5 California Bookstores Sure To Satisfy Any Bibliophile

In recent years, major corporations have been dominating the literary world. Back in the day, however, it was customary for local mom and pop shops to be the main purveyors of books and literary ephemera. For those looking to support small businesses, listed in no particular order are some independent bookstores to check out in California.

Starting off the list at #1, Tavistock Books specializes in first editions, rarities, and other bibliographic materials, with a special focus on Charles Dickens. Established in 1989, this shop of over 15,000 antiquarian and collectible books is located in the city of Alameda, where new items arrive daily.

The store boasts a wide selection of subject matter ranging from Americana to zoology, spanning the 15th to 21st centuries. Tavistock Books also specializes in children's serial fiction, and books that focus on the history of nursing. Regardless of the subject, fine condition is always emphasized. While by-chance visitors can occasionally be accommodated, the shop is primarily open by appointment, so planning in advance is advised.

Moving on to #2, Books Inc. is an independently owned and operated business, with several locations in the San Francisco Bay Area. Its origins date back to the Gold Rush days of 1851, when a man named Anton Roman became rich in Shasta City, and soon after began selling books. The store was then moved, bought, sold, burned, rebuilt, and finally given its current name in 1946 by Lew Lengfeld.

More than just a bookshop, several of its locations offer classes designed to help writers on their journeys to becoming published authors. Furthermore, locals are invited to join a monthly critique group that facilitates feedback from peers. Each meeting has a limited number of attendees, and is moderated by a professional with editorial experience. The store also hosts several other events and classes, including reading clubs for youth and adults.

Located in Pasadena, Vroman's Bookstore is #3 on the list. Founded in 1894, this local institution has served its community for over 125 years. In addition to selling literature, the store hosts over 400 free community events annually, including children's story times, trivia nights, classes, bake-offs, special launch parties, and discussions with authors. Past speakers have included President Bill Clinton, Upton Sinclair, Ray Bradbury, Salman Rushdie, Joan Didion, and more.

In 2008, Vroman's was honored with the Publishers Weekly Bookseller of the Year award. The annual award is chosen by a panel of industry professionals, and honors the best bookstores in the country. The store offers various charitable initiatives, including the Vroman's Gives Back program, which donates a portion of proceeds to local nonprofits such as public radio stations, arts centers, family services, and programs supporting literacy, the homeless, and animal welfare. Since its inception, the charity has donated over $700,000 to Pasadena-area organizations.

At #4, Sacramento's Capital Books was founded in 2019 by owners Ross and Heidi Rojek. This establishment, which is housed in a former vaudeville theater, sells newly-printed literature of all kinds, as well as games, toys, and other pop culture-related ephemera. This business strives to provide locals and visitors with an alternative to ordering books online or having to drive to a shopping mall to find a chain store.

The Rojeks feel that the people of the downtown community should have the latest books available to them at a conveniently accessible local establishment, in person. To help promote the neighborhood's literary scene, writers who are native to the Sacramento area are invited to submit their work to be featured on the Local Authors bookshelf.

Finally, Biblioctopus is #5 on the list. This Los Angeles-based establishment specializes in selling first editions of the classics of fiction, as well as other rare books. The business was conceived in the mid 1970s by Mark J. Hime, and is still a family-run operation to this day.

As an environmentally conscious company, Biblioctopus strives to be 100% green, and all items listed for sale have been recycled. The group sells more than just books and manuscripts; any rare items with writing on them are sold as well. Interested bibliophiles can visit the store in-person, or at participating book fairs nationwide.