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L.A.'s Last Bookstore Is A Haven For Book Lovers

Jennifer Kuan |
October 7, 2013 | 12:02 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

The Last Bookstore's second floor is called the Labyrinth, and it features a tunnel made entirely of books (Tumblr).
The Last Bookstore's second floor is called the Labyrinth, and it features a tunnel made entirely of books (Tumblr).

In his novel "American Gods," Neil Gaiman writes, "What I say is, a town isn't a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it's got a bookstore it knows it's not fooling a soul."

Luckily, Los Angeles is home to several independent bookstores—one of them being the enchanting Last Bookstore.

The Last Bookstore began with Josh Spencer in 2005 in a downtown loft, and opened its doors to the public in 2009. It started, as most independent businesses do, quite small, but with some community support, it grew quickly. In 2011, The Last Bookstore moved to its current venue: a 10,000 square foot location on Fifth and Spring.

The Last Bookstore has since set itself apart as a standout. It is on Flavorwire's list of the 20 Most Beautiful Bookstores in the World, and was named the best bookstore in downtown L.A. by both LA Weekly and The Downtown News.

The reason why becomes apparent upon entering the bookstore: it's huge and spacious and distinctly bookish. The Last Bookstore is one of the few places in L.A. that continues to buy used books, and what they can't resell, they use to decorate the store.

Jason Wei says, "The store embodies the limitless depth of experiences that only books can give you, just from the way they use books to decorate the store." Wei has lived in China, Canada and the United States, but he has never encountered a bookstore quite like this one.

The decoration is most visible on the second story, where the aptly named Labyrinth is located. At the top of the stairs, the room opens into a maze of color-coordinated bookcases, where an archway and a tunnel made entirely of books welcomes visitors. These bookcases carry the majority of their used stock, which is sold at the affordable price of one dollar apiece. And it's not just books—they also carry vinyls and old copies of magazines like National Geographic that date back to the '60s. Books that are too worn out to be sold are used as well, acting as the materials in the abundance of sculptures found throughout the store.

The Labyrinth holds over 100,000 used books, helping The Last Bookstore earn its title of the largest independent bookstore in California that buys and sells both used and new books and records.

The second floor isn't the only unique element of The Last Bookstore. The first floor's selection contains books that are more mainstream and recently released, though they remain well-priced. The books are divided into categories to make browsing easier, and they span beyond the basic categories like "Fiction" and "Non-Fiction." The Last Bookstore's specialized sections include, but are not limited to: music, art and theatre. Aficionados of a particular subject will have no trouble finding a multitude of books to interest them.

The Last Bookstore makes a great day trip for book lovers and city explorers alike. As a self-proclaimed shameless bibliophile, some of my best finds at The Last Bookstore include beautiful, hardcover copies of Homer's "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey," translated by Alexander Pope and illustrated by John Flaxman and elegant, pocket-sized versions of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" and "A Comedy of Errors."

Also on the upper levels of this location is an art gallery that features the work of contemporary artists. These pieces are the few in The Last Bookstore that are not made of books.

USC student Matthew Torres describes his visit to The Last Bookstore as "the most unique bookstore experience I've ever had."

Reach Staff Reporter Jennifer Kuan here and follow her on WordPress here.



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