CityMash.com - Although Portland, Oregon has always held the mantle as the second-hand bookstore capital of the West Coast, Vancouver has been no slouch when it comes to being a center for bibliophiles. With overcast rainy days being a staple, it’s shouldn’t come as a surprise that there’s a rich industry looking to offer some reprieve between the pages of a book.
From expansive floor-to-ceiling mazes constructed of towering columns of first editions to impossibly narrow shops crammed with obscure titles, we took a look at what the city has to offer.
MacLeod’s Book Store – 455 Pender Street W
Leading the way, MacLeod’s has been around for decades and its central location downtown makes it a first-choice for anyone looking for a good read. Don’t be thrown if you find yourself carefully navigating through stacked tomes – it’s actually quite organized and the owner, MacLeod, can point you in the direction of just about any topic, and is a wealth of knowledge.
From classics to contemporary, there’s something here for everyone. Also, don’t forget to check out the basement! I’d been going there for years before I discovered there was another entire level to the place.
*Also nearby is Albion Books at 523 Richards Street, and if you’re after some more unusual genres like hockey or chess – or you’re wanting to bulk up your vintage LP collection – this a quirky stop along the way.
Kestrel Books – 3642 West 4th Avenue
Located in the heart of Kitsilano, Kestrel Books shares a block with the ever popular Banyan Bookstore, but unlike its competitor offers an entirely unique book-shopping experience. Stepping inside you’ll be immediately taken by the quaint setup and extensive shelves of rare, antiquated, and out of print books (if you’re a collector, this is the place to hit up).
With 50,000 titles in stock, they also have a very nice online database.
Additionally, it’s one of the few second-hand bookstores in Vancouver that fits the trope of having a resident feline on their staff – because what’s a bookstore without a cat? Ruby has her own chair and is always greeting customers as they enter the store.
Tanglewood Books – 2306 Broadway W
Another local favorite, Tanglewood Books is both a second-hand book store and a small printing publisher in one. The owner is a friendly guy who has a remarkably diverse array of titles, especially in the way of YA genres, but there’s a spattering of just about everything here.
Because the publishing house focuses primarily on books targeted at kids and teenagers you’ll also find a nice selection of new and used children’s literature.
Pulp Fiction Books – 1830 Commercial Drive
In fact, Pulp Fiction is a second-hand franchise and have two other stores on Main Street and Broadway, but their Commercial Drive location has to be our favorite. Very organized and neatly shelved, it’s almost like walking into a Chapters – except for the fact this place is probably better described as an “alcove” than an actual store.
Nevertheless, you can find some literary gems here, including Canadian titles and translations that look like they’ve just come out of the wrapper as well as local zines like Geist and subTerrain. They manage to keep their selection fresh and there’s a pretty decent turnover, so if you see something you like don’t expect it to be there when you return later!
*They also feature numerous events during the year, including readings from local and international poets like Sarah Kay, Kayla Czaga, and Ali Blythe.
Spartacus Books – 3378 Findlay Street
A little bit hard to find if it’s your first time, Spartacus Books gets a mention not only for its bizarre collection of obscure genres, esoteric classics, and First Nation titles, but also because it’s entirely run by volunteers. The not-for-profit space is kept alive by lit-minded employees, and although small it runs a number of events (and of course they’re always looking for help from people who love books as much as they do!).
A big bonus is the free tea and coffee and complimentary Wi-Fi.