midnight mass books toronto

A ghost bookstore has been secretly hiding in a Toronto cafe

Toronto's hottest new ghost book shop has secretly been hiding out in some of the city's coolest cafes.

It's called Midnight Mass Books, and it's currently haunting cafe Capital Espresso in Parkdale.

Started in 2018 and run by two people who wish to be known only as Matt and Chris, Midnight Mass is really more of a community of book lovers and sharers than a money-making scheme.

They source used books and records from people who no longer have a need for them and find they're crowding their space, and you can reach out to them by email if you'd like to donate.

"It's almost exclusively used books, however we do very occasionally stock some specialty small press titles that are new and unavailable elsewhere in Toronto," Matt tells blogTO.

"All the used stock comes from friends, our personal collections, road trips, garage sales or anywhere else that used books are sold that we stumble upon."

This results in their shelf at Capital being stocked with books that range from anthologies of gay and lesbian sci fi and fantasy, to classics by greats like James Baldwin, Joyce Carol Oates, Oscar Wilde, Pablo Neruda, Margaret Atwood, Cormac McCarthy, William Carlos Williams and Henry Miller. 

There's also often a good chance of finding books by musicians like Patti Smith, Henry Rollins, Nick Cave or Kim Gordon. You might also happen upon hefty coffee table books, or even comic books.

The idea was inspired by a conversation with the owner of Brooklyn-based Better Read Than Dead, as well as similar models that local Toronto stores like Flying Books and Knife Fork Book have employed.

"We're readers, collectors and admirers first and foremost, so we are always buying books, going to sales and picking up doubles of our favourite titles to share with friends," says Matt.

"So doing this was a natural extension of that and a way for us to justify our own buying and spending habits while providing something we think should exist in every neighbourhood."

Check out their Instagram to see their current lineup, and you can set up a purchase and local pickup or drop off through Instagram DM's or by commenting. Sometimes they're even open to trades.

Prices might range from around $6 to about $30, and are marked as sold in Instagram posts once they've been claimed. 

They try to add titles weekly and to fully restock the Capital shelf on a monthly basis.

"We approached Capital Espresso because books and coffee are an obvious fit, to us at least," says Matt.

"The staff at Capital handles all the sales and have been so accommodating and great to work with. They genuinely seem just as excited as us to have something like this close to home."

However, it's not just books for sale you'll see if you take a quick look at their Instagram.

It's clear the connection to the literary community and fellow book hoarders runs deep: they also post photos of book collections that belong to other sellers, tagged with #booksellersbookshelves.

During lockdown, a shelf was in full view of the window at Capital, and books could be purchased via their takeout window.

Midnight Mass has been involved in pop-ups with local artisans previously, but this summer started their "Sunday Services," which are basically like sidewalk sales they set up with other vendors outside Capital Espresso.

At these, not only will you find a curated collection of Midnight Mass books, but also new, used, thrifted, vintage and handmade items, including tapes, VHS, clothing and jewellery.

Next up for Midnight Mass is starting a press to help bring new works by local writers to fruition in addition to selling used books.

"The press is in the final stages of announcing our first two publications one of which will be a collection of poetry and the other photography, both by local individuals," says

Midnight Mass is working with St. Louis-based artist Ashley Hohman and local designer Ali Qadeer on all publications. 

"If you plan on browsing the shelf and buying a book we encourage you to grab a coffee, tip your barista and bring a food donation for the community fridge located directly across the street," says Matt.

Lead photo by

Midnight Mass Books


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