Through the holiday season, four mansions are open daily to visitors: The Breakers, Rosecliff, The Elms, and Marble House. Each was once a private residence for the well-to-do, including famous families like the Vanderbilts, who retreated to the mansions’ grandeur along the cool shores of Rhode Island for summer months. Read more
In the heart of downtown Los Angeles, I discovered a reservoir of quietude. It’s a peaceful refuge for Creatives and others longing to escape from the city’s frenzied pace, if only for a moment. I joined the dreamers and writers, book lovers and music enthusiasts, artists and eclectics, and curious travelers who passed through the oversized door on 5th Street. This oasis was The Last Book Store. Turns out, it’s California’s largest used and new book and record store. It’s also one of the largest independent bookstores in the world.
Over the last decade, independent booksellers have been in a state of decline across the United States. But not The Last Book Store in Los Angeles. In 2005, Josh Spencer established this indie bookstore in a Los Angeles loft.
According to The Last Bookstore’s website, they are “amazed” at their growth in becoming California’s largest used and new book and record store. Now, in its third incarnation, it’s housed within two stories of the Spring Arts Tower on 5th and Spring Street in Downtown Los Angeles.
The Last Bookstore fills 22,000 square feet and holds a hefty collection of about 250,000 new and used books. It is also home to a large record collection, art space (“The Spring Arts Collective“), unique shops, and–be still my heart!–a Rare Books annex.
Part of My Tour of Los Angeles
My daughter, Alison, introduced me to The Last Bookstore on my recent visit to Los Angeles, California. We’d planned a full day before I’d have to catch my flight home to Boston. It included stops at the OUE Skyspace L.A, The Writer’s Guild Library, The Bradbury Building, The Last Bookstore, and Manhattan Beach. (We’re ambitious!)
Alison spoke often of The Last Bookstore. It’s a refuge of creature comforts for the creative to immerse themselves in music, art, and literature. I didn’t fully understand the extraordinary appeal until I saw for myself.
When we arrived, The Last Bookstore hummed with activity. Guests browsed bookshelves and sat on hip red couches beneath marble columns that dominate the space formerly occupied by a bank. With an arched ceiling, balconies, and a mezzanine level, the architecture is reminiscent of the Newport Rhode Island Mansions but without the pretense. Instead, whimsical touches accent the space.
Alison pointed out the Writing Reference section and Creative Nonfiction genre (her favorite), then flipped through the LP records and 45s that filled an entire wing to the right.
I wasn’t expecting California’s largest used and new book and record store to have such personality! For instance, check out the checkout counter made of stacked books. Also, did you notice the wooly mammoth bust?
Used and Rare Books
In a smaller area to the left of the entrance, you’ll find The Arts and Rare Books Annex. This area is a treasure of rare finds, the most valuable books locked behind glass. I imagined running my fingers over the depressed type with the inky aroma, paging through a leather-bound first edition. (Dream on.)
The Capt. Thomas Morris’ 1791 Miscellanies in Prose and Verse, a journal bound in half calf leather and marbleized boards, caught my attention. I thought, how ironic that words of a Captain buried so long ago in my home state (Massachusetts) journeyed all the way to the west coast for me to find. It was a mere $3000, and, to a bibliophile, I’m sure worth every penny.
The 2nd Floor Mezzanine – Whimsical Art Installations & More
As I navigated rows of books placed on the random diagonal (“The Labarynth Above The Last Bookstore”), I spied a hole cut through a wall of books. This made me chuckle, and I further appreciated my newfound loves’ sense of humor.
In a vault formerly used by the bank, a space containing part of the sci-fi and horror collection included H. P. Lovecraft books and the likes. (I didn’t spend time contemplating other maniacal accouterments in this room.)
I especially loved the section dedicated to color. I don’t mean the books’ subject matter was color; the books were sorted by color. How unusual! Brilliant idea if you’re looking for books to accent your home decor.
Finally, I moved through a tunnel made of books. Seriously, what better place for a photo op?
Unique Shops & Exhibits
I traveled the aged planks squaring the perimeter of the second floor, and browsed a series of small interesting shops. Among other curiosities, one had a floor of pennies. I found old typewriters, vintage cameras, and stacks of worn luggage. (They understood my passions as no other!)
My grandfather’s Remington Rand Model 5 typewriter holds a place of honor in my home office. Walking through this holy ground, I wondered whether I dare smuggle home its twin, shown second from the left. I mean, it is a travel typewriter… Instead, I moved along.
Spring Arts Collective
The Spring Arts Collective hosts art exhibits throughout the year on the second floor of The Last Bookstore. I enjoyed many works on display when I visited.
Many art installations, like this one with windows overlooking Downtown L.A., piqued my curiosity and encouraged me to stretch beyond my limiting beliefs as only art can do.
I took inspiration from a giant fiber art piece that looked to me like a dream catcher. Scaling floor to ceiling, it spoke: “Dream big, baby. Dream big!”
With so many talented artists showing, I will say the exhibit space alone is worth a return visit to California’s largest used and new book and record store.
Well Crafted and One-of-a-Kind
There’s no shortage of well-crafted and one-of-a-kind pieces at The Last Bookstore.
A bench made with a Chevy truck gate was one of the numerous custom-made items for sale. This particular shop was closed when I visited, but I glimpsed some very unique items through the glass.
Further along, I found Gather DTLA, a yarn and fiber shop prefaced by a giant canvas cleverly depicting two women. Crocheted. In yarn. In great detail. Wow.
Inside, the store is stocked with organic and hand-dyed yarns and goods, as well as supplies for knitting, crochet, and spinning. I know Gather DTLA would appeal to anyone who appreciates such fine materials and craftsmanship.
California’s Largest Used and New Book and Record Store
What I found most refreshing about The Last Bookstore is it’s not like typical places you’d go to find books. There is no mall attached to it. No uniform rows of over-marketed books. No lattes. No kitschy art. No library cards or overdue fines. No shushing.
Instead, The Last Bookstore offers a uniquely personal experience. It’s an old friend, an anthropomorphism of the creative spirit, an inventive playground, a haven for the like-minded.
I now understood my daughter’s affinity to the place. I could spend hours here. Days, even.
As our excursion ended, Alison presented me with a little brown bag acquired somewhere within The Last Bookstore when I wasn’t looking. I crinkled the paper to retrieved two stickers: Mulder and Scully (of X-Files fame) captioned, “The Truth is Out There” and “I Want to Believe.”
The ever hopeful words resonated with me, especially as I stood before the successful independent bookstore that is California’s largest used and new book and record store: The Last Book Store. Yes, this is a place for hopeful dreamers.
Nestled in the gentle curve between two mountains high above Florence, Italy, you’ll find Fiesole. Favored by aristocrats and wealthy Florentines for its summer breezes and stunning views, it lies across the Arno River and less than thirty minutes northeast of Florence. I think it’s the best place to see the sunset over Florence.
The ancient Tuscan hill town with Etruscan-Roman beginnings offers opportunities to explore the remains of Roman baths, a Roman amphitheater, and the grassy hill on which Leonardo da Vinci experimented with flight. For centuries, this picturesque village has inspired great literature and renaissance art.
Fiesole was a serendipitous break from Florence’s bustling city landscape for me and my friend Mary, both itinerant shutter-bugs. We found it to be an ideal place to explore while capturing a beautiful sunset over Florence. Read more
My daughter, Alison, showed me around L.A. while I visited for her college graduation. Following our excursion to The Last Book Store, we checked out one of the best views of downtown Los Angeles at The OUE Skyspace Los Angeles. It was the perfect pinnacle from which to get a bird’s-eye view of Los Angeles’ expansive cityscape.
OUE Skyspace Los Angeles is on the 69th and 70th floor of the U.S. Bank Tower at 633 W 5th Street, Los Angeles. The attraction features two observation decks, a Skyslide, an interactive Media level, and a rooftop bar with light fare. It also includes a Gift Shop and Cafe on the first floor.
Overseas Union Enterprise (OUE), a Singapore-based hotel and property company, purchased The U.S. Bank Tower in 2013. At the time it was the tallest skyscraper in the West at 1,018 feet. (The Wilshire Grand Tower claimed the title in 2017 at 1,100 feet.) The new owners revitalized the U.S. Bank Tower and made many improvements, including OUE Skyspace Los Angeles, which opened in 2016.
A look up from the foot of the tower gives a sense of how high above the world the observation decks are! OUE Skyspace Los Angeles offers one of the best views of downtown Los Angeles. The unobstructed, panoramic view is California’s tallest open-air observation deck. Read more
We were delighted to learn our trip to Italy coincided with Carnevale di Venezia. In addition to romantic gondolas navigating waterways of the Grand Canal and Italian baroque architecture, we were truly enchanted by costumed Carnevale guests. The weather at this time of year was cool and damp, but it was a small price to pay for the opportunity to experience the surreal world of Carnevale. Read more
I celebrated a certain “big” birthday in the Caribbean. Cat Island, Bahamas is a dreamy place. It’s one of the six Bahamas Out Islands, which also include The Abacos, Acklins, Andros, The Berry Islands, and Bimini. It truly is my island paradise.
There are no high-rise hotels, five-star restaurants, shopping malls or casinos here. If that’s what you’re looking for, I recommend you opt for more popular Bahamas destinations, like Nassau or Grand Bahama.
Cat Island was right up our alley: Long stretches of powdery pink sand to ourselves, al fresco dining along the tranquil, aqua sea, unsurpassed Bahamian hospitality, and one incredible sunset after another. Read more
I’d scheduled only one night in Positano before I’d leave the Amalfi Coast for my family’s inland hometown of Ariano Irpino. Of course, that changed as soon as I arrived. Positano begged me to stay. My love affair with Positano began. Read more
One weekend, our blended family of six piled into the car and road-tripped north for a weekend getaway to Manchester Vermont. Our destination? The Wilburton Inn, a hilltop Tudor-style mansion with several private villas.
The Wilburton Inn is a beautiful throwback to the architectural craftsmanship of yesteryear. It offers fifteen well-appointed, romantic rooms in the main mansion. In addition, several private vacation villas are nestled within the 30 hilltop acres. Read more