More Central Coast Bookstores

Chaucer’s Books, Lost Horizon Bookstore, Bart’s Books, and 9 more Central Coast independent bookstores we love.

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Alta

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1
BART’S BOOKS
bart’s books
BART’S BOOKS

The open-air shelves of Bart’s Books carry an impressive selection, rain or shine, and put one in mind of Paris booksellers’ stalls that line the Seine. Books along the street still sell on the honor system, just as they did when Richard “Bart” Bartinsdale first set a few shelves outside his house—still the core of the operation—in 1964. Ojai

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2
BOOKSHOP SANTA CRUZ
alta 2022 favorite bookstore, bookshop santa cruz
BOOKSHOP SANTA CRUZ

This downtown Santa Cruz family-owned establishment packs its high-ceilinged store with a huge collection of titles, culminating in 20,000 square feet of books. And Bookshop Santa Cruz is particularly proud of its local ties cultivated by serving longtime customers and UC Santa Cruz students, as well as a healthy flow of seaside tourists. Santa Cruz

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3
CHAUCER’S BOOKS
chaucer’s books
CHAUCER’S BOOKS

Spend too much time in Chaucer’s and you’re liable to walk out with a towering stack of books. Treasures lie around every endcap and line the floors at the foot of the shelves. Every section seems to run deep—even the kids’ room. Check the online calendar for a rewarding schedule of virtual and in-person author events. Santa Barbara

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4
COALESCE BOOKSTORE
coalesce bookstore
COALESCE BOOKSTORE

This small, inviting shop retains the supportive, activist vibe in which it was founded, in 1973, by a recent college grad and a former Benedictine nun. It has doubled as a performance space, a publisher, and a meeting place for women’s groups and now hosts small events in its beautiful chapel garden. Morro Bay

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5
DOWNTOWN BOOK & SOUND
downtown books and sound, salinas ca, alta's favorite bookstores
Downtown Book & Sound

Downtown Book & Sound has the distinction of being the only bookstore in John Steinbeck’s hometown. Owner Trish Triumpho Sullivan presides over the establishment’s 60,000-plus used and new books. In addition to Steinbeck’s oeuvre, Downtown sells the author’s favorite pencils, Blackwing 602s, which he favored “because they weren’t yellow—too distracting,’’ Sullivan notes. Salinas

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6
LOST HORIZON BOOKSTORE
lost horizon bookstore
LOST HORIZON BOOKSTORE

Serendipity is the word at this store for book collectors of all stripes. From pricey antiquarian volumes to Californiana, rare sci-fi first editions, and interesting, reasonably priced books you’ll find nowhere else, Lost Horizon offers a distinctive selection that also includes prints and original comic book art. Santa Barbara

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7
OLD CAPITOL BOOKS
old capitol books, monterey ca, alta's favorite bookstores
Old Capitol Books

Located on historic Alvarado Street in Monterey, Old Capitol Books hosts open mic readings and has a decidedly political tilt, sponsoring an Anarchist Reading Group. Owner Ali Elfaki and bookseller Stephanie Spoto offer everything from Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book to Fille de Joie, about “courtesans, sporting girls and ladies of the evening.” Piquant. Monterey

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8
OLIVIA & DAISY
olivia and daisy, carmel valley
Olivia & Daisy

This charming Carmel Valley establishment is a magnet for local literati and wine country visitors alike. Founded in 2021 by former Orinda Books owner Maria Roden and designer Jane Pakis, it offers everything from Europa and New York Review editions to coffee-table books and hosts readings with neighbors like Pulitzer Prize winner Jane Smiley. Carmel Valley

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9
PHOENIX BOOKS
phoenix books
PHOENIX BOOKS

The best used bookstores do their jobs quietly, putting just the right title in your hands seemingly by magic. Phoenix is a great example—packed with unexpected finds, it serves as a portal to many cultures, moods, and modes of thought, its shelves always ready with that perfect book you didn’t know you needed. San Luis Obispo

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10
PILGRIM’S WAY BOOKS AND THE SECRET GARDEN
pilgrim’s way books and the secret garden
PILGRIM’S WAY BOOKS AND THE SECRET GARDEN

Browse candles and incense beneath a geodesic dome surrounded by Buddhas and fountains in this little shop’s Zen garden. Inside, inspirational literature and contemporary and regional titles join crystals, tarot decks, and polished stones. Owners Paul Fridlund and Cynthia Fernandes met and married here over 20 years ago and still maintain its spiritual oasis with care. Carmel

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11
RIVER HOUSE BOOKS
river house books, carmel
River House Books

Carmel residents drew a sigh of relief when Scott and Jennifer Lund, who also own Lula’s Chocolates across the street, stepped in to save River House Books in 2018 after the then-owners announced their retirement. The well-appointed store features fiction, travel titles, California histories, magazines—and a killer mystery section. It also sells Peepers reading glasses! Carmel

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12
TIMBRE BOOKS
timbre books, ventura ca, alta's favorite bookstores
Timbre Books

This indie neighborhood bookstore has a Murakami vibe, from the vintage typewriter at the front (“Type us a note!”) to the cool jazz spinning on the turntable. Locals come in from Singing Sun coffee shop next door to hang out and browse the store’s imaginatively curated selection, which includes everything from memoirs and graphic novels to a section devoted to “antiracism & history.” Ventura

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