Skip to main content

What’s the Deal? The Best Used Bookstores in California

What’s the Deal? The Best Used Bookstores in California

Today, the best used bookstores in California are hidden treasures, nestled within county libraries or tucked into quirky neighborhoods.


5 min read

February 28, 2022

The classic used bookstore evokes waves of nostalgia; simpler days were filled with the bent pages of formerly loved works of art, evenings were spent holding library books that always had a distinctive smell and an air of excitement, and rainy days were escaped by entering the walls of magical stores that held all of the world’s possibilities. As bookstores become rarer, they also become increasingly unique and more of a destination rather than a happenstance. 

A trip to the local bookstore has become a dream for many, as retailers increasingly move out of brick-and-mortar stores, as books turn into white screens of text rather than tangible items, and as less-than-wholesome marketplaces dominate the online book-buying industry. Used bookstores today are hidden treasures, nestled within county libraries or tucked into quirky neighborhoods beside third-wave coffee shops and vintage clothing stores. 

While most of the best used bookstores have begun selling a combination of new and used titles, the following stores throughout the state continue to feature wide selections of used books and are celebrated in their area for their unusual character.

These are the Best Used Bookstores to Check Out in California

The Best Used Bookstores in the San Francisco Area

Dog Eared Books

Address: 900 Valencia Street, San Francisco

Dog Eared Books has been the go-to spot for new and used books in S.F. for over 25 years. This independent bookstore is located on the bustling corner of 20th and Valencia in San Francisco’s Mission District, with a second location in the Castro District. 

Dog Eared Books features a wide variety of works but specializes in offbeat books, local literature, and small-press releases. This bookstore also offers trade-ins and a bargain bin—and even has a free neighborhood book box outside. Between the eclectic spread of books, magazines, notebooks, and art, you are sure to find something interesting at Dog Eared Books, hence why it earns a spot as one of the best used bookstores in the Golden State.

Why not trade or buy a book from a used bookstore? Leave a few words of wisdom in your book and trade it, so a new reader can see it and smile

Moe’s Books

Address:  2476 Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley

Moe’s Books has been one of the Bay Area’s favorite bookstores since 1959. Located on Telegraph just a few blocks from the beautiful campus of U.C. Berkeley, this famous bookstore continuously shelves thousands of titles. Moe’s also sells numerous books online; in fact, it was one of the earliest online bookstores, having established a prominent site in the early ‘90s. 

In addition to the plethora of deals provided, Moe’s is highly regarded for allowing customers to trade in their used books as well as for throwing legendary, themed launch parties for obscure authors. Over the years, Moe’s has become an extraordinary experience as well as a bucket list destination for literature fans visiting Berkeley.

The Best Used Bookstores on the Central Coast

Used bookstores are great places to find hidden treasures, and many also offer trade-in credit to those who donate gently used books.

Carpe Diem Fine Books

Address: 245 Pearl Street, Monterey

Carpe Diem Fine Books is located in Monterey and specializes in American literature, history, and collectible books. With a charming spot in the historic downtown, owners James Bryant and Mary Hill illustrate their passion for California with a curated selection of art and history volumes written about the state. 

The shelves also showcase a prominent enthusiasm for out-of-print, signed, and unique books of all subjects. Featuring a combination of collectibles, art, and used books, Carpe Diem is one of the best used bookstores and will make your trip to Monterey unforgettable. 

Book Nook

Address: 7721 North First Street, Fresno

Book Nook is an independent used bookstore in Fresno and has a good reputation with local readers. Its shelves are stocked with interesting titles spanning various genres, including fiction, non-fiction, new releases, Westerns, romance, mysteries, religious books, kids' books, and more. Anything you decide to check out of this used bookstore in Fresno, you’ll get for half the cover price—talk about a good deal!

The Best Used Bookstores in Los Angeles

Shelves full of different books and various genres- is this what dreams are made of?

Counterpoint Records and Books

Address: 5911 Franklin Avenue, Los Angeles

Counterpoint Records and Books is a used bookstore in L.A. that has been operating under the iconic Hollywood sign for nearly 40 years. The mom-and-pop shop buys and sells used and rare books, vinyl records, and more—displaying the tapestry of spines from floor to ceiling. While the bookstore has an affinity for the arts, literature, poetry, film, theater, and philosophy, the shelves display various types of titles. 

As you enter this used bookstore in Los Angeles, you’ll notice that there is an understood quietness to it as customers search in awe for their next big find. Rumor has it that Counterpoint will let you climb the ladders to touch the top-shelf gems for yourself—the only way to find out is to visit and see for yourself.

The Last Bookstore

Address: 453 South Spring Street, Los Angeles

The Last Bookstore is not only one of the used bookstores in Los Angeles, but it has also become an iconic representation of the City of Angels itself. The shared structure is home to over 250,000 new and used books spread across two floors, thousands of vinyl records, spaces for book club meetings and events, a labyrinth of book sculptures, a yarn shop, and an art gallery—making it a destination that cannot be passed up. Because of its variety and ability to withstand the shift to online shopping, The Last Bookstore has become one of the largest independent bookstores still standing in the world. 

The Best Used Bookstore in San Diego 

Go old school. Support businesses that sell used books, and you may even find something antique.

Verbatim Books 

Address: 3793 30th Street, San Diego

Verbatim Books is a San Diego outlier and one of the only independently owned used bookstores on our list. In addition to exclusively selling used books, Verbatim is unique in that it does not offer an online inventory and allows local authors to co-sign their books in store to support artists in the community. 

If used books, zines, and antiquarian titles aren’t enough to draw you in through the doors of this used bookstore in San Diego, its walls decorated with works from local artists and photographers definitely will. The shop also hosts the Verbatim Poetry Society’s open mic night every second Wednesday of the month. 

Recomended businesses

Show me
Recommended Businesses near

Discover the best of California. Our recommended businesses are top-quality and are committed to their communities.

Need help with a home improvement project? Get a free quote today!

Enter Your Zip Code

Enter Your Zip Code

RELATED Articles

Discover More

fueled by the power of California love
We're committed to helping you discover the places, people and businesses that make our state Golden. Our online publication, updated daily, brings you all the content you need to live your California dreams. And that's just the beginning…
Purpose section
Purpose section