As a traditionalist at heart, I prefer reading on paper than on some sort of device. I’d been lugging around books for years, until my more sensible spouse gave me an e-reader for my birthday.
For my recent trip to Los Angeles, I downloaded a new book called “Dear Los Angeles: The City in Diaries and Letters, 1542 to 2018.” Editor David Kipen combed through a vast array of journals and correspondence to assemble this collection of mostly short musings on Los Angeles and its residents, all written by people living or staying in the city.
Rather than organizing the quotes he pulled chronologically, he arranged them according to the day of the year when they were written. April 6, for example, has quotes from Olive Percival, Anaïs Nin and Richard Burton, three people one rarely has the chance to mention in the same sentence. But one of my favorite quotes in the book was written on March 17, 1964, by John Fowles: “I am luxuriously ensconced in a hotel on the Sunset Strip, with a view south over the whole of LA. The night view is very beautiful, a spill of jewels glittering in limpid air….” Reading these words while relaxing in the Sunset Tower Hotel felt very satisfying.
Convenient though my e-reader may be, I still can’t resist a good bookstore. In Los Angeles the Last Bookstore focuses on used books and has a selection rivaling Powell’s in Portland. The store, which occupies a historic bank building downtown, is immense and architecturally impressive, with tall Doric columns supporting a coffered ceiling. Upstairs, you can walk through a tunnel made of books — a popular photo spot — or into the “Horror Vault,” a collection of horror-themed novels within an actual former bank vault. In another ex-vault, I discovered some vintage travel writing, which is what I most enjoy collecting.
My e-reader has made it easier for me to carry books like “Dear Los Angeles” with me on my travels, I can’t deny it. But having an actual book in my suitcase feels reassuring in a way my e-reader never could. I trust that the Last Bookstore will be with us for a long time to come.
The Last Bookstore
453 South Spring Street. Tel. (213) 488-0599