If you’re a book lover, one of life’s great pleasures is discovering a new (well, new to you) bookstore. I’ve spent hours roaming the aisles of shops, from Paris to Portland, but some of my favourites are in Western Canada which has plenty of its own gems. Some sell new books. Some sell used books. Some sell a combination of both. All have their own distinct personality, style and well-curated collections.
Here are a few of my favourites that every book lover should visit:
Pages on Kensington
Pages on Kensington in Calgary is loaded with old-school personality and charm and, on a rainy or snowy day, it’s a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. It has an outstanding selection of new books and gifts for book lovers on the main and top floors and outside, when the weather cooperates, you’ll find racks of great bargain books, too. And if you’re budget-minded, check the basement for the used selection. Before you leave, check out the staff picks. I almost always find something that I’d never heard of before, often by a cool and quirky independent publisher.
The Next Page
A stone’s throw from Pages on Kensington in Calgary, The Next Page is new (it just opened this past spring) and it’s owned by the same people as Pages. Unlike Pages, it has a coffee bar and books — a bonus for those of us who can never get enough of both. Watch for writing workshops and readings by authors, both well-known and up-and-coming.
Started in 1963 by the legendary late Canadian author Alice Munro, Munro’s Books is a highlight of downtown Victoria. There are lots of gifty things for book lovers, as well as carefully chosen remainders — a fancy name for bargain books. You’ll also find a vast array of books on subjects ranging from European history to culinary trends. There are lots of events and book signings by big-name authors; Margaret Atwood recently celebrated the release of her new bestseller, The Testaments, here. And you can buy books online, too.
A new player on the indie book scene, Glass Bookshop in Edmonton is already getting lots of attention from Canadian book lovers. Started by Jason Purcell and Matthew Stepanic, it focuses on LGBTQ2SIA authors and indie presses. If Stepanic’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he is also the editor of Glass Buffalo, an award-winning indie literary magazine based in Edmonton but sold nationally.
Bacchus Books and Cafe
If you’re driving between Alberta and British Columbia, be sure to plan time for a stop at Bacchus Books and Cafe. Located just off the highway in Golden, B.C., it is located in an old house turned into a warm and friendly store. (Just look for the bright yellow storefront.) My kids and I have literally spent hours in here — reading old Garfield comic books, finding obscure Canadian poetry or buying solstice gifts for friends looking for the best of Canada’s small presses. New and old, mainstream and off-the-grid — Bacchus has books for every reader. The cafe makes great coffee, too, but take your own reusable coffee cup if you plan to buy and drive.
Pulp Fiction Coffee House
Is it a bookstore? Or a coffee shop? Pulp Fiction Coffee House in Kelowna straddles both, in uber-cool vintage style. This is the place to look for out-of-print books from the past 100 years or so. And be sure to get a coffee, from local small roaster. The cups — and the labels on the beans — are the best, paying a nod to vintage pulp fiction, naturally.