Hi, friends! It’s been a while, I know. The first wave of midterms has struck and is now subsiding just in time for another wave of exams to crash overhead. It goes without saying that the time left over for writing after my studies has been sorrowfully small.
I want to share an adventure from several weeks ago with you, because if you’re able to, it’s definitely an adventure you should undertake yourself. I first discovered The Last Bookstore on Instagram. I saw pictures of crazy tunnels built out of books, as well as all kinds of book-based sculptures and art. Frankly, I was a little dubious that such a place could exist in real life. Based on the pictures, it looked to me as though The Last Bookstore was the “Wonderland” of bookstores, and as most of us know, Wonderland isn’t exactly real.
But then I had a free day several weeks back and I convinced one of my friends to go with me to LA to see it for ourselves. And guess what? The Last Bookstore is every bit as amazing as real life as it seems in pictures–maybe even more so.
It’s located on Broadway in Downtown LA, between 4th and 5th, so basically it’s in the belly of the beast. Traffic can get a little crazy down there, but it is definitely worth the trip. There’s plenty of meter parking right outside the store, as well as a fairly inexpensive parking lot nearby.
As I was getting close, I was struck by the awesome sight of an old, ornate, massive, stone building and at first, I kept driving, thinking, “Wow, that was a cool building. I wonder how close we are to the bookstore.” And then it dawned on me. The cool stone building WAS the bookstore. And just you wait: it gets better.
When you first walk inside, a strong and gripping whiff of dust, old books, and endless possibilities rushes to greet your nose. Even before you’re through the foyer, you can glimpse books upon unending books. As soon as you enter, there is a man standing at the checkout counter. This, of course, seems fairly normal–that is, until you realize that even the counter at which he stands is crafted entirely out of books. Once inside, you will find yourself surrounded by a forest of gigantic white pillars that tower over you, holding up the roof. You’ll find that, sporadically, the store is sprinkled with worn leather arm chairs in which you may sit and devour books to your heart’s content. The books themselves are very artfully arranged by categories, and by “categories” I mean “every category under the sun.”
The Last Bookstore sells mainly used books, but most of them are in excellent condition. It also sells old records, CDs, and even some movies. I was shocked by the sea of old vinyl albums sold there, as there were literally thousands to choose from. All of the wares are sold at reasonable prices. And if you have books to sell, The Last Bookstore will gladly buy them from you.
My favorite part is the top floor, a section which is referred to by the workers as “The Labyrinth.” Kind of makes you think of another Labyrinth, doesn’t it?
Why the name? Well, it is literally a maze of bookshelves with no apparent rhyme or reason. A good portion of them are sci-fi, but then there are the thrillers. After several lengthy minutes of browsing, you reach a wall of books with a hole just big enough to see through.
After that is the tunnel of books. (Lighting inside was not conducive for photography via my dumb smartphone, so a glimpse of the outside is as good as this is going to get.)
Once through the tunnel, though, there are even more shelves. This part is my absolute favorite because this portion is where the bargain books live. And it is HUGE, folks. There are probably millions of books up there. You could spend your entire lifetime reading up there, and then your neighbor’s lifetime, and then your first grade teacher’s lifetime, and probably the lives of nearly everyone you know just browsing through books in The Labyrinth. There’s even a color coded section that is literally a rainbow of books! I got two books from this section, The Intelligencer and The Dream-Maker’s Magic, for a total of $2.18. If they’re any good, I’ll let you know, but you certainly can’t beat the price.
In addition to books, there are works of art and sculptures scattered all throughout the bookstore. There are succulents growing out of broken stereos, a chalkboard wall complete with drawings of all the employees, strings of lights, pages flying out of a floating typewriter, books flying off the shelves, and even a wooly mammoth head hanging on the wall. There is also an entire art gallery up there on the second floor also.
I was expecting to be underwhelmed, but completely on the contrary, I was overwhelmed instead. The Last Bookstore is amazing. If you’re a book enthusiast living anywhere near LA, you should definitely take the time to go experience it for yourself. I know personally that time can be a rare commodity in the craziness of life, but in my opinion, it was worth the time. I will definitely be going again. As Rudyard Kipling so rightfully stated, “you can never have enough books.”