Story by Aanji Sin
Senior Staff Writer
Photographs by Ella Jayasekera
I first visited The Last Bookstore four years ago and immediately fell in love. It is a bookworm’s happy place: two floors containing every book you could possibly imagine. Residing in an abandoned bank on Fifth and Spring in downtown Los Angeles, it is California’s largest new and used bookstore. Ella, my companion photographer, and I took a trip there on a Saturday afternoon. Even with its giant weekend crowds, the Last Bookstore manages to maintain its cozy, antique-y ambience throughout the massive store, adding to its unique charm.
Squeezed between the countless stacks of books on the mezzanine level is the Spring Arts Collective, a unique art gallery comprised of the works of five artists with their own distinct styles and concentrations. Each shop was fairly small, and felt even more claustrophobic with the countless handmade art pieces crammed in along the walls. There were also many pieces providing social commentary from outside artists on display: a tapestry sporting the words ‘I Love Sex’ in cursive lettering, a nest and eggs made of shredded anti-abortion laws, and prints of the Los Angeles cityscape. Onlookers could purchase any of the pieces or, as one would in any gallery, simply enjoy the art.
The book section of the second floor can almost be described as eerie. The long, narrow pathways are dimly lit and windowless, giving the space a musty, vintage quality. The genres contained on the upstairs floor are seemingly infinite, including books on spirituality, Japanese cookbooks, and a horror vault. Along the walls and between the shelves sat elaborate sculptures made of books and stray pages from damaged or overstocked copies. Some of them are Instagram iconic, including a book loop and tunnel made entirely out of hardcovers. Tourists crowded around these spots, clamoring to get social media-worthy photos and boxing out an exasperated Ella.
The bottom floor has a more open, sunny atmosphere compared to the claustrophobia that sets in on the second floor. Whereas the upstairs floor contains older, lesser-known books, the bottom floor shows off the bookstore’s newest editions. Customers mill around looking for their Goodreads recommendations, then sit down on one of the comfortable couches sitting in the middle of the space and read to their heart’s content. I was half tempted to grab one myself and plop down into the first open armchair I could find.
The Last Bookstore is first and formerly a bookstore, but also features an extensive vinyl collection. I spent some time by myself looking through the rock section for artists I recognized. I also caught a glimpse of international, jazz, and folk artists a few rows over, each with dozens of vinyls of their own. Some records were priced at 35 dollars, others sold for only 99 cents.
After an afternoon of exploring, Ella and I were reluctant to leave. As two self-proclaimed bookworms and frequent customers of local bookstores, we both concluded that The Last Bookstore’s unique assortment of literature, music, and art was unlike any other bookstore we had visited. Whether one is a literature fan or not, the iconic The Last Bookstore is truly worth the trip downtown.
Address: 453 Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90035
Hours: Monday – Thursday 10:00a.m. – 10:00p.m., Friday – Saturday 10:00a.m. – 11:00p.m., Sunday 10:00a.m. – 9:00p.m.