When you’re a literature student, you get to be quite the purveyor of used books. I think my fellow English majors who read this blog can attest that while new books from Barnes and Noble or Amazon are awesome and beautiful, used copies are preferable. They’re already loved, and now they’re in your arms for much less money than a Barnes and Noble price. If you order a used novel for a class and it comes in the mail in the right edition with no weird smell, you’re golden.
My favorite place in Los Angeles to buy used books is The Last Bookstore, hands down. Located on Spring Street in downtown L.A., The Last Bookstore has copies of just about every book you can think of or would want, new and used. Both times I’ve gone to The Last Bookstore I’ve gone with my English honor society, Sigma Tau Delta. We like going because it’s a fun place to buy books while bonding over our love of literature.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel at home in a Barnes and Noble — the lighting / ambiance is horrible, and even the wood the furniture and shelves are made out of bothers me. It all seems entirely capitalistic, in that they’re really not interested in you getting the books you really want beyond you buying them from their store. While I know I’m paying money for these books, I want the experience to be personal.
That’s why The Last Bookstore is different. It’s comfortable and relaxing, which really makes for the best browsing and buying experience. It’s entirely conducive to mellow browsing. The sounds of Spring Street make for perfect background noise, and there’s plenty of room for both the customers to walk around and the books to breathe. The customer service is fantastic too — I had two or three come up to me on Saturday and gently ask me if I was finding everything okay, which I really appreciate. The space itself is really beautiful. They also have some really interesting art installations with books, from book windows to interesting wall art.
Upstairs is what the store calls the Labyrinth. When you go through the tunnel…
…you end up in a room of endless bookshelves. Some of it is color organized, which makes for great photos. All of the books in the Labyrinth are $1, which is entirely justifiable. Most of the books in the Labyrinth are very old copies of books that have obsolete information or very obscure novels, which probably means they haven’t sold well downstairs. It’s the room in the store where books go to languish, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are books that have been there since the bookstore’s founding in 2005. There’s something oddly comforting about it though, knowing that all of the books no one reads anymore still have a place.
In terms of prices for the used books, they’re comparable to what you would pay for a used book on Amazon. I got four books on Saturday — the complete Flannery O’Connor collection, Don DeLillo’s Underworld, David Foster Wallace’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men and a really awesome 1960s copy of selections from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass — for about $30. The new books are slightly less expensive than MSRP.
While it’s pretty far away from me to frequent often, I have thoroughly enjoyed my experiences at The Last Bookstore. I really do hope it sticks around for a long, long time.
Do you have a used bookstore you like to frequent, or know another one in L.A.? Let’s talk about it in the comments.