While shooting our June catalog in Los Angeles, we checked out the local bookstores. The following are our favorites, each a treasure trove in its own way.
Arcana: Books on the Arts
8675 Washington Blvd., Culver City
Since 1984, Arcana has been the place to go for new, rare and out-of-print books on 20th- and 21st-century photography, art, design, architecture, fashion, film and music. Arcana founders Lee and Whitney Kaplan worked with architecture firm Johnston Marklee to design this 4,500-square-foot space in Culver City’s historic Helms Bakery building. The bright, light-filled space is lined with tall black metal shelves, creating what Lee calls “a forest of books.” In addition to having 100,000 books to discover, Arcana hosts book signings and panel discussions, as well as a popular Book of the Day feature on its blog.
In May 2017, 99U included Arcana in its list of worldwide Best Design Bookstores.
8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood
Located on the Sunset Strip, Book Soup specializes in art, film, photography, music and literary fiction. It was founded in 1975 by Glenn Goldman who has a deep commitment to university and small presses. You never know what you’ll find on these shelves, or which celebrity you’ll see browsing. If you have trouble choosing a title, the booksellers’ reviews can be found on brightly colored index cards all over the store. Before you go, be sure to check out the Book Soup event schedule, which is packed with readings and discussions.
Hennessey + Ingalls
300 S. Santa Fe Ave., Downtown Arts District
This bookstore’s tagline is “best books on the visual arts,” and it does not disappoint. As I browsed the shelves I realized that I wanted to read every book, and I mean every one. This third-generation family business was founded in 1963 by Reginald Hennessey as an outlet for rare and out-of-print architecture books. Fifty-three years later, Reginald’s son and grandson run the business, which has grown into the largest art, architecture and design bookstore in the western U.S. As the primary book supplier to academic art libraries and schools, you’ll find titles on these shelves that you can’t get anywhere else. Author events are infrequent but noteworthy.
1818 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz
Skylight Books credits its eclectic clientele, including many local artists, musicians, writers and scholars, for challenging them to provide the cutting edge of culture. Browse these shelves and you’ll discover why Skylight is known for offering the best in literary fiction, books on music and art, and Los Angeles regional culture and history. In addition to hosting a very active schedule of events, it provides free podcasts of readings that happened in the store. Skylight is located near Griffith Park.
The Last Bookstore
453 S. Spring St., downtown L.A.
In addition to being a terrific source for new and used books, as well as vintage records, The Last Bookstore is a fascinating place to explore. Part artists’ loft, experimental architecture project and book-lined labyrinth, this bookstore is truly something special. It was founded in 2005 by Josh Spencer whose mission was to keep the paper and ink book business alive. Today it is California’s largest bookstore, with more than 250,000 used and new books, plus a rare book annex and tens of thousands of vinyl records. Literary, musical and theatrical in-store events happen almost daily, drawing up to 500 local fans. When you go, be sure to check out the second floor.
Do you have a favorite bookstore to share? Add it to our list in the comments field below.