Literary Tourism: The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles, California
A couple of weeks ago, I celebrated my 28th birthday by visiting my best friend Ethan in LA and I couldn’t pass up the plentiful opportunities for book nerdery!
I tend to do my literary tourism series where one post is dedicated to a whole city, but that’s just not going to work for LA. I went to four bookstores while there, as well as The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and have over 100 pictures. And those are just the good ones––I took more.
Plus, The Last Book Store is perhaps the most bookishly Instagrammable place I’ve ever been, so it needs its own post. Keep reading; it won’t be hard to convince you why.
The Last Bookstore is in downtown LA in a massive building that formerly housed a bank. It takes up the better part of a city block and several of the bank’s quirks, like the vaults, are still visible and have been put to beautiful use by the bookstore.
My friend and my best friend’s partner, Kyle, accompanied me on the trip and helped me capture the magic. AKA, followed me around the store, waiting patiently to take my picture while I tried not to cry tears of joy.
The first thing you do when you walk in is look up. The ceiling is two stories high, adding a majestic air to the space. As if bookstores weren’t majestic enough on their own.
One of the first things I immediately noticed about The Last Bookstore is that they value visual art just as much as books and they don’t think that books are too sacred to make epic sculptures out of.
Ironically, this added an even more reverential air to the store. The sculptures are truly beautiful, born of love, not some misguided desire to destroy books, and you can’t help but be drawn in by them.
The Last Bookstore also has a sense of humor. The marquee going into the comics and graphic section for one. But the best part was the sign you see upon exiting this same section (and I regret forgetting to get a picture of this!). It says something to the effect of “Please do not remove the books from this section unless you’re planning on buying the damn thing.”
This is one of those bank vaults that has been repurposed into a reading room. It seems appropriate that old books are in a cozy, cute little room of their own.
These book sculptures were my favorite. And after the wedding crafts I did with old copies of Reader’s Digest, I’m feeling a little inspired to recreate these in my house… But I’d have to give up some of my beloved shelf space for books I actually want to read, so that’s the only thing that’s stopping me.
This view! I told you this place was majestic!
And of course I went for the obligatory Instagram shot. You’ve probably seen this book arch all over the internet, but it was too cool not to experience for myself.
It looks so basic compared to the other pieces of art all over The Last Bookstore, but THIS piece is my favorite. It speaks to me because, even as a little kid, I’ve always known that books could change the world and the education paves the way for peace.
I think the world would be a better place if we replaced weapons of mass destruction with weapons of mass education. Books, not bombs. Books, not guns.
The labyrinth is where most of the art is, including the book arch and the cool shelves. It’s like a winding maze into a wonderland of books. It sounds cliche to say it’s magic, but it’s hard to describe it with honesty any other way.
I don’t know if the elephant head is real or not, but I really hope not.
I don’t much believe in competition, as I believe there’s always more room at the top and always more room for cool stuff. But if I had to pick a new favorite bookstore… The Last Bookstore takes the cake. I say that because it’s a bookstore, but it’s also an experience.
One of the many reasons book nerds read is because they want to be whisked away into a new reality. For a bookstore to recreate that experience is beyond lovely. If you ever get the chance to go, I can’t recommend it highly enough.
And of course I bought a book! Eve Babitz is one of the quintessential LA writers, so I went with her recently reissued novel Sex & Rage.