Hunker down for the winter with these five independent bookstores

What better way to ward off the winter blues and support local businesses than by cozying up with a good book?

From rare books to books on anti-oppression, these bookstores have got you covered. ILLUSTRATION: Shaheen Virk / The Peak

By: Kimia Mansouri, SFU Student

Editor’s note: MacLeod’s Books is facing having to downsize 75% of their stock, despite having been at their current location since 1982. More information can be found in this Georgia Straight article discussing the matter. If readers are interested in preserving local businesses, it may be worth supporting them during this time.

If you’re looking for a healthy coping mechanism to deal with the winter and COVID-19 restricting us to our bubbles, look no further than these five independent bookstores. They offer affordable portals to escape reality with and give you the chance to support indie bookstores in these trying times. 

Massy Books

Location: 229 E. Georgia St, Vancouver, BC
Instagram: @massybooks 

Not only does this two-storey Indigenous-owned bookstore have a remarkable collection of books, but it’s also a safe haven for anyone interested in writing and reading. Located in Chinatown, Massy Books readily welcomes you with organized shelves of books on the ground floor and local artists’ exhibitions on the second floor. They have various events planned out for each month, such as Book Talks, which have moved online due to the pandemic. They have also partnered with Room Magazine to create The Indigenous Brilliance Reading Series to empower Indigenous women, Two-Spirit and queer writers. You can sign up for their newsletter to stay updated on events, and/or follow them on Instagram. So click on their website to stock up for winter break, or visit them with a mask on. 

Spartacus Books

Location: 3378 Findlay St, Vancouver, BC
Instagram: @spartacusbooks

Spartacus Books is a non-profit, volunteer-run bookstore that has been open since 1973. They stand against capitalism and colonialism by offering diverse resources that “challenge the reproduction of oppressive politics within our personal lives.”

The store is the ultimate hangout spot for anti-oppressive folks who are interested in reading. The best section of the store, in my personal opinion, is the area furnished with a couple of couches and magazines everywhere that establishes a cozy, approachable corner to have discussions and plot against oppression — something to look forward to once this pandemic ends. There is usually a fridge for people to help themselves to some food however, due to the pandemic, they’ve taken measures to keep everyone safe by not hosting social gatherings and having shared food in the store. If you want to support them, you can drop by (masks are mandatory), or browse their online inventory that’s updated daily. You can also become a member or volunteer your time by applying on their website. 

MacLeod’s Books

Location: 455 W Pender St, Vancouver, BC
Instagram: @macleodsbooks

Stepping into this bookstore, you’ll feel as if you’ve entered Flourish and Blotts in Diagon Alley. For anyone obsessed with messy, dark academia aesthetics and collecting rare and antiquarian books, this is the perfect place to spend hours in. With books all over the place and that dusty “biblichor” (the particular smell of old books), the flood of endorphins that’ll rush all over you will make you forget about that one test you nearly failed. People might perceive this as a disorganized bookstore, but trust me, as someone who has spent hours there, there is an order to the chaos. They have limited the capacity of customers in the store, but it’s still a good idea to visit during their quieter hours (usually opening to early afternoon), since it can be impossible to maintain distance. 

 Carson Books & Records 

Location: 4340 Main St, Vancouver, BC
Facebook: Carson Books & Records 

Entering Carson Books & Records, located in Vancouver’s most hipster neighbourhood, you’ll find yourself surrounded by stacks of books, enveloped by the old book smell. Even though it’s quite a small store, it offers a wide selection of second-hand books and I enjoy knowing that each book holds a backstory within its pages, once capturing the attention of a stranger.

Carson Books has some of the most reasonable prices, making any finds there a real steal. This goes for both books and their mostly jazz-focused collection of records. What most people agree on when visiting this store is that the owner and staff are passionate, well-informed, and friendly. They are eager to assist you with your needs and encourage book talks. If you’re the kind of person who buys a lot of books even though your pile of to-be-read books is judging you, I’d recommend shopping here so your wallet won’t feel so cold. 

Pulp Fiction Books

Locations: 2422 Main St Vancouver, BC
Instagram: @pfbvan

Pulp Fiction Books bases the new and second-hand books they bring to their stores on customer requests, truly making their collection exclusive. The Main Street shop is my personal favourite, with welcoming staff and organized books to help you easily find your way around easily. Once you enter the store, you’ll be greeted by recent popular books neatly organized on shelves, and artistic posters that’ll take you back to the eighties on the wall all around you. The back of the store is filled by three hallways brimming with books and low ceilings. 

You can also sell any books you don’t want by following the guidelines on their website, or if they don’t accept your sale, you have the option of having them donate your books to Vancouver General Hospital Thrift store,  Burnaby Hospice Society Thrift Store, and more. 

More bookstores to check out: