California’s Largest Used and New Book and Record Store [Photo Tour]

A Visit to The Last Bookstore

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.


California's Largest Used and New Book and Record Store - entrance


In this article, you are invited to…


Discover Los Angeles’ Best Kept Literary Secret

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.

California's Largest Used and New Book and Record Store

Find Refuge for Music, Art, and Book Lovers

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?

California's Largest Used and New Book and Record Store
California's Largest Used and New Book and Record Store
California's Largest Used and New Book and Record Store
California's Largest Used and New Book and Record Store
California's Largest Used and New Book and Record Store - 45s

Search the Arts and Rare Books Annex for Treasures

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.
California's Largest Used and New Book and Record Store - Rare Books
California's Largest Used and New Book and Record Store - Arts
California's Largest Used and New Book and Record Store - Rare Books
California's Largest Used and New Book and Record Store - Rare Books

Enjoy Whimsical Art Installations & More

After I’d devoured almost every inch of the first floor, I ascended two flights of hand-lettered risers to the Mezzanine level. Here, the Last Bookstore shared its more intimate quirkiness beyond being California’s largest used and new book and record store.California's Largest Used and New Book and Record Store - stairs
At the top of the stairs, I stood mesmerized by a whimsical still life. I absorbed every bit of this disproportionate curiosity, from the pages spewing from the typewriter to flying books to the wastebasket stacked like a Christmas tree. I’d say they captured the organized chaos of my creative process! I began to love these creators, whoever they were. California's Largest Used and New Book and Record Store - Quirky
I absorbed every bit of this disproportionate curiosity, from the pages spewing from the typewriter to flying books to the wastebasket stacked like a Christmas tree. I'd say they captured the organized chaos of my creative process!… Click To Tweet

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?California's Largest Used and New Book and Record Store - Hole in Bookshelf
California's Largest Used and New Book and Record Store - Colorful Books
California's Largest Used and New Book and Record Store - Tunnel

Shop Unique Artisan Spaces & 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.
California's Largest Used and New Book and Record Store - Vintage Typewriters
California's Largest Used and New Book and Record Store - Vintage Cameras
California's Largest Used and New Book and Record Store - Vintage Luggage

Admire the 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.

California's Largest Used and New Book and Record Store - Spring Arts Collective
California's Largest Used and New Book and Record Store - Spring Arts Collective
California's Largest Used and New Book and Record Store - Spring Arts Collective

Look for Well Crafted and One-of-a-Kind Items

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 - Unique Finds
California's Largest Used and New Book and Record Store - Gather DTLA
California's Largest Used and New Book and Record Store - Gather DTLA

Experience A Book and Record Store Like No Other

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.

The Last Book Store 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. #lastbookstorela #creativespirit #books #writer Click To Tweet
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Jackie Gately

Jackie Gately is a seasoned travel writer, photographer, and marketing consultant who is passionate about travel. She loves casual-luxury experiences, coastal getaways, cultural attractions, and local, wholesome food and wine pairings. A perfect day ends with her toes in the sand or by chasing the sunset with her camera--ideally both.

22 thoughts on “California’s Largest Used and New Book and Record Store [Photo Tour]

  • April 1, 2020 at 12:51 am
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    I’m totally convinced about visiting this bookstore when I go to California. I never knew about this before. In my hometown there’s an entire street which happens to be the largest second-hand bookmart in the world! That’s the favorite part of my city, and I’m sure I’ll like the last bookstore just as much.

    Reply
    • April 1, 2020 at 9:25 am
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      And I would love to stroll your street and the bookmart, Sinjana! Sounds amazing.

      Reply
  • April 1, 2020 at 12:11 am
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    I never knew about The Last Book Store, California’s largest used and new book and record store. Good to know that it is one of the largest independent bookstores in the world! They have also created the artistic vibes on top of the stairs where the decor looks inspired by whimsical still life. Not only this is a book shop but a museum of books.

    Reply
  • March 30, 2020 at 11:53 pm
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    You must really thank Alison for introducing you to the Last Book Store. She is such a darling! The Last Book Store definitely looks the place I would love to spend a lot of time. I hope it inculcates the habit of reading among people again. I really liked the idea of sorting books according to colors. It would look really cool. While we have College Street back in my city, which also happens to be one of the largest book markets in the world, I would love to visit the Last Book Store just for the arrangement of the books in the store. Thanks for sharing this Jackie.

    Reply
    • April 1, 2020 at 9:32 am
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      Thanks for the kind words, Amrita! I’m really blessed to have a daughter who knows exactly the kinds of things I enjoy and shares many interests. 😀 I hope you have a chance to visit The Last Bookstore for yourself. It’s a pretty cool place!

      Reply
  • March 30, 2020 at 11:00 pm
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    The Last Book Store looks like such a cool place to visit in California let alone make some purchases. I love bookstores like these, the ones that have character and seem to convey much more than just sell books. For example, that stacked book counter or the still life representation. So creative! Would love to visit this book store on my next trip there.

    Reply
    • April 1, 2020 at 9:35 am
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      Isn’t that book counter creative?! It’s one of many interesting still lifes you’ll find there. Hope you come see it for yourself sometime, Soumya.

      Reply
  • March 30, 2020 at 6:57 pm
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    The Last Bookstore looks like a fab place to while away a few hours! That book tunnel really captures the imagination. Rare books and unique artwork are right up my street. It’s on my list for the day that I eventually make it to LA. Thanks for the local’s tip Jackie 🙂

    Reply
    • April 1, 2020 at 9:36 am
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      It’s definitely a “must-see” when you’re in L.A. Freya!

      Reply
  • March 30, 2020 at 3:36 pm
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    What an amazing place to go! I can see spending hours here with my daughter, who never met a book she didn’t love. I think it would be an expensive trip though. I love all the different ways they decorated and how they brought the books to life. I really love that hole cut through the wall. It pulls you in. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t pay $3000 for a book though. I would be too afraid to open it.

    Reply
    • April 1, 2020 at 9:39 am
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      I don’t hesitate to buy a good book, but those collectibles are definitely more “art” than book at $3,000! LOL. It’s a great mother-daughter excursion for sure–even if just to sit and browse some of the titles. It’s a very welcoming place!

      Reply
  • March 2, 2020 at 6:53 pm
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    Wow, this looks like such an amazing book store! I need to add this to my list of places that I must visit. I always make it a habit of visiting local bookstores whenever I travel but I would go out of my way to visit California just to go here.

    Reply
    • March 3, 2020 at 8:05 am
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      It really is an unusual place with so much to offer. I hope you get the chance to check it out. If you love book stores, you’ll love this one!

      Reply
  • August 21, 2018 at 9:51 am
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    Oh wow this place looks totally epic to visit. I love the vibe it has and it must be so cool to explore!

    Reply
  • August 21, 2018 at 5:43 am
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    It does look like a fun place to visit. And what?what?what? were those 45’s?? I haven’t seen those in forever. So cool!

    Reply
  • August 20, 2018 at 6:47 pm
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    nice information and all pics are beautiful….. I like that stair case one…..
    nicely narrated …………..

    Reply
  • August 20, 2018 at 11:37 am
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    What a nice place. I love the settings and the vintage luggage.

    Reply
  • August 19, 2018 at 6:36 am
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    Thank you for sharing, the place looks amazing. I would love to visit one day!

    Reply
  • August 19, 2018 at 2:19 am
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    Wow! Places like this are a complete treasure trove for me! We have nothing like that here!

    We are planning to go on a road trip through the US for our honeymoon so I’ve added this to the list of places to visit! Keep up the great work! x

    Reply
  • August 19, 2018 at 12:25 am
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    This looks like the type of bookstore where you go in and lose an afternoon. I love bookstores! This looks like next level and I love all the quirky corners. Thanks for sharing photos 🙂

    Reply
  • August 18, 2018 at 6:10 pm
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    Wow! This book store is indeed huge! I haven’t been to this kind of book store and I would definitely love to visit! I am now imagining myself in this place and enjoying the scent of the books! Haha

    Reply

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