This is a list of the bookstores I like to visit in the downtown core. There are some that I visit less than others (because of distance). May I just add that I’ve never been as happy as I’ve been writing this post. My heart just grew two sizes.
This bookstore is the one I visit most for several reasons. I find that its collection is solid and there are many hidden gems inside. This is where I find first editions, signed books (by Margaret Atwood and several others), old Toronto Maps, vintage post cards, and various editions/formats of codices. It’s first and foremost a used bookstore, so you will probably not find brand new publications if that is what you are searching for. At the back room there are so many children’s literature books lining the walls. My favourite story about “10 Editions” is how it got its name.
The current bookstore owner is Susan Duff. Her mother owned the bookstore before her and had TEN children. So, she named her store 10 Editions because each one of her children is an edition. If that isn’t the coolest story about bookstore names, I don’t know what is. Also, Ms. Duff is by far one of the most interesting people and so kind and knowledgeable. Just talking to her is worth the walk. The 10 Editions bookstore is an integral part of the UofT and Toronto/Annex community.
Location: 698 Spadina Av, Toronto, ON M5S 2J2
STORE RECENTLY CLOSED PERMANENTLY 😦
Doug Miller Books
This bookstore has a large collection of fantasy and children’s literature but also its fair share of classics and recently published books. The origin story of this bookstore is that the owner once attended a book sale and bought many boxes of books and on the spot decided that he would start his own bookstore business. The rest is history! I have never successfully walked out of this bookstore without a book in my hand.
Location: 650 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6G 1K9
I don’t have a cool (personal) story for this one but I can say this much, this bookstore has a large collection of vintage science fiction books. An entire wall is filled with vintage paperbacks of science fiction books of such obscure authors and texts I’ve never heard of before. This is located near the beaches so it’s not in the downtown core. Across the street from it is a Coles (with newly published books), and a beautiful branch of the Toronto Public Library. That corner is highly concentrated with books and bookish things.
The owner Christopher Sheedy moved to Toronto in 1986 and his wife suggested that he start his own bookstore. He researched it and in 2009 he opened the doors to this lovely place. There is a full interview of his thought process and ‘origins’ in Jen Campbell’s book The Bookshop Book on pages 179-180. In fact in the North America “Canada” section of her book The Monkey’s Paw is featured in a picture and Re:Reading is the only one with a background story.
Location: 548 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4K 1P8
I frequent this bookstore a lot mainly because it specializes in Sci-fi and Fantasy. This bookstore carries BRAND NEW books in sci-fi and fantasy and classics (of sci-fi and fantasy). It’s an independent bookstore and has a few special secrets. The first is that the basement is lined with used books in sci-fi and fantasy at reduced prices, and the second is that every month there is a guest speaker in the said genre. This year guests have been Guy Gavriel Kay, Samantha Shannon, Jeff Vandermeer, and Cory Doctorow. The staff is so well-versed in sci-fi and fantasy. There are also posters featuring writing and reading groups in the community. The service here is phenomenal. You will get recommendations, you can pre-order books, you can request books, you can ask any type of question about books and you will be helped.
Location: 84 Harbord St, Toronto, ON M5S 2H7
University College Used Books
UC is one of the seven colleges at the University of Toronto. Hidden inside is a quaint used bookstore that is supplemented by people’s donations of books. Sometimes you can find pretty extraordinary rare books, and sometimes just regular paperbacks people are discarding. The greatest thing about this bookstore is its atmosphere. You will feel like you’re in the middle of Hogwarts and you stumbled upon a big secret (at least I did).
This is by far the most ORGANIZED bookstore I’ve entered. Everything is dusted, on the shelf, aligned spines, and labelled accordingly with letters from scrabble games. Everything in this store is in proper order. I’ve never seen anything like it. As a person who enjoys order and organization I got very excited about this place.
Location: 470 College St, Toronto, ON M6G 1A1
This is the first antiquarian bookstore I’ve ever stepped into so it has a special place in my heart. It’s the perfect bookstore. Three floors of books rare, new, and second hand on every possible category/genre. I don’t visit it as much as I used to but it’s very special.
Location: 584 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4Y 1Z3I
This bookstore unfortunately has just closed PERMANENTLY as of Jan 1, 2018. The tax raise in Toronto affected small businesses and Paul, the owner of the bookstore for over 40 years, had to close shop. I am leaving this here, because it was one of the first Toronto bookstores I visited and I bought so many classics from here. It had a huge impact on my life and for all of my university and high school experience.
Zoinks Music and Books
This bookstore is small, and has books and music (records).
Location: 1019 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6H 1M1
Type is an independent bookstore like Bakka-Phoenix but it doesn’t specialize on any specific genre. It has every genre possible and helps many new Toronto authors launch new books. Type Books hosts a lot of readings and provides the community with newly published books. Type became kind of “famous” with THIS YouTube Video which has millions of views.
Location: 883 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6J 1G5
The Monkey’s Paw
This bookstore is the first one to have an antiquarian book-vending machine. Totally worth visiting.
Location: 1267 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6H 1N7
The best thing about this bookstore is that it’s open until midnight. Have you ever been in bed at 11 and thought…I NEED a book. Yeah, me too! This bookstore is opened late so that makes it pretty awesome. It has a large collection of classics, sci-fi/fantasy, and children’s literature. Just know that you won’t see it just walking on the sidewalk, it’s DOWN some stairs.
Location: 509 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S 2N5
This is a bookstore dedicated to children’s literature. It has books for children and young adults and provides reading time. Everything related to children will be found in this bookstore. The first floor has mostly things for babies and toddles, and the second floor for children ages 8-100 (yeah, I wrote 100). I was told that the store is named after a cat named Mabel.
Location: 662 Mt Pleasant Rd, Toronto, ON M4S 2N3
This bookstore mostly serves the students at the Univeristy of Toronto. It’s right next to the Beta Shoe museum and has a lot of classics in the editions studied at the University as well as used textbooks donated by the students. Recently a copy store and a coffee shop got inserted into the antiquarian book shop. The best part of this store is the staff. David is the bookstore owner and most of the people he hired to work here are lifelong friends who love literature and have been among his first customers over 30 years ago. This store was recently CLOSED but turned into Alternity which is an alternative bookstore and cafe with psychedelic art. They still sell what was left of the Willow Books collection.
Location: 333 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S 1W7
She Said Boom! Records & Books
This bookstore is very close to Kensington Market and has a large collection of new books at a lower price than a chain store. Needless to say, it also has records. I’m personally fond of its large poetry collection.
Location: 372 College Street, Toronto, ON M5T 1S6
Circus Books and Music
This bookstore is on the Danforth near Pape subway station. It has a great selection of used books and records.
Location: 866 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4J 1L7
This bookstore is just a little North of Eliot’s Bookshop mentioned above. Here you will find books at very very low prices. This bookstore has a large collection of films as well…and adult films (*wink wink…keep your kids away from the back section). I haven’t been here as much in the last five years but it exists, has low prices, and here it is:
Location: 662 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4Y 2A6
A Good Read Bookstore
I found this bookstore by accident and it’s slowly becoming my favourite one. It has a whole back section filled with rare books and facsimiles as well. I highly recommend checking it out. They also have so many first editions and even signed books.
Another Story Bookshop
A friend suggested this location after I posted a first draft of this post. By trying to find this bookshop I stumbled across the one above (the two are very close to each other). This store has a specialization towards diversity and inclusivity. They feature many female authors, LGBTTQIAAP authors, and various genres from various backgrounds.
The Big Chains: BMV, Book City, Indigo/Coles/Chapters, and Penguin
These stores are very frequented for convenience, new-ness of books, and lifestyle sections. BMV has used books at discounted prices and I mostly visit it for its Sci-fi and fantasy section on the third floor. The Penguin shop is well hidden on King Street and is very small, but will have newly published editions of Penguin books/classics. Newer books will sometimes be signed by authors. While I try to visit the independent bookstores listed above I do find myself at BMV and Indigo pretty often. I love Indigo for its atmosphere and I buy about five to ten books per month from them. I love sitting in the Starbucks with a newly purchased book and a journal. It’s cozy and I love the atmosphere (it’s my guilty pleasure).
University of Toronto Book Sales
During the school year the Robarts Library has a book room that “is open to the public on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., except during the month of August and the latter part of December.” Can be seen in image below:
However, during the Winter semester four University colleges have a MASSIVE book sale which has antiquarian/rare books, archives, letters, music, new books, old books, signed books. You name it! I have hoarded MANY boxes from these book sales. Here are links to the main four:
- Victoria College
- Trinity College
- University College (leftovers are sold year-round in the store mentioned earlier in this post)
Three University-focused Bookstores
- University of Toronto Bookstore (York, Ryerson, and OCAD have one as well in the Toronto Area)
- Bob Miller Book Room –again mostly course books, but open year-round to all.
- Crux Books –dedicated to faith-based studies. Has theology, philosophy, and religious texts. Good for Medieval Studies (found the Vulgate bible there), Theology, and just spiritual exploration if you are a non-student.
Thank you so much for reading if you made it this far! I really enjoyed writing this post.
Most pictures have been taken by yours truly with the exception of the Bakka-Phoenix and Willow Books ones.