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The Best Independent Bookstores in Every Region of California
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The Best Independent Bookstores in Every Region of California

Whether you’re looking for books by female authors or supporting Black-owned businesses, these independent bookstores won’t disappoint.

California.com

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7 min read

April 27, 2021

Picture this: you just walked into a bookstore, found the first book on your reading list, and inhaled the sweet, musky scent of paper—and are immediately transported to another universe. Bookstores don’t just sell reading material for your next term paper, they also welcome you to the magnificent world of literature run by bibliophiles. And what better place to experience all that and more than in the Golden State?

California is home to some of the best independent bookstores in the country. Whether you’re looking for books by female authors or supporting Black-owned businesses, these famous bookstores won’t disappoint.  

P.S. If you don’t like to read, you clearly haven’t found the right book yet. 

The best book stores in Northern California

Buy your favorite book from Dog Eared Books and start every morning with a good read. Photo courtesy of Dog Eared Books.

Dog Eared Books 

Location: 900 Valencia Street, San Francisco

Established in 1992, Dog Eared Books has books for all kinds of readers. From new and used books to poetry and cookbooks, this is the place where you’ll find them all. This bookstore in California is famous for its affordable prices—no more breaking the bank when buying all the best-sellers. While you’ll find every type of reading material here, Dog Eared Books specializes in local literature. This bookstore in San Francisco's Mission District is so fascinating that it’ll only get you more addicted to reading. 

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Recycle Bookstore

Location: 1066 The Alameda, San Jose

In the heart of Silicon Valley lies a reader’s dream—Recycle Bookstore. This charming used bookstore allows you to sell, trade, and buy new books. If you’re looking for your next novel by one of California’s renowned Black writers, come to Recycle to get your fix. Here, you’ll find everything from sci-fi and history to children’s books. If you’re a cat person, you’re in for a treat. You’ll find fluffy animals hiding in boxes, roaming around the bookstore, and probably judging the books you’re interested in. 

Noteworthy bookstores in California's Bay Area

The best place for a reader to be is between the pages of a book. Get new reading material from Moe's Books. Photo courtesy of Moe's Books.

Moe’s Books

Location: 2476 Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley

As one of the best indie bookstores in the Bay Area, Moe’s Books is a bookworm’s paradise. Not much has changed since Moe’s Books first opened in the Beatnik era's heyday. This incredible bookstore is filled with new and used books. With four floors of reading material to discover, you’ll definitely find what you’re looking for. From half-priced classics to fiction and academic books, this bookstore in California is not to be missed.

A Great Good Place For Books

Location: 6120 La Salle Avenue, Oakland

This famous bookstore is pretty self-explanatory. A Great Good Place For Books is stacked with all kinds of reading material. Autobiography? You got it. Young adult? That too. The friendly staff offers spot-on recommendations so you won’t have to scroll on Goodreads anymore. Regularly hosting authors and book events, this bookstore is truly a ‘great good place’ to check out. 

Local bookstores near Sacramento

Reading gives us somewhere to go when we have to stay where we are. Head over to Beers Books to find new places to go.

Beers Books

Location: 915 South Street, Sacramento

If you like big books and cannot lie, head over to the coolest and best bookstore in Northern California. Beers Books has been serving the book-hungry residents of Sacramento for over 80 years. From contemporary paperbacks to renowned classics, this fairly large bookstore has the perfect balance of old and new. Support this local bookstore in Sacramento and add another title to your fall reading list.

Underground Books

Location: 2814 34th Street, Sacramento

As an essential part of the Oak Park community, Underground Books stands out among local bookstores in Sacramento. The non-profit Black-owned bookstore is a literary hub where passionate readers regularly gather. Underground Books is more than a bookstore; readers attend book signings, lectures, poetry events, and children’s storytime sessions. With a great selection of books, you simply have to visit this wonderful bookstore in California. 

The best indie bookstores in Central California

You know what's a 'novel' idea? Getting new books when you already have plenty to read. So many books, so little time!

A Book Barn

Location: 640 Clovis Avenue, Clovis

One of the best things to do in the Central Valley is looking for rare and out-of-print books—A Book Barn is the best pick to do so. One of the largest and best bookstores in the area, A Book Barn carries extensive collections for bibliophiles. You’ll find anything from fantasy and romance to first edition books. Whether you’re on the hunt for something specific or just a good read, A Book Barn is the place to be.

Take a break from everyday life and escape into the world of literature at Pilgrim's Way Community Bookstore and Secret Garden.

Pilgrim’s Way Community Bookstore and Secret Garden

Location: Dolores Street between 5th and 6th, Carmel-by-the-Sea

Pilgrim’s Way Community Bookstore and Secret Garden is a peaceful getaway from the hustle and bustle of the world. A visit to this extraordinary bookstore is a unique experience. This famous bookstore is the last of its kind in Carmel, offering the latest indie bestsellers among many other genres. Besides books, you can purchase sustainable handmade items that make great souvenirs. 

Dr. Cain's Comics

Location: 778 Marsh Street Suite 110, San Luis Obispo

Avengers, assemble at Dr. Cain’s Comics—San Luis Obispo’s best independent bookstore. Comic book fans all over the state get a taste of the Marvel and DC Universe at this awesome spot. If you’re just starting to get into comic books, Dr. Cain’s Comics is a great place to start your journey. Don’t get overwhelmed with the many choices; the friendly staff and owner Reid Cain are always ready to offer recommendations.

Local bookstores near Los Angeles

Science fiction, romance novels, and all kinds of children's books are found at Los Angeles's Skylight Books. Photo courtesy of Skylight Books.

Skylight Books

Location: 1818 North Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles

From crowd pleasers to unusual reads, Skylight Books has it all. This local bookstore in Los Angeles surprises visitors with a huge tree growing right in the middle of the space. Bibliophiles come here to browse for literary fiction, graphic novels, children’s books, and everything in between. Thanks to thousands of carefully chosen books, your first visit to Skylight Books won’t be the last.

Secret Headquarters

Location: 3817 West Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles

Looking for a place to buy, read, and talk comics? Secret Headquarters is one of the best bookstores where graphic novel enthusiasts regularly gather. Here, you’ll find rare comics and gems for advanced collectors. The selection features the latest and most interesting comic books and graphic novels. A haven for comic book fanatics, Secret Headquarters is where you’ll find the crème de la crème.

Looking for the next best-seller to add to your reading list? Make your way to Book Soup. Photo courtesy of Book Soup.

Book Soup

Location: 8818 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood

Book Soup is among the coolest local bookstores in Los Angeles. Walk in with one book in mind and get carried away by others—the floor-to-ceiling shelves are packed with 60,000 titles on art, film, photography, music, non-fiction, and literary fiction. If that hasn’t captivated you yet, then vinyl record reissues and the celebrity clientele should do the trick. Book Soup also has an impressive collection of books on the city’s architecture and history; a true L.A. explorer won’t skip this one.

The best independent bookstores near San Diego

Rare books and vintage magazines are all over the place at Bluestocking Books. Photo courtesy of Bluestocking Books.

Bluestocking Books

Location: 3817 Fifth Avenue, San Diego

Want to check out the best independent bookstore in SoCal? Pay a visit to Bluestocking Books, where random picks end up being awesome reads. The wide variety of books in every category greatly serves the San Diego reading community. This character-filled bookstore is as quirky and unique as it gets. Next time you’re compiling a reading list, keep Bluestocking Books on your radar. 

Whether or not you have enough space, there's always room for more. Buy your next read from Verbatim Books. Photo courtesy of Verbatim Books.

Verbatim Books

Location: 3793 30th Street, San Diego

Rediscover classics and find works by local writers at Verbatim Books, a reading enthusiast's paradise. The eclectic decor and artwork-studded walls take your experience to a whole new level. When visiting, check out the zine corner to see pieces from local creators. Visit on the second Wednesday of any month for a delightful evening well spent with the Verbatim Poetry Society. Your own books can also find a new home in one of California’s best independent bookstores.

Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore

Location: 3555 Rosecrans Street Suite 107, San Diego

Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore is a sanctuary for sci-fi and fantasy fanatics. But this bookstore in California offers more than that. Here, you’ll also find mystery, young adult, and romance novels that intrigue you. The employees at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore are just as passionate about reading as you are. This famous bookstore regularly hosts events, so you’ll also have opportunities to meet creative authors. 

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