If you look hard enough in Los Angeles, you can find almost anything. The city and the surrounding area are known for obvious landmarks, such as the Hollywood sign, but there are smaller, more hidden destinations that are also worth a visit. If you venture into the smaller parts of the city, or simply keep an eye out in popular areas, you can spot hidden gems that offer a different version of city life.
The Last Bookstore serves as a prime example of one of L.A.’s finest literary secret.
With the advent of technology, readers have exchanged hardcovers and paperbacks for Kindles and Nooks. But when Borders announced that it would be closing, readers still yearning for a place to sit with a book didn’t take the news too well. To a group of aspiring writers, longtime bookworms and everyone in between, the impending disappearance of the beloved bookstore chain was tragic.
That’s where The Last Bookstore comes in.
This hidden gem in Downtown Los Angeles began as an online venture and existed at another location in Downtown Los Angeles before settling down on Fifth Avenue and Spring Street. The name that was ironic in 2005 is surprisingly apt today.
The bookstore embodies the meaning behind the name by refusing to follow suit with most other bookstores — The Last Bookstore has not gone digital. You won’t find a Nook on sale here. Instead, you will find shelves dedicated to CDs, DVDs and magazines; an impressive collection of records; and, of course, plenty of books. With book genres ranging from poetry to sci-fi, The Last Bookstore is one fairly large floor of book-lover paradise.
And it’s not too hard on your wallet, either. When you first enter, you are surrounded by a small room, beautiful shelves and a heavenly sign that reads ‘All books in this room: $1.00.’
From some lesser-known authors to big-name best-sellers, such as John Grisham and USC professor T.C. Boyle, the shelves promise a good read for a cheap price. Once you step into the high-ceiling store, readers will find books that range from less than $10 to higher yet reasonable prices.
Part of the reason some books are so cheap is The Last Bookstore sells plenty of used titles. Even midday on a weekday, one can find people going in and out with dollies either full of boxes or just emptied.
But if you just want to come in and read a book, that’s cool with the bookstore workers.
Sure, you can sit with your Nook/iPod/whatever-you-call-it and digitally flip through pages in the comfort of your own house, but The Last Bookstore lets you hold a new or used book in your hands in a chic-vintage, one-of-a-kind interior. The store is decorated with things like elephant tusks and mannequins. Even when you go to the checkout, you will see that the counter is made up of books. It’s like an Amoeba Records meets Best Buy meets Borders meets Goodwill, decorated by someone’s hipster sister.
Somehow, The Last Bookstore manages to do it all: It’s new and intriguing in a historically rich part of Downtown Los Angeles, and it stays true to the idea of a good old-fashioned bookstore.
There is something that will keep people coming back to the physical covers of books and even the thin sleeves of records, but beyond the business aspect of the store lies a communal feeling. It’s savvy to feed into bookworms’ needs for a store, but The Last Bookstore also exists as a comfortable space for Downtown Los Angeles residents, regardless of whether or not they are looking to buy something.
On certain nights, when the Downtown Art Walk occurs, you can catch a band playing on a small area with couches set aside as a stage. The bookstore also hosts an open mic every Monday from 9:00 to 11:30 p.m.
The streets of Downtown Los Angeles are still being transformed thanks to the blooming of small cafes, trendy restaurants and everything in between, and The Last Bookstore is a big contributor to that change. It holds its place as a game-changer in the face of a bleak outlook for the bookstore business. As the years pass, the bookstore will undoubtedly become even more of a rarity, but this will only add to The Last Bookstore’s value.
The store is not a dusty, echoing place devoid of people. It’s a bright business with adults and kids roaming its shelves and with the help of enough stubborn bookworms, this unique bookstore can stay that way.
The Last Bookstore is located on 453 South Spring St.
Eva Recinos is a junior majoring in English. Her column “Nook & Cranny” runs Mondays.