The top 33 bookstores in Toronto by type
Toronto book stores haven't all packed up shop just yet. On the contrary, a survey of the city's book scene reveals that bricks and mortar shops are still plentiful despite the near-constant doom and gloom we hear related to online sales. In fact, the local book shops that have been the most resilient in the face of competition are independent outfits with a specific focus.
These are the top book stores in Toronto by type.
The Bob Miller Book Room is tucked away in the basement of a building near Bloor and Avenue Rd. but grad students will know it as a place to find academic trade paperbacks that you can't your hands on anywhere else. If you like literary theory and history, a visit here is a must.
African and Caribbean Literature
A Different Booklist is a cross-genre bookstore with a focus on literature and history related to Toronto's African and Caribbean communities, but it's more than that too. Here you'll find an excellent selection of books for youth, texts on international politics, and human rights.
Architecture and design
For coffee table worthy design and architecture books, look no further than Swipe Books at 401 Richmond. Owner David Michaelides is passionate about books and stocks his store with hard-to-find titles that you won't see on shelves elsewhere. The magazine stock is also pro.
Art and Photography
David Mirvish Books on Art might be long gone, but Acadia Art & Rare Books carries the mantle in Toronto, with a wonderful selection of monographs and photography books, some of which have become quite hard to find.
Chan Sheung Kee Book Company offers a wide variety of books, magazines, and newspapers from Asian countries, including covetable Japanese fashion magazines and fiction written in a variety of languages.
Toronto has a lot of comic book shops, but none rival The Beguiling for its selection and respect within the community. Owner Peter Birkemoe is an encyclopedia of knowledge on graphic novels, manga, and the animated arts in general. Hit him up for recommendations.
If you think 911 might have been an inside job and the moon landings were faked, then you'll find a host of other compelling theories and sympathetic ears at Conspiracy Culture, Toronto's most suspicious bookstore.
Ben McNally Books isn't just a gorgeous space to browse for new fiction, biography, and local interest titles, but it's a shop that's devoted to offering the highest quality books with an emphasis placed on stocking first edition hardcovers.
Toronto's dedicated cookbook store is a thing of the past, but Good Egg is still a great option for those looking to source the best cooking manuals and food books out there. The selection isn't huge, but the staff have chosen the stock carefully and are happy to recommend titles that will promote culinary inspiration.
TYPE Books regularly tops lists compiling the best bookstores in Toronto, likely because it has a number of things going for it: the selection is contemporary but not completely predictable, readings and events are common, the staff are helpful and knowledgeable, and the window displays are works of art unto themselves.
Toronto's dedicated Islamic bookstore on Gerrard St. offers texts in both English and Urdu covering both the religious and literary realms. They also stock the Quran in a variety of languages.
If there's one type of person that immensely benefits from being able to enter a bricks and mortar store to choose their reading material, it's kids. Mabel's Fables isn't so much a book shop as a young reader's playground, where children can get the tactile experience of books and fall in love with stories.
Little Island Comics is like a candy store for kids but the products are good for their minds and won't rot their teeth. Big points go for stocking titles that deal with equality, gender roles, and other relevant social issues.
There are books on art and there are books as art. Art Metropole carries the latter. Head to this bookstore/gallery for artist multiples, works in limited edition, and other novel takes on the book as art object.
Maps and Government Documents
Need a survey map of an area in cottage country? You just might find it at Federal Publications, along with a host of other documents on things like income tax, the criminal code, estate planning, and the national building code.
Indigo might have an extensive self-help section, but Caversham Books is one of the best sources for books on mental health in the entire world. If you're interested in the human mind and how it works, this store should be on your to-visit list.
Local military buffs will find a huge stock of books to peruse at Ayerego Books on St. Clair West. The second hand shop also has a solid selection of biographies, but it's battle history that the shop excels in.
The Sleuth of Baker Street is one of those unique bookshops that every city should have. You won't find a better selection of mystery novels in the city, and if there's a particular title that you're after, the shop will track it down for you.
Nautical Books and Charts
Yes, Toronto even has a bookstore for aspiring and established seafarers. The Nautical Mind is appropriately located on Queens Quay and stocks everything from texts on knots for sailing to coffee table books on lighthouses.
New Age and the Occult
Nestled in the basement under Kilgour's, Seekers Books has a collection of CanLit and general fiction, but it's best known for its books on the Occult. There's something about the musty room that makes it all the more perfect as Toronto's chief purveyors of books on mysticism, meditation, and Eastern philosophy.
Parenting is an art that's best not to wing entirely, and for that there are stores like Parentbooks, which carries an array of material on early learning, behavioural strategies, and family health in general.
After a few scares, it looks like Glad Day is safe for the long haul in Toronto. That's a very good thing because this is one of the oldest queer book shops in the world. It's a gathering place, a historical marker, and safe space. You might be able to find the titles on the shelves on Amazon, but the importance of the store itself can't be underestimated.
Quirky and unusual
The Monkey's Paw is surely Toronto's most intriguing bookstore, complete with the Biblio-mat book dispenser at the back. The titles here aren't chosen for their use-value, but rather for their quirkiness and the degree to which they speak to the history of the book in all its diverse glory.
If you've got a budget to blow of first edition copies of Hemingway and Woolf novels, Contact Editions is the place to go in Toronto. The sleepy shop has stock that dates back the beginning of the book and and awe-inspiring collection of highly collectible texts spanning multiple centuries.
BMV has a huge stock of used books, but it's the remainder editions that really make the place. Even in the age of online book buying, some of the deals one finds here on new books are unmatched elsewhere.
It's not really surprising that Bakka Phoenix, Toronto's preeminent science fiction bookstore, has managed to continue as a bricks and mortar operation in the face of bookstore closures across the city. Not only is the selection unparalleled, but there's a real community here that uses the shop as a hub.
Signed First Editions
If you're looking to start a book collection and fancy a few prized signed first editions, head to A Good Read on Roncesvalles, which focuses on just such books, including some from the leading stars of CanLit.
The aptly named Spanish Bookstore in Toronto is the city's best resource for books from Spanish-speaking countries and for those looking to acquire the language.
Spirituality and Wellness
The smell of incense announces your arrival at WonderWorks, a spirituality and wellness bookstore in Baldwin Village that's been kickin' it since the 1990s, before this lifestyle trend became mainstream. Here you'll find books on astrology, meditation, and self-care.
Politicos know that Another Story is the best shop in the city to find books on world politics and themes of social justice and equality. It's also a great source for intelligent children's book.
There are obvious candidates for textbooks in the form of the campus bookstores at York and U of T, but those hoping to find a discount might try Batner Bookshop, which buys and sells used textbooks throughout the year. This is also a good spot for educational resources for children.
Used Cook Books
Having a stable of cookbooks is a great way to ensure that you continue to grow as a home chef, but it can get expensive if you're buying new all the time. That's where Eat Your Words comes in. Its stock of used cookbooks can help you build your collection.
Any true book-lover will swoon over Eliot's towering wood shelves stocked with volumes of well-priced used fiction. There's more than this genre on offer, of course, but the second floor really is a playground for those looking to build a collection of literature written over the last 150 years.
What did I miss? Add your favourite book store in the comments.
Top photo of BMV by cookedphotos in the blogTO Flickr pool.
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