Carlos Ruiz Zafon, author of “Shadow of the Wind,” is well-known for creating “The Cemetery of Forgotten Books,” a twisting maze filled with literature and surprises. It doesn’t actually exist, but a similar treasure lies in the heart of Los Angeles– The Last Bookstore. Founded by book enthusiast Josh Spencer in 2005, the Last Bookstore sells, buys, and trades used and new books.
But the Last Bookstore is more than just books– it’s considered by many to be a work of art. The bookstore resides in a former bank building that opened in 1914. Home to 250,000 books, the Last Bookstore also holds vaults, tiled floors, and columns that stretch to support the 25-foot ceiling. Half of the space upstairs is also rented out to collaborative artists, who contribute to the galleries and art community in the bookstore.
“I think there’s something magical from the outside.” manager Katie Orphan said. “You don’t know what to expect. It just looks like a stone building and then you walk in, ceilings arch up and you’ve got books everywhere.”
Many also trek upstairs to view the different sculptures and winding trail of bookcases. When it was opened in 2012, Spencer had designed it to have the sense of magic and wonder.
“I hear people say that it reminds them of ‘Harry Potter,’ which is really pleasing to me,” Orphan said. “It’s easy to turn the corner and be like, ‘Where am I?’”
The Last Bookstore also hosts a wide variety of events regularly.
“We generally pitch publishers on getting authors here, but we also get a lot of authors and musicians and non profits and spoken word nights,” Orphan said. “[They] pitch us and say they want to come here, they want their event to happen in our space.”
Events are chosen based on whether it will fit in the store and the type of audience that will be drawn out. Spectators normally watch performances in front of a prepared stage in the middle of the first floor, but others linger upstairs and enjoy the entertainment over the railings.
Daniel Broadhurst, who performed at the Last Bookstore for An Evening of Inspiring Stories on July 18, said, “When I came to Los Angeles, I found this bookstore and I was just amazed. Performing here was an honor.”
“I describe it often as the most beautiful bookstore in town. I think our space really sets us apart,” Orphan said.