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THE LAST BOOKSTORE

Confession: I am a book junky. No apologies, no excuses.

I give my father a lot of the credit. From a relatively young age, when I was old enough to read and understand the content, my nose was nearly always buried in a book of some sort. It’s not that we had a lot of books, but the few we had I devoured with a passion. We had the Enclyopedia Britannica which I loved leafing through and discovering all sorts of fascinating facts. I don’t know where they came from but we also had a few A.A. Milne books, but I yearned for longer stories like Mr Popper’s Penguins and Nancy Drew Mysteries.

My father and I were, literally, on the same page: he insisted that I read books and he got no argument from me! Every other week, we would drive to the library and then he would wait patiently while I sought out seven books (the maximum allowed) to take home for two weeks. And every fourteen days, like clockwork, we were back at the library for a refill. Today, with Amazon, I have to restrain myself. A little.

You could say we’re a book-centric family. My husband and I both share this sort of intense literary love affair and successfully transmitted it to both of our children. When they were very young, we would take them to the now-defunct Hunter’s Books in Beverly Hills, which opened in 1924 and closed in 1987 when the rents got too high. We would let them wander around for hours, finding books which peaked their interests. They were told that they could buy as many books as they wanted but had to read every single one. And they did.

Not long ago, I came across an article on the internet about The Last Bookstore, describing it as ‘a literary treasure trove in downtown LA.’ I couldn’t get to my car fast enough.

Sandra in front of The Last Bookstore in downtown Los Angeles

“The Last Bookstore is so unusual, it’s hard not to think of the place as one giant mashup of Captain Nemo, Indiana Jones and The Phantom of the Opera,” said our local public radio affiliate KCRW.

Located at the corner of 5th Street and Spring, the store just steps away from some of the grittier parts of Downtown Los Angeles.

Homeless man at The Last Bookstore

But that doesn’t stop hoards of people and, tourists from looking, visiting, photographing, buying and hanging out at this bastion of books.

The Last Bookstore is a remarkable establishment, created and sustained by one man’s love of books. Josh Spencer is the owner.

josh Spencer owner of The Last Bookstore

Josh was a writer, surfer, and an energetic athlete until he was hit by a car on his moped. He then lost feelings from his waist down. It took him months of recovery. But in the end what did he want? A bookstore.

He started out by selling books online from his apartment downtown. Then he opened one bookstore, but when his shop outgrew its space, he acquired a larger location nearby, a 10,000 square foot former bank, which in 1915 opened its doors as Citizens National Bank. The original vault is still there and holds a collection of horror, crime and mystery books.

Sandra at entrance to vault with Horror books

While I didn’t don a deerstalker and cape, I thought I looked pretty cool in my Bristol Shirt by ComfyUSA from Artfulhome.com

The Last Bookstore is like no other.
The first floor is jammed with shelf upon shelf of books.

First floor of The Last Bookstore

The second floor is a labyrinth of used books, in nooks and crannies at great prices. Each genre has a label. You can get lost for hours discovering books you were not aware of.

There are shelves of rainbow coordinated books.

Shelves of rainbow colored books

Books are used as flying buttresses to make a tunnel of books.

Gravity-defying literary archways.

Spelunking in a cave of books.

circle of books at The Last Bookstore

Eccentricities galore.

Four photos of curiosities at The Last Bookstore

Sandra standing and reading at The Last Bookstore

Everyone needs a basic white shirt. This is mine. I know it’s not all white but it works like a basic. I chose this shirt to wear at The Last Bookstore because I loved the stripes against the solid color of the books. Once I thought about it I realized that the stripes reminded me of lines in a notebook. Just meant for writing a book. Perfect for the bookstore. The top is easy to wear, comfortable, stylish and has great movement in the cut of the fabric.  I think this would also look great with a turtleneck underneath. All in all another winner for Artfulhome and their Bristol Shirt by ComfyUSA.

As much as I appreciate the tactile pleasures of holding and reading a printed book, I must confess that I have begun reading ebooks. Recovering from all my surgeries, I discovered that a Kindle was much lighter to hold while I was in bed. I also appreciate being able to adjust to larger fonts for my ageing eyes. So mea culpa, I do read ebooks but I also support the authors by buying tons of books online. In fact, we got an Amazon credit card to capitalize on our purchases. I also borrow ebooks online from our local libraries. It just seems that I’m always in full book mode with one or two books being read at all times.

As the day evaporated, that famous Omar Khayyam quote popped into mind, ‘A Book of Verses underneath the Bough, A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread — and Thou… Well, we certainly had covered more than a few books and now it was time for that jug of wine (or at least a Diet Coke) and a couple of slabs of bread from that loaf, with something in-between.

My husband suggested a nearby spot, the Nickel Diner.

After feeding my soul it was time to feed my body.

Nickel Diner sign

Although it was well into the afternoon, I decided on a breakfast burrito which they served with a homemade biscuit and homemade strawberry preserves. The owner, Monica May, saw me slathering on the preserves and introduced herself. She was delighted that I had questions about the preserves, which tasted more floral than fruity.

She told me they needed to add quince to the preserves because strawberries aren’t as flavorful and sweet at this time of year.

What a great fix! And no hesitation on my part: I bought two pints to take home.

Nickel Interior and dessertts

The menu has some standard items but prepared with ingredients of the highest quality and with flair and great culinary imagination. The chef, Kirsten Trattner, is a woman of great knowledge who really knows how to elevate the mundane to a truly exceptional and delicious level.

My husband ordered a turkey burger with french fries. They were possibly the best french fries I have ever tasted. They were thin, crispy and simply perfect. The dessert tray was next. Would you believe home-made pop tarts, home-made ding dongs, Mexican hot chocolate, smores cake and salted peanut cake made with peanut butter and potato chips. If that weren’t overwhelming enough, they also feature maple bacon doughnuts ( enjoy this video clip with Guy Fieri and a maple glazed doughnut) which could set anyone’s diet back a century. But, you know, it just might be worth it!

Nickel Diner food photographs

Body? Check. Soul? Check.

• • •

Have you discovered a unique restaurant recently? It doesn’t matter whether it’s your corner hot dog stand or a Michelin four star restaurant. Did you saver some special dish that knocked your socks off? Love to know.

Oh, and while you’re at it, what was your favorite book this year? Mine was “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman. Touching, humorous, a thorough delight.

• • •

Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend.
Inside of a dog,
it’s too dark to read.

• Groucho Marx

Groucho Marx leaning on a book stand

 

 

** This post was sponsored by the artistic and stylish Artfulhome. But the opinions are all my own. Thank you Artfulhome.

All images appearing on THE LAST BOOKSTORE are the expressed property of Sandra Sallin. All rights reserved. In other words, don’t steal it!



  • LA CONTESSA - THE BOOKSTORE IS MARVELOUS!I love the archway with the books!I would like to see someone making THAT HAPPEN!
    You look PERFECT in your SHIRT from ARTFUL HOME!
    Also, LOVE how you let your children run around a bookstore and buy whatever they wanted!!!!!!!THAT WAS BRILLIANT!
    I failed in the READING department with MY KIDS………….
    I did have the entire set of NANCY DREW BOOKS however……..I think they were $3.00 when I was a kid and I LOVED BUYING A NEW ONE!Maybe that’s why I consider myself to be such a GOOD DETECTIVE NOW!!!!!!!
    A BEAUTIFUL POST and THAT DINER!!!!!!!!!!!
    I must come back so we can RE-LIVE YOUR POSTS!
    SO MANY PLACES I NEED TO SEE!!!!!!
    XXReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thanks, Contessa. Yes, we would need days to experience all the fun places I’ve found downtown. But we would have a great time. Glad you like my Bristol Shirt. I know you’re the style arbiter.ReplyCancel

  • Judi Briscoe - Oh how I loved vicariously going to the Last Bookstore and lunch with you!

    Favorite childhood reading passion were the Wizard of Oz books.

    Favorite novels enjoyed as an adult are Lonesome Dove and The Shipping News. They are the only two books I have ever re-read.

    Happy Holidays Sandy.
    Your friend in Texas, JudiReplyCancel

    • sandra - Yes, we would have a great time together. I have never gotten into the Wizard of Oz books or anything paranormal today. I’m in a bookclub and they all know I HATE paranormal. I love Lonesome Dove although parts of it scared me. Also enjoyed Shipping News. I’m surprised that there isn’t a murder mystery in your favs. Happy Holidays to you and yours, Judi.ReplyCancel

  • Bonnie Fuller - Brava. Can’t wait to visit this find of a bookstore.
    And you look marvelous…as always, in your Artful Home
    attire.ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Oh Bonnie, this place is absolutely fascinating. Glad you enjoyed.ReplyCancel

  • Renee in Northern California - Sandra, I just love this bookstore…another reason to make a trip down your way in addition to the other L.A. locations you have featured! You look fabulous as always!! Last weekend the husband and I dined at Perry’s in Larkspur, classic american food (nothing exotic), but the location was so pretty set among redwood trees, festively decorated and quiet. A nice respite from the holiday hustle bustle, fit our mood completely. I haven’t read the book “A man called Ove” but, have seen the movie, which was wonderful!!!
    I so enjoy your blog…thank you for writing it!!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thank you so much Renee. I’m so glad you’re finding downtown Los Angeles fascinating. So am I. How lovely to dine in Larspur. I saw the movie, and enjoyed it, but still read the book twice. Have you read anything that you really enjoyed this year?ReplyCancel

  • Brenda Kinsel - Sandra, what a treat! I am a book addict and I’ve also arranged books by color. That wall of books arranged by color was awe-inspiring! Thank you for bringing us to this amazing place. What a treasure! As are you!!

    xo BrendaReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thanks for all your support Brenda. Love your work and your words.ReplyCancel

  • sandra - Via Email:

    This is great!

    Linda ShectorReplyCancel

  • Diana Fassino - What a brilliant bookshop, Sandy!And especially valued at a time when we are losing so many independent book shops due to Amazon. And now, with much competition wiped out–what cheek!– Amazon has started opening its own book shops. . .
    When we were looking for a good place to retire, I found that my husband Dick had a special criteria for judging local libraries; a list of about six fairly esoteric and often obscure books. The Ketchum Community Library here, (started in 1956 by a group of women who all contributed $5 and a few paperbacks, now I believe with an annual new book budget of over two million dollars) passed with such flying colours that we came to live here!
    Like you, I was an avid reader as child, and I became a life-long vegetarian because of Beatrix Potter; rabbit was the main source of meat in the nursery during the war in England. “You’ll never grow up to be a big strong girl if you don’t eat your meat,” said Nanny disapprovingly. Wrong, Nanny. I’m nearly 6 foot tall and fit as a flea at 86!
    Diana
    PS Sandra, have you read my memoir about growing up in England during the war? If you Google my name on Amazon you’ll find two slim volumes. They might make you laugh! X DReplyCancel

    • sandra - Oh Diana, the Ketchum library is my favorite library. I adore that place. So welcoming for readers. Of course I’ve read your novels. I read them the minute I found out you had written them. Loved your memories of growing up in England. Loved them. I agree with you. It’s rather shocking to see an physical Amazon books store.ReplyCancel

  • Susan. Nernberg - Sandy, Reading your blogs about downtown LA makes me so nostalgic for it. When I lived there, 20 years ago, I loved exploring. You have taken the most interesting and unusual places to profile. What an endless area to find subjects for your blog. You will never run out of subjects there.
    It is so impressive how literate and artistic you are, The writing and the photographs are exceptional. And so are you. Keep it up. You have a winning combination.
    Love you, SusanReplyCancel

    • sandra - Oh Susan, I’m so glad you’re enjoying my blog posts. I’m having the best time discovering places in Los Angeles that I can take my clothes to. It’s quite an adventure Love it. Bravo to you. You’ve figured out how to leave a comment. Well done!ReplyCancel

  • Harrisa M Gottlieb - Yes . I love books too.My father started me too. God bless you. H Mary.ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Aren’t we lucky to be so encouraged to read? Glad you enjoyed, Harissa.ReplyCancel

  • Stephanie Stern - Thank you, thank you , my lifelong friend, for the wonderful journeys you have taken us on! The places you discover are always fascinating and you do such a beautiful job of covering them! I look forward to each and every blog, seeing your glorious photographs and loving the way you look in your amazing new wardrobe! You are extraordinary!!!
    ❤️ StevieReplyCancel

    • sandra - Oh, I’m so happy you’re enjoying my posts. I know you’re a reader like I am. So I’m honored that you not only like my posts but you like my style also. I’m having a ball with all these great clothes. Never looked so good. Thank you for commenting. It really is appreciated!ReplyCancel

  • cindy hattersley - I thought I already commented here but it must not have gone through! This was one of your best posts (and there are many). You find the most interesting spots to explore. I love the name…it says it all. You look fabulous in the Bristol Shirt. Amazing how are figures are so different but it is flattering to both. It is definitely a keeper!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thanks for commenting Cindy. Yes, The Last BookstoreIsabsolutly fascinating. You can spend hours and hours here. I love when we both pick the same clothes to wear. You’re right the top looks different on each of us, But fabulous on both of us. Love it!!! Thanks for commenting.ReplyCancel

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