– The Best Bookstores in Toronto Part 1: Second-Hand Sanctuaries

September 13, 2013 – 09:43

Bookstores Best Bookstores in Toronto

By: Jeff Cottrill
February 21, 2013

Toronto is one helluva literary town. Ernest Hemingway lived here for a bit in the 1920s and in the decades since, the city has been closely associated with Margaret Atwood, Timothy Findley, Robertson Davies and other iconic scribes. From the annual Word On The Street Festival to high-profile readings at Harbourfront Centre, Toronto never hides its love of books.

And nowhere is this more evident than in the abundance of quality bookstores. Everybody knows about the bigger chains like Chapters, Indigo and Coles , but you’re likely to get a more personable experience and unique selection at the many independent shops. Big or small, new or used, specialized or wide-variety, Toronto has your book needs covered. Here’s the scoop:

Second-hand Sanctuaries

First, let’s look at T.O.’s feast of second-hand booksellers. Some stores offer you not only good deals on used books but also their own unique decorative choices. Some stores offer you not only good deals on used books but also their own unique decorative choices. Little Italy’s tiny Balfour Books, for instance, creates a quirky atmosphere by using Scrabble tiles to spell out the different genres and categories and by displaying a few popular titles on a replica of an antique chest of drawers. Seekers, hidden under Kilgour’s Bar, has that irresistably musty smell of old books, with a Kids’ Room in the back that feels like your book-loving buddy’s unfinished basement, complete with loose floorboards and exposed water pipes; here, you can browse through a remarkable collection of old Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys adventures.

In Little Portugal, The Monkey’s Paw grabs your attention immediately with the aging typewriters in the windows (one of which pays homage to Edgar Allen Poe). This charming, idiosyncratic store aims for a nineteenth-century ambience, with locked cabinets containing rare, antique books and shelves of uncommon titles, many long out of print. A creepy display of insect carcasses adds to the Poe-like vibe. But the store also has its own “Biblio-Mat”, a working vending machine that spits out random books for two dollars each.


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