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Arts and Entertainment

10 Best Used Bookstores In Los Angeles

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By Jessie Schiewe

We may live in an age of digital and e-books, but don't let that fool you. Print is still alive in the City of Angels from Inglewood to Eagle Rock. The stores that made our list were chosen based on a number of criteria, like collection size, pricing, ambiance and orderliness (and extra points were awarded for establishments with a store dog or cat). We searched and high low for the best of the best, so chuck your Kindle and use our list to help you locate the bookstore nearest you. As always, leave your own favorites in the comments.

Friends Book Shop

Of all the used bookstores on this list, none have greater deals or a greater selection than the Friends Book Shop. Located inside the Beverly Hills Public Library, this used bookstore (which is the only bookstore in Beverly Hills, aside from Taschen on Beverly Drive) has a wide variety of books, from fiction, art, and children's to classics, first editions, and signed copies. It's been around since 1991 and is run and operated by the Friends of The Beverly Hills Public Library, a garrulous, friendly bunch of senior citizens who are eager to chat about books and help you find whatever you are looking for. Their collection is built from donations to the library and their prices are jaw-droppingly low. They've got both a $1 rack and a 25-cent rack, and the bulk of their books cost between $3 and $4. Their specialties are cookbooks, paperback mysteries and coffee table-sized art books. In addition to books, they sell audio books, DVDs and current magazines.

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Friends Book Shop is located in the Beverly Hills Public Library at 444 North Rexford Drive in Beverly Hills, (310) 288-2271.

Sideshow Rare and Remarkable Books, Art, and Curiosities

Like the name suggests, Sideshow is more than just a used bookstore. From found photos and vintage matchbooks to plastic Beatles figurines and transistor radios, it's a place filled with the odd and bizarre, the retro and the zany. Paper lanterns hang from the ceiling and sheepskin and Persian rugs cover the floor. It's the kind of place where you go in looking to buy one thing and leave with far more than you expected because everything in this store is that cool. This is a relatively young bookstore that opened almost five years ago and has a huge collection of books in addition to a gallery across the street. Their film section, which includes screenplays, biographies, how-to's, and books that have been turned into movies, is one of their biggest draws, as is their pulp and hardboiled fiction section. In addition to vintage knick-knacks and used books, they've got records, old magazines (like Life and TV Guide), old Playbills, and even a framed, original poem by Bukowski. There's a $1 rack outside and a $5 rack indoors and most of their books range from $5.50 to $12.

Sideshow Rare and Remarkable Books, Art, and Curiosities is located on 11323 Idaho Avenue in West Los Angeles, (310) 428-4631.

Counterpoint Records and Books

There is something incredibly beautiful about Counterpoint Records and Books. The walls are lined with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and the various colored book spines create a tapestry-like effect throughout the store. There's a library-like quietness to the place, but it's by no means draconian. The staff is friendly and helpful and it's clear that everyone who's in the store either loves books or loves records. You're allowed to stand on the ladders and step stools, which is pretty cool considering how many bookstores don't let customers use them themselves. The bookstore opened in 1979 and has since become a landmark of sorts on this trendy stretch of Franklin Avenue. The average paperback costs about $5 here and they've got huge art, poetry, literary fiction, music and philosophy sections. This is the kind of store where you're almost guaranteed to find books by even the most obscure and unknown writers, so long, of course, as they're good. You can also find tapes, CDs, and VHSs here.

Counterpoint Records and Books is located at 5911 Franklin Ave in Hollywood, (323) 957-7965.

Angel City Bookstore and Gallery

This quaint, little bookstore is located on a small street off of Main Street in Santa Monica and has been around since 1998. Modern art painted by the store's owner lines the walls and there's books as far as the eye can see. They've got a huge selection of pulp mystery, science fiction and western paperback novels, as well as a hefty collection of New Age and Eastern philosophy books. There's a $1 rack and most books range from $3.95 to $7. If you're in the market for records, not to mention audio books and CDs, this is the place to go.

Angel City Bookstore and Gallery is located at 218 Pier Avenue in Santa Monica, (310) 399-8767.

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Read Books

Read Books is a youngster—it turned eight just last week. It's the only bookstore—used or new—in Eagle Rock and one of the only bookstores on this list that has a store mascot, Florence, the dog. It's not the biggest store, but it has a large selection of books on boxing and the Holocaust, as well as a slew of history books on Eagle Rock and Highland Park. And if you're an old radio junkie, then you've definitely got to visit Read Books because there are tons of old radio shows on CD here, like X Minus One, The Jack Benny Program, The Whisperer and The Mystery Train.

Read Books is located at 4972 Eagle Rock Blvd. in Eagle Rock, (323) 259-9068.

Sam Johnson's Bookshop

Sam Johnson's has been located in the robin egg's blue building on Venice Blvd. for the past 30 years. The classical music that spews from the speakers gives it a monastic feel, but don't let that deter you. Though it has all kinds of books, from fiction and philosophy to wine and mystery, its biggest specialty is history. Medieval and pre-18th century history books are one of its draws, as are books about the Southwest, California and Los Angeles. Unsurprisingly, their classical music section is pretty big, too, and they've got a smattering of classical music and old jazz CDs for sale. Most of their books range from $6.95 to $10.50 and they have a $2 rack, too.

Sam Johnson’s Bookshop is located at 12310 Venice Boulevard in Mar Vista, (310) 391-5047.

Alias Books

The oldest bookstore on this list, Alias Books has been around since 1959. Owned by two brothers, it has a sister location in Atwater Village and occasional store Chihuahuas named Rosie and Pancho. While Alias Books East has a large collection of yoga and health books, the West L.A. location has more scholarly and academic books and publications. Threadbare Persian rugs are a mainstay of the store, which also sells audio books. Their prices are a few dollars higher than the other stores on this list and range from $6 to $15, though there is a discount rack out front. This is a great place to spend hours reading in one of the many chairs scattered around the store.

Alias Books is located at 1650 Sawtelle Boulevard in West Los Angeles, (310) 473-4442 and Alias Books East is located at 3163 Glendale Boulevard in Atwater Village, (323) 661-9000.

Vajra Books and Gifts

Located in an old bank building that was built in 1927, Vajra is one of the largest and most disorganized bookstores on this list. You'll find thousands of books here, many of them dusty and certainly not filed in alphabetical order. But therein lies the fun of visiting Vajra—you've got to hunt for what you're looking for and in the process you'll probably find a slew of interesting titles. In addition to books, the store sells records, DVDs, and heaps of old magazines, like LIFE, Jet, Sunset, Ebony and others. The owner also makes handmade jewelry, which he sells in the store, along with his collection of perfect-condition vintage jewelry. Most books range from $2 to $5 and be forewarned that the store is cash only.

Vajra Books and Gifts is located at 100 North Market Street in Inglewood.

The Scott Wannberg Bookstore at Beyond Baroque Foundation and Literary Arts Center

The Scott Wannberg Bookstore is essentially a room full of for-sale used and new books inside of the Beyond Baroque Foundation in Venice. Though it is small, it is unique in that it specializes in poetry, anthologies and literary journals, which are generally hard to find in used condition. Novels by the Greats are there, as well as first edition art books and catalogues donated by Ed Ruscha. The books in this donation-based bookstore range from a mere $2 to $3 dollars and first editions can cost as little as $10.

The Scott Wannberg Bookstore is located at 681 Venice Boulevard in Venice, (310) 822-3006.

The Last Bookstore

If you're on Instagram or Tinder, chances are you've seen photos of people posing in the book tunnel/window at The Last Bookstore. Part bookstore, part record store, part gallery space, The Last Bookstore is a rare breed in Downtown (hence its name). It got its start three and a half years ago at its original location on Main Street, but moved to its current location in a former bank building on Spring Street a couple years ago. The inside of the place is a marvel of interesting sights and spectacles. There's sumptuous red leather couches and chairs, huge white columns, and book sculptures galore. They even provide shopping carts and baskets for customers. The Spring Arts Collective has both artist studios and shops on the second floor and during Christmas time, resident artists built a Christmas tree out of books for the store. This is definitely the kind of place you could spend hours in because there's just so much to look at and discover. The average book price ranges from $5 to $8 and there's a smattering of zines, comics and used DVDs and CDs for sale.

The Last Bookstore is located at 453 South Spring Street in Downtown Los Angeles, (213) 488-0599.