The Best Used Bookstores in Toronto
Despite the rise of web-based giants like Chapters/Indigo and Amazon, the used bookseller remains alive, if not altogether well. Like a character from a William Faulkner novel, they endure despite the forces of change that surround them. No doubt technology like the Kindle - the so-called ipod of books - will make the going even tougher in the years to come. But, for those Torontonians who still value the experience of cradling and collecting books, and who don't want to pay an arm and a leg for the pleasure, there remain a number of well-stocked used bookstores scattered across the city.
These places are, for the most part, operated by lovers of literature and music who believe in the community importance of bookstores, who love to discuss books with their customers, and who generally provide far more reliable purchasing suggestions than an algorithm based on one's past purchases. Here's a list of Toronto's best as voted by our readers.
See also: The Best Bookstores in Toronto
This multimedia retailer reigns as the biggest of the city’s used and remaindered booksellers. Their warehouse-style flagship Annex location sees heavy traffic from U of T students looking to save on textbooks for Humanities courses and bibliophiles who enjoy large-sized art and culinary books. Other well-stocked items include travel guides and reference books, as well as CDs and DVDs of various genres. More »
Named after the famous (or perhaps notorious) horror story by W. W. Jacobs, Monkey’s Paw is adored by both the residents of Dundas West and those who treasure intriguing and oddball books. Specializing in what could be called the anti-classic, browsing the shelves is an adventure in the world of rare, obscure, and even absurd texts. Passersby’s enjoy the window display, which is regularly updated with notably peculiar additions to the store’s stock. More »
Awash in floor-to-ceiling pine shelves, Balfour Books exudes the type of charm one might idealistically expect of bookstores. Combine this with a selection of titles 20000 strong and a closing time of 11pm, and it’s easy to understand why this Little Italy fixture is consistently considered one of the city’s best. Their annual half-price sale in March is the stuff of book buyers’ dreams. More »
Located just north of Wellesley on Yonge, Eliot’s sold me a significant chunk of my fiction collection when I used to work around the corner. With three creaky floors of packed shelves, it’s best described as a general-interest bookstore. One finds few remaindered books here, but the selection of secondhand titles is impressive. The prices aren’t too bad, either. More »
Originally under the same ownership, the College Street and Roncesvalles Avenue locations are now separate entities. Both, however, have long-served the used books and music buyers of the city. While the literary tends to dominate – with a focus on the Humanities – careful selections of CDs and vinyl also attract those who resist the pull of iTunes and the complete digitization of their music collections. More »
Although its location under Kilgour’s Bar can make Seekers tough to spot, it remains one of the best places to find books that focus on New Age philosophy, mysticism and Eastern religion. The general interest fiction is also well stocked, with particularly thorough holdings in the Canadian classics. Those interested in Native Studies and Canadian History will also find one of the better collections in the city. More »
Located beside Dencan Books in the Junction, The Book Exchange stocks a very well organized general-interest list of fiction and non-fiction. As is the case with many stores throughout the city, the fiction section is well stocked with classics and contemporary offerings. Astute digging reveals some rare gems. More »
With an owner that’s been in the business for over forty years, Dencan Books has a loyal following with local residents. Along with The Book Exchange and Pandemonium, it is part of a trio of stores that reward book-buying visits to the Junction. Always campaigning to purchase more stock, the store offers home pick up to aid, amongst others, those who have converted to Amazon’s Kindle. More »
Selling both books and music, Pandemonium is ideal for those who love fine literature and scratched vinyl. While one may come across a dearth of 60’s and 70’s rock records, the CD’s have a decidedly indie character. Look for Danielle Steele elsewhere - the fiction section eschews the pulp for novels by the canonical heavyweights. More »
About a year into its move from Cabbagetown to the Danforth, the store’s owner, Ron Duffy, reports that the new digs are treating him and his business well. Although not quite in the heavily trafficked area of the Danforth, being at Jones Avenue allows the folks from Leslieville to pop up the street for visits as well. Well-stocked fiction and art sections are supplemented by CDs and vinyl. Lovers of the Blue Note label should take time to peruse the collection. More »
Looking for first editions and signed copies? This Parkdale bookseller stocks a wide selection of hard-to-get editions at the back of the store, many of which are lovingly kept in glass display cases purchased from the ROM. For those not interested in rarities, the store also stocks a general-interest list made up of both remaindered and good-condition used offerings. If I wasn’t poor, I would have left with the signed first edition of Mordecai Richler’s St. Urbain’s Horseman the last time I stopped by. More »
The lone books and music seller in Bloorcourt, Zoinks has but one rule when stocking items - they’ve got to be interesting. It sounds basic, but if all retailers held true to such a strategy, the world – and certainly our personal libraries – would be better for it. Not only is the store well organized, but owner, Philippa Pires, is unusually helpful and enthusiastic in her various suggestions. More »