Story by Clementine Evans
Photo by Samantha Shiroishi
Independent bookstores are disappearing. The comfort that they give local readers is more than any next-day shipping that Amazon can provide. Instead of online shopping, we went searching for a few of the charming bookstores around Los Angeles.
Our endeavor started at a criminally early 10 a.m. I picked up Samantha and we were off to our first stop: North Figueroa Bookshop. Once we drove into the parking lot, we saw the beautifully painted murals of local authors’ books.
Samantha and I walked into the store and immediately felt the spirit of a true independent bookstore: the warm and welcoming feeling greeted us as did the one woman working behind the counter. Walking around the small yet expansive space was very new but it felt like they were a staple in their community. With the country music playing in the background, Samantha and I wandered back and forth through the store looking for books to buy. Their support of local authors was inspiring and their collection of carefully curated books was the cherry on top of an amazing bookshop. Samantha got The Hole and one of the funniest books I have ever seen, Sitting, while I got The Gold Seekers. We looked through their quaint collection of local vendors’ products and thought about buying more but realized we should save our money for the next three stores.
We continued our journey and drove to Skylight Books. The parking situation was less than ideal and it made us struggle a little too much for something so simple. Once we finished with the annoyance of parking permits, we scurried to the store and saw a sign that said they were closed for construction for two days. We did, however, remember that they have an arts annex. Even though it was not exactly what we were looking for, it still had shelves lined with colorful books. The large comic book section greeted me and Samantha to our right when we entered. Their array of books had more mainstream items compared to North Figueroa and the whole store felt very handmade. After buying a sticker and the most adorable zine about frogs wearing speedos, we ventured on.
The coffee shop I found earlier was exactly the kind of break we needed. The baristas welcomed us with big smiles and offers of their best drinks. I got a hot matcha latte while Samantha got an iced matcha with a mermaid bowl. As aesthetically pleasing as they were, we had to dig in. Once we wolfed down our food and drinks, we found a taco truck close to the next bookstore we were going to. The truck would give us the food we needed to keep going to the final two stops on our adventure.
Our drive led us five minutes down the street to Counterpoint Records & Books. The scent of old books cracking open ushered us into the store. The wooden stands and shelves gave the unintentional feeling of barn vibes. Stacks of neatly organized CDs, VHS tapes, and rare books were up against the walls and twinkle lights were strung along the wooden beams. The records and VHS tapes gave me flashbacks of my grandmother’s old collection. I grabbed a few bookmarks and stickers as I checked out with In a German Pension and The Undertaking: Life Studies From the Dismal Trade. As we slowly walked on, the caffeine somehow making us more tired than an hour before, we drove to our last and final stop, the one I had been looking forward to the most: Lost Books.
The drive there was not extremely long, but just long enough where I could put in my AirPods and turn on Tangled to pass the time. Once we parked in a lot a few minutes away, my drowsiness had almost completely set in. I was too sleepy and loopy to know which way to turn and which street was Honolulu. After the confusing turn around, we walked down the street and saw the leafy green trees and vines inching their way out of the store and greeting passersby.
We entered the store and walked through a magical tunnel of faux moss and fairy lights. The gaps between the leaves were like a window into the sky. The shelves inside the store formed a miniature maze that had us lost in a world of literature. The front of the store had plants for sale along with books on keeping plants. The giant bird cage with little swallows and the fish tank in the sitting area made the store feel like a combination of a bookstore and a garden all in one. Ending with this bookstore felt like the right place to stop. After spending far too much money on books, it was time to call it a day.
North Figueroa Bookshop had the quaint atmosphere that introverted book lovers thrive on. Skylight had small yet slightly pretentious magazines for LA transplants. Counterpoint had the VHS tapes and records that old souls and vintage lovers could bond over. Lost Books was its own Garden of Eden with new and used books lining the maze-like shelves. These bookstores, although different from one another, were a great way to spend our pupil free day.