Alta’s Favorite Bookstores: Our First Update!
We asked, and you answered. Here are a dozen bookstores that we’ve added to our list.
Alta Journal’s 2022 Favorite Bookstores started as a list compiled by our editors and contributors, but bookstores, while tended with care by their hardworking staffs, are sustained by the patrons who know and love them. It only made sense to ask the Alta community to help us by filling in our list with their own cherished bookstores of the West, so we can create a guide that leaves no great bookstore out.
Here, you’ll find the first update to our guide—with recommendations from you and your fellow Alta readers as well as a few more from us.
Santa Ana, California
LibroMobile founder Sarah Rafael García wanted a place where BIPOC folks could see their stories on the shelves and their art on the walls. First a books-on-wheels operation, LibroMobile has become far more: a brick-and-mortar store with a section dedicated to local authors and another for BIPOC art, making it clear that this is a place for the community made possible by the community. —nominated by Lisa Alvarez, Modjeska Canyon, California, and Marilynn Montano, Santa Ana
Santa Monica, California
Tucked within Santa Monica’s picturesque open-air Brentwood Country Mart, Diesel boasts a multitude of genres within its compact, cozy space. With detailed recommendation tabs adorning each section for quiet browsers and insightful staff members eager to chat with shoppers who want to talk books, visitors can rest assured they will be guided comfortably toward their next read.
Santa Cruz, California
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. —nominated by Amy Wirth, Santa Cruz
Supported by Nomadic Press and the EastSide Arts Alliance & Cultural Center in Oakland, Bandung Books is a volunteer-run space that offers a stunning collection of new and used books by and about people of color and houses archival materials of various resistance movements, with plenty of places to sit, read, and learn. Stop by any Thursday at 8 p.m. for Holla Back!, Bandung’s weekly poetry open mic night. —nominated by Kristen Soller, San Francisco
San Francisco, California
What’s the secret to operating a hole-in-the-wall bookstore in 2022? Careful curation, an on-site owner, and a great landlord, according to Tee Minot, who has run Christopher’s since 1992. The shop dedicates a portion of its 650 square feet in sunny Potrero Hill to children’s and teen books, and the corner storefront has made an appearance in an iconic San Francisco movie or two. —nominated by Karen-Amanda Irvine, San Francisco
Yesterday’s Books is a primarily used independent bookstore that has been thriving for 40-plus years. The store is known for its book trading. Customers can exchange titles for credit toward ones they love, or could love in the future.
This South Bay institution offers a vast inventory of used, rare, and out-of-print books. It may be best known for its cats, however, who have their own page on the store’s website and large Instagram followings. Recycle’s beloved feline Isbn, recognized by Publishers Weekly for Best Bookstore Cat Name, has relocated to the great bookstore in the sky. Recycle also operates a San Jose location.
Santa Rosa, California
Only steps from Old Courthouse Square, Treehorn Books is a mesmerizing place to browse. It’s run by cofounder Keith Hotaling and his son, Grant, who was “born into books.” The extensive offerings include fiction, children’s books, titles by locals (Luther Burbank, Gaye LeBaron, vintage Black Sparrow Press editions), and works on art, philosophy, and World War II history.
Named for a kitten that founder Tanya Reyes says changed her life, Morti’s has been home to adoptable cats since September 2021. It’s supported by donations and weekend sales of low-priced used books like John Ash cookbooks and fiction by Amy Tan. The Facebook page chronicles heartwarming interactions.
San Francisco, California
In a quiet corner of Japantown, visitors will feel immediately at peace among Forest Books’ stacks of used and rare collectible titles. The store specializes in Zen philosophy, so it’s no surprise that owner Jakushu Gregory Wood hosts a weekly meditation there on Saturday mornings. “The forest awaits you. Take your ease,” reads a poem taped to one of the shelves. “Buy books. Read.” —nominated by Charlie Brummer, Davis
Nevada City, California
Situated off the main street in this old mining town, Harmony Books has brought a new kind of gold to Nevada City’s historic assay office. The brick facade, with its hand-painted sign, now welcomes visitors to the only local store that carries new books. Behind a front table dedicated to the latest releases, the shop’s shelves are stocked with titles that keep its community in mind. —nominated by Judy Crowe, Nevada City
Between its giant red building of winding, narrow aisles lined with tightly packed floor-to-ceiling shelves and a nearby warehouse dedicated to internet stock, Tacoma Book Center is home to half a million titles, including a plethora of technical manuals on a variety of subjects. Although most of these are destined for online sales, let the store know in advance and it’ll have a selection ready for in-person browsing. —nominated by Isaac Alexander, Gig Harbor, Washington