I hear this a lot: I don’t read, they don’t read, people don’t read anymore. I don’t buy it. Sure, the Internet’s shortened our attention span, but people will never stop reading books. And I’m not talking Kindles. Don’t even get me started on those. I personally want to throw them across the room when I see someone reading one. There’s nothing like a good book with a real cover and pages that can be dog-eared or scribbled on to get out a random thought a chapter inspired. I didn’t grow up a book worm though. In fact, I didn’t really start reading books consistently until my late 20s. I just never had the attention span until I got older and less antsy.
Now I’m in an actual book club (shout-out to ‘I Heart Books’), where we take turns picking a book and host dinner parties when we’re done reading with the book’s culture as inspiration for the food we cook. Lots of wine is had, and we always end up in deep discussions about how the book relates to our lives. It’s therapy. We’ve read some really good ones too, including The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (my choice; loves it!), Shanghai Girls, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (it’s way better than it sounds).
You can only imagine my excitement when my new job at Voto Latino landed me in the same building as, quite possibly, the coolest bookstore in the world. Located at the corner of 5th and Spring St. in downtown’s historic Spring Arts Tower, The Last Bookstore greets you with a naked armless female mannequin and the words “The Bohemian Society” scrawled across the window display. Owner Josh Spencer started off selling everything from cars to clothes on eBay before taking a risk and opening a business in a rough economy. Today, he honors the vintage feel of the massive, high-ceilinged 98-year-old building by buying and selling amazingly priced used books—my latest find being a $4 copy of A Magical Journey With Carlos Castaneda — old records, and locally-grown Cafecito Organico coffee.
“The name was chosen with irony,” Spencer says. “But it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy as physical bookstores are dying out like dinosaurs from the meteoric impact of Amazon and e-books.”
Books, beans, and vinyl aren’t the only perks here. The Last Bookstore also hosts free events like speakeasy-style open mics, intimate book readings, writing workshops, and musical performances. This is the business model of my dreams and exactly what every neighborhood in L.A. needs. You can catch me browsing their “Metaphysical” section during my lunch break and at their next event, The L.A. Zine Fest, which features 60+ exhibitors, zine-making workshops, and a panel on how to run your own DIY art space.
The Last Bookstore is located at 453 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, CA 90013.