Readers of Carlos Ruiz Zafón's Shadow of the Wind will fondly recall the "Cemetery of Forgotten Books"-- a twisting literary labyrinth kept secret by its guardian, sacred to all who knew of its existence.
In the heart of downtown's historic core, on the corner of 5th and Spring, lies a gem that rivals Zafón's imaginary creation. Welcome to The Last Bookstore.
The Last Bookstore occupies a space that used to be the main floor of Crocker National Bank -- a major financial institution when Spring Street flourished as the "Wall Street of the west" in the 1920s. Upon entering, the ceiling towers above and grand marble columns transport you back to a time when Los Angeles' wealthiest men and women entrusted their millions inside these walls.
On the ground floor, bestsellers and beautiful coffee table books mingle with a record section and a coffee bar. There's also a raised stage where events like readings and book signings take place. When I visited during the last ArtWalk (the second Thursday of every month), a DJ was spinning while customers perused the shelves.
But perhaps the most intriguing part of The Last Bookstore is its latest expansion. Just last month, the mezzanine level of the old bank was taken over by the bookstore. Endless rows of books, book sculptures that defy gravity, and secret hidden rooms (think old-school movies where you turn the bookcase) create a maze of hardcovers and paperbacks that conjures up images from Hogwarts.
And here's the best part: every book here, and we're talking thousands, is only $1.00. They're all used books. When my husband and I made a trip last Sunday, he walked away with several first editions in excellent condition. I picked up a hardcover of Dan Brown's most recent novel, The Lost Symbol.
What makes this area of the bookstore particularly fun, aside from the amazing deals, is that there are no sections. It's a treasure hunt. You might find an enormous tome on 1960s architecture sitting next to Jodi Picoult's latest bestseller. One could spend hours getting lost!
When I asked owner Josh Spencer how he could afford to sell books like this for just a dollar, he explained that he buys books from several local non-profits who get them donated. When we visited last week, dozens of boxes were being delivered from an organization that helps homeless youth right here in Los Angeles.
Just a block from the Pershing Square stop on the metro red line, The Last Bookstore is easy to get to. If you're driving, there is abundant parking on the street and a slew of parking lots surround the area as well. So, whether you're a book aficionado, someone looking for the right summer read, or just fascinated by L.A. history, come downtown and discover one of the city's best-kept secrets.