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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
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
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
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
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
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
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