VANCOUVER WEEKEND: We're thinking... bookstores
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Don’t get us wrong, we love that you’re currently reading the Straight on whatever screen you might be staring at right now… but sometimes it’s nice to peel those eyes away from the pixels and focus on some old school ink and paper.
Vancouver is full of beautiful bookstores to get lost in, so we decided to highlight a few of our favourites to help you find your next to-read.
…or to add to that ever-growing stack of novels that “you’ve been meaning to get to.” No judgement here.
Pulp Fiction, 2422 Main Street
I suppose this is the obvious choice, aside from, like, Indigo or something, since any self-respecting Vancouverite knows about Pulp Fiction. Feel free to skip to the next blurb if so. But if you don’t happen to respect yourself, hear ye, hear ye! Is there any place more utopian for a reader than Pulp Fiction, with its finely curated shelves of the best and smartest new books and arguably the most satisfyingly organized selection of used books in the city? A place where one can find the entire collection of both Cormac McCarthy and most of Stephen King’s at any given time (Child of God anyone?)? And where you can hear freakazoid, discordant jazz or some Frank Ocean deep cut while scanning through an entire wall of hard-to-find Beat literature? Place is dope. All their locations are dope. Support them. -Stephen Smysnuik
Lucky’s Books and Comics, 3972 Main Street
Lucky’s feels tucked away. The store is just two unassuming rooms, but both are stuffed to the gills with some of the most interesting print titles currently existing as ink on paper. The small space means every book feels intentional, like it’s there because someone read it and loved it and just had to tell you all about it. Best of all is the wide selection of graphic novels and manga. If you like some pictures with your words, Lucky’s stocks illustrated works from Scholastic grade-school titles to quirky anthologies to beautifully rendered horror to local comics from Cloudscape. Nowhere else in town sells quite the same mix, which makes Lucky’s a stand-out gem in our bookstore ecosystem. -V.S. Wells
Book Warehouse, 623 West Broadway/4118 Main Street
There’s one thing that puts Book Warehouse above all other bookstores in Vancouver for me, and anyone who has been in there knows exactly what I’m talking about: The recommendations. For those not in the know, Book Warehouse features dozens of hand-written notes from their staff to accompany the books on the shelves, giving honest and sincere explanations as to why that particular book stood out to them, and what kind of story would-be readers will find inside.
Maybe it’s just because it’s a refreshing departure from the often lifeless reviews for books (or anything, really) found online, but seeing these notes written in each staff members’ unique handwriting adds a layer to the book-browsing experience that I never knew I needed until stepping foot in this shop. 10/10 would peruse again. -Chandler Walter
32 Books & Gallery, 3185 Edgemont Boulevard
32 Books is probably one of the North Shore’s best kept secrets (so sorry for spilling!), and for good reason. Tucked away in Edgemont Village, it’s a sweet little neighbourhood shop that, despite its small size, somehow has an endless collection of books across all genres, from new releases and classics to totally obscure. (It’s also very good about ordering whatever you want if it’s not already in stock.) Along with books, there are racks of unique greeting cards and locally-made artwork and jewellery arranged all around the space, which makes it easy to spend half the day here perusing or do any gift shopping in one stop. 32 Books is also, like the majority of Edgemont’s small businesses, women-owned. Deb is often behind the counter with a smile, ready to answer any questions or give a recommendation. Tell her I say hi! -Yasmine Shemesh
Macleod’s Books, 455 West Pender Street
One of the inarguably depressing things about Vancouver is that heritage preservation isn’t exactly at the top of anyone’s list at City Hall. That explains why the only remnant of the dive-tastic Aristocratic diner at Granville and Broadway is a puny neon sign in the window of the sprawling Chapters that now sits at the location. In a city that thinks nothing of bulldozing its past, Macleod’s Books is a treasure for no other reason than the landmark building it sits in at Pender and Richards—a former bank that’s been around since men wore bowler hats and women cooked on wood-burning stoves. As for what’s inside, the spot is famous for what might charitably be described as organised chaos, which is code for “If you’ve ever wanted to visit a bookstore that looks like it was modelled after a teenager’s bedroom”, you’re in the right place.” The search is half the fun here, with the stacks, piles, and more stacks and piles holding everything from rarities that might go for hundreds of dollars to dollar-store bargains you can probably get for less than a dollar if you do a bit of haggling. But don’t take our word for it—consider hat Guillermo del Toro added to the conversation after popping in back in 2018. And if it’s good enough for the director of Pan’s Labyrinth, it’s more than good enough for the treasure-hunting likes of you. -Mike Usinger
Running every Thursday, Vancouver Weekend spotlights five Straight-approved places around the city worth discovering.