25th February, 2020
Bookshop Spotlight: The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles (CA), USA
This place had been on my bucket list for quite a while so I was extremely happy when I finally made it to L.A.'s iconic The Last Bookstore on a sunny Sunday afternoon in mid-February.
The shop, which is located at 453 S. Spring Street, has become a famous location in Downtown Los Angeles, openly declaring itself not only the largest seller of used, new as well as rare books but also working as something like an interior design art installation.
The Last Bookstore is about 22,000 square feet in size and is spread over two floors. Most of the ground floor layout is quite similar to what you would find at your ‘regular’ bookseller, while the second floor is essentially what has made the shop famous. This is where you'll find the famous Labyrinth (as well as a Yarn Shop and the Spring Arts Collective gallery shops). The Labyrinth is where the Last Bookstore’s quirky character comes to the fore, and where visitors will find most of the amazing art installations, and intimate nooks with particular genres of books, including a vault for horror novels. This part is also home to the famous book tunnel and David Lovejoy's book sculpture of flying books.
Naturally, I was very excited to finally be visiting this landmark and I did like it alright, but I must say that I was a bit wary of the superficial crowds it is drawing. Maybe I should have expected them as the shop can be found all over social media and not just posted by bookworms but by a lot of "trendy" people trying to look deep. This at least goes for the upstairs labyrinth which seemed to be nothing more than a cool photo op for many visitors. (And yes, I heard sentences like "Let me hold the book. Do I look smart? Oh wait, this is heavy. Why is it all made of paper?" - Imagine my gigantic eye roll at this moment, followed by an exasperated sigh.) I was kind of wishing for an employee to come and enforce the signs that say that you should not be disruptive to other customers.
The downstairs, however, is a different matter and thankfully so: The clientele seems to be different, people were actually interested in books, and the shop as a whole provides an eclectic selection of new and used books for decent prices as well as rare books in the annex. The staff seemed knowledgeable and were kind and ready to help when I had a question about a particular graphic novel series.
I left the shop with a mixture of bookwormish giddiness and a certain sense of cynicism at the superficiality of the world. Here we have such an amazing place and some people treat it as nothing but a backdrop for their own self-proclaimed coolness. Still, it is definitely a place I will visit again but maybe earlier in the morning when it isn't overrun yet.
The Last Bookstore is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (11 p.m. on Saturdays). The shop doesn't just sell but also buys books if you happen to want to go all Marie Kondo on your bookshelves. Please note that it also has an obligatory bag check for all bags exceeding the size of a small purse.
There is metered street parking in the area, but I suggest parking in Pershing Square and walking the two blocks to the shop. The Last Bookstore is also conveniently close to other local attractions, such as the Bradbury Building (where Blade Runner was filmed), Grand Central Market, the Public Library or the Angels Flight, so you might want to explore some more of Downtown L.A. after your visit. Bookshop webpage: www.lastbookstorela.com
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All texts and photographs are mine, unless indicated otherwise.