I visited LA recently and couldn’t pass up the chance to check out The Last Bookstore. Any time I travel I have to visit at least one bookstore, and I keep a running list of bookstores I’d like to visit in general. Due to the many stunning photographs online, this one has been on my list for awhile.
The vibe when you walk in is a total cool down. Outside in LA, the weather is pretty sunny and mild. It feels like you have all the time in the world to do anything. In contrast, the bookstore is like a cave with hard smooth cold floors, stone columns, and dark cool tones throughout. I liked this right away. It felt like a place I could disappear in. (Plus it felt like Moria before the Fellowship realizes Gandalf was right and they’ve made a terrible mistake.)
Like many used and independent bookstores, the store also sells records and will buy your used books. While I’ve seen it described as both a new and used bookstore in various articles, I mostly saw used books and older titles. If you’re an avid reader, you’re going to see titles you’ve seen before; but, you’ll also see out-of-print and special editions. Some unique sections include the rare book room, the Harry Potter collection tables. and the craft and art shops upstairs. There is also a smaller store up front that features what I think of as large coffee table books. (I had a serious mental debate over some beautiful but expensive books on typography.) The building is massive (22,000 square feet according to Wikipedia) and definitely a great place to go if you’re down for a treasure hunting experience.
The only complaint I have is kind of a big one: it’s too popular. The store has some great design elements, like a window made of books, a tunnel made of books, and a wall of books organized by color (they even sell “decorative” books). The amount of people taking pictures next to these installations was, frankly, very annoying. (Obviously I took pictures of my own for this blogpost, but I took them as quickly as possible and just hoped they turned into something I could edit later.) To be fair, I did visit on a Saturday afternoon, but I’ve still never had such a stressful bookshopping experience.
I don’t mind busy bookstores filled with respectful readers. Even with multiple people on an aisle, you tend to find a browsing rhythm with other shoppers that still allows you to immerse yourself. But with all the selfies going on around me, I felt rushed and like I was somehow both intruding and being intruded upon. There were longer lines to take photos at the beautiful installations than at the actual register. People obviously dressed up to go to the bookstores for selfies and instagram photos.
I’ve somehow never experienced that level of overlap between bookstores and social media. Maybe I’m an old soul or a purist, but I didn’t enjoy the experience. Bookstores are places where I go to get lost and forget about the world for a while. I had a difficult time losing myself when I was constantly walking through a photo. Still, don’t get me wrong, this is a beautiful and unique bookstore that I think is worth a visit (just maybe on a weekday morning when there are less instagrammers).