Josh Spencer, owner/operator of “The Last Bookstore” in downtown Los Angeles, has achieved a lot in his life. His story, however, is about more than books and the business of book selling. It’s also about personal challenges, changing lives, facing failure, and finding the courage to overcome great adversity. Yes, all that in an 11½ minute video! A gripping reminder that success in business and life requires the ability to “re-adjust” to dire circumstances.
Despite closures of mega bookstore chains as well as small independents and the rise of eBooks and online shopping, Josh was able to develop his passion for books into a successful business buying, selling, and trading books from a brick and mortar retail space. Since 2005, The Last Bookstore has become the largest book and record store in California and one of the largest independent bookstores in the world. There are over 250,000 new and used books on two floors, including an art & rare book annex, and tens of thousands of vinyl records and graphic novels. Most importantly, Josh enjoys the work (not easy to sort and organize thousands of books every day), and he’s created a unique place for the printed word to thrive and book lovers to explore.
“I think books are going to become sort of like vinyl is now: the province of people who appreciate things that are well made, appreciate craft in graphics and creativity they can feel.” — Josh Spencer
Despite predictions of the inevitable death of independent bookstores, many are alive and doing quite well. The bookstore scene around the world is mixed, but they’re still treasured in communities, and in a number of European countries, independent counts have remained consistent in the last decade. For example, France, where laws protect against predatory pricing, bookstores in Paris can be found just about every other city block, including the famous English-language shop “Shakespeare and Company”, open 7 days a week.
Like most of us, filmmaker Max Joseph just couldn’t seem to find enough time to read a book, and visiting a book store created a lot of anxiety for him because the shelves full of books were a reminder of all the books he hadn’t, and probably never would, read. So, he decided to make a video documentary about it (‘Book Stores’), and found inspiration while talking to expert readers and visiting some of the most beautiful book stores in the world.
Inspired to browse a local bookstore?
Use Indie Bookstore Finder to locate US independent bookstores in your area
In the UK, try the search tools at Local Bookshops
Find a bookshop in Australia via the Australian Booksellers Association online search
If you find yourself wandering the streets of an unfamiliar place, look for these unique bookstores:
Powys, Wales, Hay-on-Wye (small village on the border between England and Wales is “world renowned for books and bookshops”)
Porto, Portugal, Livraria Lello (a beautiful bookstore with a long history)
Buenos Aires, Argentina, El Ateneo Grand Splendid (Early 20th century theater, turned bookshop, and one of the most beautiful book shops in the world)
Venice, Italy – Libreria Acqua Alta (The “high water bookshop” you must see to believe)
Milan, Italy – Corso Como (a mix of art, architecture and fashion)
Lisbon, Portugal – Ler Devagar (a large space located in former printing shop, LX Factory)
Budapest, Hungary – Massolit
Mexico City, Mexico – El Pendulo
Books For Love – Zola’s all-time favorite love stories are full of lust, scandal, heartbreak, betrayal, and tragedy
You’ll find more inspiration from the stories told by this diverse group of pathfinders on the video bio-documentary channel “Life Inspired“, an On2In2™ special collection of short videos.
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Bookstore photo, courtesy of Glen Noble/Unsplash