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Booklover's Guide to DTLA

A close up of a pile of books

The literati of old Los Angeles were a loosely knit group that frequented several haunts, including the back room at Stanley Rose’s Bookstore downtown, the bar at Musso and Frank’s in Hollywood as well as the hillside ranch of Jake Zeitlin in Echo Park. Known as the “fine print house” Zeitlin's ranch was home base for the Rounce & Coffin Club, a bohemian set that organized readings, perfected the fine art of printing and launched a virtual renaissance in Southern California.

Today the Los Angeles book community is a bit more spread out and eclectic, but there is still much ado about books downtown. We hope you enjoy perusing this short list of places in our great city where there still lives an undying appreciation of all things ink and paper... Edify yr mind!

The Last Bookstore

 > Is it a bookstore masquerading as an art gallery or vice versa? Maybe it is both. It’s hard to miss The Last Bookstore, which has occupied the old bank building at the corner of Spring and 5th since 2009. It is, however, easy to get lost inside! Wander the labyrinth of books and check out the great selection of old records – all reasonably priced, we might add. With the shelves upstairs organized by spine color, you'll find yourself walking through a literal rainbow of forgotten paperbacks in this vaulted 1914 landmark building now known as The Spring Arts Tower. But there is more than one method to their madness: Don’t skip the upstairs book tunnel, the book sculptures, the art gallery, and of course, the “vault” of horror (it’s actually inside the old bank vault). Despite its facetious name, if there never were another bookstore, we could all stay well stocked at this destination.    452 S Spring St.  

Kinokuniya Bookstore

 > Located in downtown’s Astronaut Plaza (yes, that’s a place), The Kinokuniya Bookstore offers an impressively wide selection of Japanese and Chinese books as well as fine art pens, paper and gifts. Parchment aficionados won’t want to miss this hidden gem. Emails are so 2005 -- Why not send a unique Thank You card printed on fine rice paper instead? Look no further.   123 Astronaut East, upstairs  

Downtown Book Fest

 > An annual springtime celebration in Grand Park, the Downtown Book Fest features an array of pop-up book stores-on-wheels, tents and talks by local authors. We [reported]("BookFest") on this event last month and can’t wait until it comes around again next year. In the meantime, we have plenty of reading to keep us busy.  

The Library Bar

 > A perfectly warm and cozy place to curl up with a good book and a pint of beer, this bar is decorated as you might expect – like a library! One whole wall is dedicated to *actual* books. So have a drink among the stacks and relax. There’s really no better way to read *Ulysses* – in fact, it is required in some circles. “A man of genius makes no mistakes.”    630 W. 6th St.  

Feminist Library On Wheels, a.k.a. FLOW

> Perhaps the only combination better than beer and books is bikes and books. After all, the effects of lateral motion on the brain have been known to increase communication between the hemispheres. Introducing the cycling girl power of the Feminist Library on Wheels (FLOW, get it?). What they lack in real estate they make up for in portability and righteousness. Part of the Women’s Center for Creative Work (WCCW), Jenn Witt and Dawn Finley promote feminist literature in our fair city with the cunning use of bicycles. They are frequent participants in CicLAvia as well as the downtown book fest and other area events. Follow them on Facebook to find out where they’ll pop up next.

“To learn one must be humble. But life is the great teacher.” – James Joyce, Ulysses

[photo of the Last Bookstore by the author]