No matter the time of year, there are few pastimes more satisfying or self-indulgent than reading. However, now that Vancouver’s rainy season has settled in, we’re looking forward to the excuse for some guilt-free shut-in time spent catching on our reading list (it’s long) and escaping into the comforting, fragrant company of books, books, books!
Once again, we’ve compiled our list of local bookstores – and a few low key non-bookstore ‘bookstores’ – that we suggest for filling out your personal library with fiction, non and everything in-between….
Readers and collectors alike will always find something on the crowded shelves of this unassuming but thoughtfully stocked second-hand bookshop (a few records too).
Banyen is much more than a book shop. It’s also a wellness emporium, a West 4th cornerstone and a time portal to Kitsilano’s hippy heyday. The 50-year-old neighbourhood institution is a one-stopper for all your self-awareness and healing needs, from printed matter to ritualistic tools like crystals, beads, chimes, incense and more.
Canterbury Tales sells new and used books on The Drive. The always welcoming staff are well read and knowledgeable. Recognizing (and celebrating) the fact that their community is made up of an eclectic cross-section of readers, the team at Canterbury Tales work hard to match their customers with the perfect book.
This local and independent bookstore curates a selection of new books in a wide selection of subject areas including art, photography, fiction, memoir, biography, travel, psychology, history, cookbooks and gardening.
A top notch resource for every stage of the reading-with-kids journey. From drool proof board books and classic bedtime stories to graphic novels, chapter books and puzzles, this place has parents covered.
In operation since 1985, Kestrel provides a great selection of used, rare and out-of-print books in a multitude of subject areas. As they put it: “From Archie Comics to Medieval Manuscripts, there is a collecting field for any budget and any age”.
This West End institution is the place for sexy publications and accessories for the entire rainbow of readers and their pleasures. Inarguably a vital member of the Vancouver community, you can satisfy your needs by seeking them out at their prime location on the Davie St. strip.
This perky little Main Street shop is not your typical comic book store. Lucky’s is the place to go for graphic novels and local indie comic artists, plus a small collection of non-fiction and children’s books. A visit here is always a colourful experience!
Well known for its role in the 1984 fantasy film, The NeverEnding Story, this legendary icon epitomizes the secondhand bookstore experience: think shelves overflowing with vintage and preloved titles, loads of character and a dense aroma of old and beloved paper.
An entirely woman- and Indigenous-owned business, this Chinatown book shop is a big time supporter of underrepresented authors and independent press publications, as well as local community artists. Massy Arts Society’s newly relocated gallery space (formerly upstairs from the retail store, now at 23 Pender St.) regularly hosts poetry readings, book launches, and discussions.
Sniff out this sweet little nook of books when you’re looking for something special. Co-owned by Kim Koch and Rob Clarke, The Paper Hound Bookshop launched at its current location on Pender Street in 2013. (We took an interest in it immediately after the whippet brand was painted on the papered up windows, and it continues to be our one of favourite Vancouver downtown spots for new, used and rare books.) The used books shelves are organized into some clever niches and the new book selection includes some hard to find publishers.
Now with over two decades of bookish business behind them since opening their Main Street flagship, Pulp Fiction’s current three locations (Mount Pleasant, Kitsilano and Commercial Drive) are home to tens of thousands of titles, including a thoughtful library of new books and shelves of used volumes that are constantly being picked over and added to (mind yourself while navigating the piles of incoming and to-be-sorted books if you want to avoid a disastrous Jenga-like incident). If you spot something in the window that you have to have, don’t wait to snatch it up!
Vancouver’s long-running resource for mental health books covers the full spectrum of issues, and includes everything from illustrated children’s books to educational texts and memoirs. Odin’s spacious Broadway location opened its doors a half-block east of the prominent Main street intersection in 2019.
An art and design forward bookstore located within the Libby Leshgold Gallery at Emily Carr University. This is a place to get lost and inspired.
Although they relocated to Commercial Drive in 2022, Spartacus has been East Vancouver’s headquarters for socially conscious and progressive publications since the early 70s. The nonprofit organization, which is entirely volunteer-run, has also historically been the spot for alternative activist activities including prison letter writing, accordion circles and other meetings for the radically minded.
For skateboard-related publications ranging from illustrated children’s books to thick coffee table books and zines, look no further than Main Street’s Antisocial Skateboard Shop. Trust the peeps who live and breathe skateboarding to hone in on only the best of what’s available out there.
Although only freshly opened as of early November 2021, the book and magazine selection at Mucker Next Door (the new retail extension of Dachi) looks very promising – and tantalizing! Think edgy, cultish culinary magazines, and other must-reads in the realm of food and wine realm.
You may have realized, but 51 Powell Street – aka the third and newest ‘Objects’ oriented retail space in Neighbour’s trifecta of Gastown locations – is also home to a tight little ‘Print’ section. Think slick, cutting edge, high quality and highly curated design and art books, International magazines, and vintage publications, as well as Neighbour Book Club titles recommended by an impressive circle of the shop’s artist, writer and designer friends.
Mount Pleasant’s go-to shop for niche art, film, fashion and design publications, including impressive coffee table tomes, special editions, travel guides, magazines and quintessential Vancouver-related publications.
Bizarre that Canada’s oldest independent bookstore — People’s Co-op Bookstore on Commercial Drive — is not included in this list.