Alright, bookish confession time: I don’t buy that many books. (gasp!) If you guys have been reading my blog for a while, you probably know that I’ve mostly been a library-goer and only recently have begun buying books since I moved away for college.
But, being a broke college student (it’s too real guys!), when I do buy books, it’s mostly on Amazon for as cheap as I can get them and with free shipping — maybe B&N if I’m desperate and need a new release now and I happen to be near one.
So maybe you can deduce that I haven’t actually had that much experience with cool bookstores. Sad, but true! I don’t really have many indie bookstores near me back home, and I haven’t really made an effort to seek any out (refer back to broke college student above, haha).
But I finally did make the effort to change this a few weeks ago!
It being spring break at the time, my sister Renee and I wandered into L.A. to check out the “awesome” bookstore she had already been to and had managed to lure me into seeing with promises of “cool book art” and a cheap $1 book section. Needless to say, I required no more convincing. 😉
The bookstore is a very walkable distance from Union Station, and is two stories tall (!!!). As soon as you enter, you will be asked to check any bag you have with you at the front. And then you are allowed entrance to the amazing treasure-trove of books…
There’s definitely a “wow factor” that hit me as soon as I walked in, taking in the massive scale of the building and its eclectic decorations. Immediately it seemed pretty different than my fleeting visit to Powell’s in Portland a few years ago, which is also very big and several stories tall but with no view of the entire store at once. So of course this goofy-looking grin plastered itself to my face as I decided I was looking upon a book nerd heaven.
The first floor was mainly new books, and organized by subject/genre. They also had a large record shop off to the side, and an entire corner dedicated to comic books, graphic novels, and manga. I gravitated towards the Young Adult section, of course, and I was a little disappointed to find that it was pretty small and also pretty expensive.
To be perfectly honest though, buying new YA releases wasn’t why I came and probably wouldn’t be a reason for me to come back. I came for the book art and the $1 section, and would definitely come back just because it’s such an awesome place to explore. But back to this later.
The first floor also had an awesome old books room, though it was just a hint what we’d eventually find on the second floor.
Just glances towards the upstairs made me anxious to get up there though, so we stopped our lingering on the first floor and headed to the second floor. But we hadn’t even finished taking the stairs before we were surrounded by book art in all directions! Directly above the stairs was a funky sculpture of a mannequin with a tiny bookcase and model of the L.A. City Hall. But it didn’t hold a candle to the corner just at the top of the stairs!
In this corner was a scene that I can only describe as “a creation of mad, magical, literary genius.” On a desk sat a typewriter from which dozens of pages (all connected) flew out of the typewriter to cover the gorgeously-painted ceiling. A perilously-leaning bookshelf was in the corner, with books suspended to look like they were flying off the shelves Harry Potter style (though somehow they reminded me more of the flying keys in the Sorcerer’s Stone movie!). Right next to the bookshelf was an overflowing wastebasket of discarded pages.
This corner had the most amazing book art in the entire store, hands down. In an age where new books are cheapest online, this is the kind of stuff that will still bring me to a physical bookstore. Book art is a breathtaking way to demonstrate a love of reading and attract bibliophiles from all over. The Last Bookstore knows what it’s doing and how to stay in the game while internet sales are slowly eclipsing bookstore sales, that’s for sure.
Not to be outdone, the “Labyrinth” (or so it was called) of books in the room beyond the corner of book art was where the true magic was at — it is seriously a book lover’s dream! The first few rooms held Science Fiction, Fantasy, Crime, and Horror. While the shelves here were still organized, they were situated at angles to each other — a hint at the true maze to come a few rooms back! There was also a special room featuring some classic Sci-fi and really strange books (like Ripley’s Believe it or Not books, but stranger!). The room also had an awesome display meant to look like some sort of control board, and you could even peer inside the gauges, etc. to see mini galaxies (with book pages and art, of course)!
And at the back of these few rooms is the tunnel of books, perhaps the most famous part of the store. I’m sure my draw dropped open at some point when I finally found this, haha. It was petty awesome to walk under, and if there would’ve been a chair in there and a few more string lights I would’ve definitely started reading in there. 😉 There was also a photo-op spot where stacks of books formed a picture frame, and I couldn’t resist stopping!
Finally in the very back of the Labyrinth we reached the famed $1 section, where the organization went out the window resulting in a delightfully dizzying mess of books! I don’t have any pictures of the disorganization unfortunately, but I did find more book art even in this section, and a few shelves in the middle of the whole maze that had been organized by color to make a rainbow.
The Labyrinth is somewhere you could easily spend hours browsing, and maybe even happen across a few lucky finds, which is what makes it so exciting! There was a noticeable lack of YA books though, and they were mainly restricted to one shelf of children’s books. Maybe there are less used YA books out there, but I seem to recall a local chain of used bookstores in my area that I went to once in a blue moon that had a thriving children’s/YA section. But still — any book you find for $1? The price doesn’t get much better for a broke bookworm!
The second floor outside of the Labyrinth also has some local artist in-residence workshops, and a few small art galleries. I loved my trip to The Last Bookstore, because it’s just such a funky, bookish, artistic place that’s awesome to come to! Did I buy any books? No, not this time. But do I wanna go again when I’m in the area? Yes! Who knows what I’ll find in the Labyrinth if I go again…