The Last Bookstore in Downtown Los Angeles could be the model for Zafon’s “cemetery of forgotten books – a repository for books from the classics to science fiction to literary criticism and more – except this place is no secret and everything is for sale. The bookstore is housed in a converted old bank building (the guard still stands at the door), and stocks used as well as new books, and an extensive collection of vinyl records – single 45s and long-playing 78s – in a huge hall crisscrossed with books in old wooden bookcases.
I could have wandered through the stacks on the first floor forever, until I discovered the back stairs to the second floor and happily got lost in the maze of more books and art. I felt like Alice in Wonderland as I walked through a tunnel of books, peeked through a window frame of books, and zigzagged through passageways that led to even more books. Soft chairs beckoned and I found it hard to leave.
Of course, I found books to buy – a few children’s books: Dahl’s “The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me”; a boardbook for a small friend – “Ten Little Monkey”; Terry Pratchett’s sci-fi thriller, “Only You Can Save Mankind”; a Man Booker finalist from 2008 – Mohsin Hamid’s “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”; and an old DVD of “Monsoon Wedding.” They all fit nicely in my carry-on for my flight home.
Like the Cemetery of Lost Books, the Last Bookstore has an aura of mystery and reverence, and the caretakers are happy to help or just let newcomers wander in wonder. If you are a visitor in LA, look for this place where readers feel at home.