Literary Tourism: Los Angeles
I didn’t see any winged celestial beings in The City of Angels, but I did see a whole bunch of books in LA. I went to several bookstores––one of which, The Last Bookstore, was so wonderful it got its own post––and two of them are detailed here, along with a literary bar.
First up, Skylight Books.
That’s the arts annex. Skylight Books is in a strip mall and has two different parts of the store in the strip mall. I was confused for a second because I came to the arts annex first and didn’t realize there was a whole other part. Fortunately, a book nerd on the sidewalk directed me to walk a little further down for the rest of it.
I’d been hearing about Skylight for years, so this was one of the ones I was most excited about.
Okay, seriously, how cute and cozy is this place? It’s got such a chill vibe. I just wanted to curl up on the floor and read some poetry.
One thing that really impressed me about Skylight was the feminism section. A lot of bookstores have feminism sections that are basically just Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Roxane Gay, bell hooks, and Simone de Beauvoir and maybe a handful of others. But not here. Skylight’s feminism section was ROBUST. I found three books I rarely see on shelves: Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Y. Davis; Witches, Midwives, and Nurses by Barbara Ehrenreich; and the ever controversial SCUM Manifesto by Valerie Solanas.
And just look at that skylight.
Next up, Iliad Books.
From the moment you start walking toward the store, you know you’re in good hands. There are literary murals painted on the walls for like half a block leading up to the building. My favorite was this panel of a magical typewriter.
I also loved this painting as a book being a literal window to other worlds.
Alice entering Wonderland was too good to merely pass by. The Cheshire Cat looks super creepy, though. The rest of the paintings were well done, but I can’t help wondering if this artist has ever seen a cat before. At least it gave me a good laugh.
And I could help taking a picture of a panel that had a jumping Moby Dick AND the characters from The Wizard of Oz. They’re two of my favorite classics.
As you get closer to the store, they have these giant concrete painted book spines. They were nearly as tall as the building, as you can see from my friend for scale. He’s about six feet tall, so I guess the books were at least nine or ten feet!
Inside, Iliad Books is like the bookstores out of fairy tales. Everything is used and packed floor to ceiling. There was also a book ladder. A real, sliding book ladder! Of course I had my Belle-in-the-Beast’s-library moment and got a picture to prove it.
And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I met Zeus, one of the store cats. There’s a particular couch he likes to hang out on in the back of the store and he was kind enough to let me pet him for like ten minutes. His brother, Apollo, also lives at the store, though he was too aloof for me to get a photo of.
Strangely, when I went to pay for my books (The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr and Blue Nights by Joan Didion), the bookseller told me Zeus is persnickety about who he lets pet him. He must have sensed I was missing my own three cats back home.
Just look at that cute face!
They also had boxes of free books outside. If I knew I wasn’t going to spend the rest of the day walking I would’ve grabbed some, but alas. Not that I was going to run out of things to read. In addition to all the bookstores I went to, I brought plenty from home.
Next up, The Library Bar.
I went on this trip in October for my birthday, so the place was decorated a little spookier than they might otherwise do––hence all the fake cobwebs. But I loved it! It added to the Edgar Allen Poe-esque effect.
I felt right at home. I’ve always dreamed of owning a creepy old Victorian house with a library aesthetic similar to this.
And this wasn’t just any cocktail bar. This was a fancy cocktail bar. I don’t normally drop $15 on a tiny drink, but it was my birthday so I opted for the Blackberry Finn. (All the cocktails had literary names.)
Don’t ask me what was in it. I just know it was strong and tasty and I had a healthy buzz by the end of it. Happy Birthday to meeee!
I was lucky because I was in town to see my friends Ethan and Kyle, but my friends Robyn and John, who live in Alabama, both just so happened to be in town the same week for a conference, so I got to celebrate with them all!
I had a lovely time in LA and I can’t wait to go back. Though I was fortunate enough to visit many of the bookstores I wanted to see, I know there are plenty more literary adventures to be had.
What are your favorite LA spots? Tell me in the comments!