the world, but we want to please you and treat you kindly. I am the owner and my name is Julie. If I am there I will try and please you to no end.

      • kev

        ” If I am there I will try and please you to no end.”

        Very nice.

        Will you please me as well?

  • Leslie B

    Fantastic list! My personal favorite is Portrait of a Bookstore, but any indy bookstore is usually a gem compared to a chain.

  • Kelly H

    @ Cindy E. The Bodhi Tree Bookstore is up for sale and plans to close soon if there are no buyers. It will be a very sad day here in LA.

  • Shannon

    As much as I love Skylight, Book Soup, and Vroman’s, there should be a list just for the used bookstores alone. They are certainly their own animal! Book Alley, Alias, Libros Schmibros–all smaller local bookstores, but totally worth a glance!

    • Kim Allen-Niesen

      Love the idea of a used bookstore list!

  • Sarah

    Cookbook store in Pasadena is pretty amazing too. Books all the way up to the ceiling.

  • Jeff H

    When you speak of used bookstores, you have to include The Iliad in Burbank. Too bad that Berkelow’s in Hollywood closed.

    • Aim

      Best used bookstore in town! Though Brand Books in Glendale is pretty good, also.

      • Kristina Krause

        I agree……great used bookstore! Mystery and Imagination Bookstore across the street is pretty good as well.

      • Jeff H

        Brand ia quite good-my preference for Iliad is twofold: it is closer to me, and many times the prices are lower. Having been in the used book business (I ran Gene De Chene Books in West LA and helped run Brindles in Tustin-both long gone) it can be fun, although the brick-and-mortar stores are losing ground to the internet and their lower prices. I still like to hold that $50 book in my hand before I buy it, though!

  • Zeeva International

    The LAST Bookstore in Downtown LA

  • ideth

    When did Riverside and Laguna Beach become part of Los Angeles? Strange that for local bookstores they would include book stores out of LA’s jurisdiction and exclude other worthy local ones: The Iliad, Brand Books and my favorite Taschen come to mind (although Taschen may not be independent enough).

  • Kristina Krause

    Fantastic list of bookstores……I’ve been to half of the ones listed…..All great. You should consider creating another list of used bookstores.

  • DGWright

    Can’t believe Eso Won Books, 4331
    Degnan, was not on this list. Ashame because Los Angeles Times did a special presentation June 13th. Wow, what is the point if you are going to leave out even the ones you present? Eso Won is great!

  • alec petrossian

    introduce you to a beautiful poetry book “Soulful Poems” by Tony Petrossian, our late son, if interested you can view the book on his site or any book selling site, or for a copy
    please contact,

  • Lola Barrow

    I agree, when did Laguna become Los Angeles? What about Traveler’s Bookcase on West 3rd Street? Best travel guides and literature in the city.

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