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 up 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 favourite local bookstores (and a few low key non-bookstore ‘bookstores’) to use as a guide for all your holiday gift-giving needs, and/or for filling your personal library shelves over the months ahead…
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 hippie heyday. The 52-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.
Recognizing (and celebrating) the fact that their community is made up of an eclectic cross-section of readers, the always welcoming and knowledgeable team at Canterbury Tales on The Drive work hard to match their customers with the perfect book.
From rare books to best sellers in areas of literature, sci-fi, kids, cookbooks, art and religion, as well as a selection of quality used vinyl.
Books for human beings of all ages – from birth to adult – can be found at Collage Collage. A visit to this colourful little Main Street shop is always a joy.
Local and independent, Kerrisdale’s Hager Books 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.
In addition to their well-travelled mobile book truck (the first of its kind in Vancouver), Indigenous-owned and community-minded Iron Dog Books also has an East Van brick-and-mortar location, where they’ve been been bringing people together through a shared love of books since 2019.
With two locations, Kidsbooks is 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”.
Little Sister’s 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, satisfy your needs by seeking out this West End institution 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, legendary icon Macleod’s Books 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, Chinatown book shop Massy Books is a big time supporter of underrepresented authors and independent press publications, as well as local community artists. Massy Arts Society’s gallery space (located a few blocks northwest at 23 Pender St.) regularly hosts poetry readings, book launches, and discussions.
Vancouver’s long-running resource for mental health books covers the full spectrum of issues, including everything from illustrated children’s books to educational texts, and memoirs. Odin Books opened doors to its spacious Broadway location (at Main Street) in 2019.
Sniff out this sweet little nook of books, co-owned by Kim Koch and Rob Clarke, when you’re looking for something special. We took an interest in The Paper Hound Bookshop immediately after spotting their whippet brand mascot painted on the papered up windows back in 2013, and it continues to be one of our favourite Vancouver 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 Books’ three locations (Mount Pleasant, Kitsilano and Commercial Drive) are collectively home to tens of thousands of titles, including a thoughtful inventory 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!
“Canada’s Oldest Bookstore”, the People’s Co-Op, can be found on Commercial Drive, on the block between Kitchener and Charles streets. You’ll find new and used titles alike lining the shelves of this humble, member-owned local and national landmark.
An art and design forward bookstore located within the Libby Leshgold Gallery at Emily Carr University, Read Books 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.
You’ll find everything from international and translated fiction to local authors and works from independent publishers on the shelves at this little Granville Island book shop, open since summer 2020. In addition to their extensive library, Upstart & Crow is a community hub for readers: their space regularly hosts events like book launches, author signings, and the recent boozy/bookish ‘Top Shelf’ soiree; while plans for a ‘Found in Translation’ book club, a literary subscription service, and rotating ‘Storytellers in Residence’ program are all currently in the works. Truly a space for and run by book- and literature-lovers!
For skateboard-related publications ranging from illustrated children’s books to slick coffee table tomes and cult/niche 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.
Since opening in November 2021, the book and magazine selection at Mucker Next Door (the retail extension of Dachi restaurant) has been tantalizing our bookish appetites with their selection of edgy and cultish culinary magazines, and other must-reads for food- and wine-lovers.
You may not 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.
More than a furniture shop, Vancouver Special is also Mount Pleasant’s go-to spot for niche art, film, fashion and design publications, including impressive coffee table tomes, special editions, travel guides, magazines and quintessential Vancouver-related publications.
Did we miss someone? If you have a favourite bookstore that you think should have been included in this list, but wasn’t, please comment below or send your suggestion to michelle [at] scoutmagazine.ca