Hey y’all! Another entry in this A Nerd Girl’s Adventure for your pleasure! Last time the adventure was a quirky but educational app focusing on Type-2 diabetes featuring a fellow Black girl named Emily. This time I ventured to The Last Bookstore located on Spring Street in Downtown Los Angeles. It’s a building which houses many, many books: old and new. It also houses a little bit of everything for everyone and part of the adventure is taking the plunge, entering this place and finding out just what strikes your fancy. Started in 2005, this unique bookstore is not only one of California’s biggest bookstores but also boasts that it is one of the biggest independent bookstores in the world still standing.
What’s Special About It: One reason why this place is so appealing is because of the many art installations within. There is art everywhere here. Art pieces and installations decorate nearly every inch of the store. Speaking of art installations, there are several using books — actual books — to create an arch, wide enough for several people to walk through, that tunnels you further into the room. Another installation is a shelf covered in books with an opening in the middle where you can look out, touch the shoulder of a friend, and even pose for a photo. It forces you to interact with others — with your friends or total strangers.
It’s art that you can touch. (BUT you shouldn’t because there is a sign at the bookcase that asks that you DON’T.) It’s art that has a unifying theme: books. Books being used as mini-structures within a bigger structure. I felt a little in awe moving through this enormous space and being around these pieces. I daresay I even say there was a rhythm or repetition, with these books being of the same size roughly to fit perfectly together. I like to think that as an amateur art critic, I had a bit more insight than the average visitor. I saw how the art installations were effective in making the space memorable and a sight to return to and talk about: making that store and that street a place where it can not only be seen as a business but as a space for art for a time to come. Navigation: Newer books are on the first floor and the older, discounted books are on the second floor. Don’t be discouraged from staying upstairs if you’re looking for a deal. While the upstairs is a treat, the first floor is an open concept area where you can explore as well. Don’t miss the Rare Book Annex! Nerd Alert: Everything from Star Trek and Star Wars paperback novels (old and newer) to Tolkien and Doctor Who books and merch is here. There’s manga and manwha stashed away too, you’ve got to look but it’s there. There is also a special section for the comic books and graphic novels on the first floor. You can miss it, as it is on the way if you are going upstairs. It’s a little sectioned off place where you’ll see trades from Marvel, DC, and Image and a great little collection of kid-friendly comics and other reading material which is cool for the younger readers.
Yooooooo! A photo posted by carebearsonfire (@carebearsonfire) on
Bonus: The DOLLAR ROOM upstairs. There’s a special room of books that are no more than a dollar. But beware, it closes at a certain time.
What’s also there: An art gallery. Mini spaces that include stores. Artists at work. I stumbled upon Liz Hurtson in her artist space and had a short chat with her. I also saw Andrea Bogdan working away furiously on an canvas. There’s also a yarn shop. There’s vinyl. Art tucked away in almost every other corner.
Vinyl: There’s a modest vinyl record collection and some short stacks of dollar records along the wall. For someone like me who was raised and spent most of her life in Los Angeles, I’ve been visiting Amoeba Records in Hollywood since I was a teenager. But if you don’t feel like swimming through the Hollywood traffic, it’s really nice to see another collection in the Los Angeles area you can pop into and visit.
#thelastbookstore also has vinyl. Good stuff. The Minnie was $15 but I raided the 99 cent bins for the others. I’m probably going to play that Minnie record for the next few days. #NotSorry #minnieriperton #vinyl A photo posted by carebearsonfire (@carebearsonfire) on
Parking: Parking is T-R-A-S-H. YUP, I said it. There’s a greater chance of me being worthy of Thor’s hammer than of you finding parking around this store. I wish I didn’t have to be so blunt but this is true. And if you do find parking be prepared to sacrifice no less than three dollars in change to gain enough time for at least an hour. I would HIGHLY suggest having a friend or loved one drop you off at the store, or think of Uber, or taking the bus or other public transportation if you are local.
Other Information You Should Know: NO PUBLIC BATHROOMS. NONE. Now there is a Walgreens down the street where you can visit to handle your business but know this before you go in, fam. This is a place where you can get lost for hours at a time. Also note the bag checking policy inside by the entrance: if you have “any bag larger than an 8×11″ sheet of paper” (aka anything bigger than what you’d take notes on for a class, fam), you’re going to have to leave it with security. So before you pop up with your Captain America shield backpack or have your diaper bag on deck, be okay with leaving it at the front.
In a world where we constantly engage each other online and do much of our book buying and reading digitally, it’s nice to find a place where you can go “off the grid” for a short while and get lost in the collection of books that reside in this building. It brings back a real feeling of nostalgia of going to a bookstore and walking around with a pile of books under your arm. When was the last you can say you did that? Bring a friend, snap some photos, find some good reads. It’s really a fun place to spend a free Saturday afternoon, truthfully. It’s also a neat venue to soak in some of that Los Angeles atmosphere. This place has an events calendar that you should check out, featuring a wide variety of entertainment from artists signings to writing panels and musical guests. Whether you consider it a sanctuary of books, it’s plain to see that the store is a creative landmark in the downtown Los Angeles area and also a wonderful place to be like Alice from Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland and find yourself falling down the rabbit hole.
Like this Nerd Girl’s Adventure? Catch up on the rest of the series!