Fall is the
season of books, so what better time to poke around the shelves of your local shop in search of your next favourite title? To get you inspired for an afternoon of browsing, we’ve rounded up some of this country’s most-beloved independent bookstores, from a shop founded by Alice Munro, to one specializing in “radical reads,” to another featuring hard-to-find first editions. Put them on your list for your next visit to Victoria, Wolfville and Burlington.
Photo, Brandon Marsh Photography.
The Bookshelf, Guelph, Ontario
The Bookshelf in 1973, owners Barb and Doug Minett added a café in 1980 to make it Canada’s first bookstore/café, and then seven years later added a cinema and bar. Shortly thereafter they took over and renovated the building next door to add a music venue and restaurant. Over the years, The Bookshelf has held readings by John Irving, Michael Ondaatje, and Margaret Atwood, and musical performances by Serena Ryder, the Constantines, and Sarah Harmer. It currently holds 14 film screenings a week and offers dinner and a movie for just $25 every Tuesday to Saturday.
41 Quebec St.
1. The Bookshelf, Guelph, Ontario
Photo, Brandon Marsh Photography.
in 1973, owners Barb and Doug Minett added a café in 1980 to make it Canada’s first bookstore/café, and then seven years later added a cinema and bar. Shortly thereafter they took over and renovated the building next door to add a music venue and restaurant. Over the years, The Bookshelf has held readings by John Irving, Michael Ondaatje, and
, and musical performances by Serena Ryder, the Constantines, and Sarah Harmer. It currently holds 14 film screenings a week and offers dinner and a movie for just $25 every Tuesday to Saturday.
41 Quebec St.
2. The Odd Book, Wolfville, Nova Scotia
Photo, Tobias Gow.
Specializing in second-hand, rare, and out-of-print books,
The Odd Book
has been open in the university town of Wolfville, Nova Scotia, since 1977. When purchasing used books for the store, owner Jim Gow pays particular attention to interesting characteristics, such as Victorian-era binding, marks of previous owners like interleaved mementoes, or outrageous cover art.
112 Front St.
3. Librairie Drawn & Quarterly, Montreal, Quebec
Photo, Drawn & Quarterly.
Founded in 1989 by Chris Oliveros as a magazine,
Drawn & Quarterly
has grown to become an internationally renowned publisher of comics and graphic novels. In 2007, Oliveros opened Librarie Drawn & Quarterly in Montreal’s Mile End neighbourhood, and it’s become a favourite spot among local authors and book-lovers. And just this past October, La Petite Librairie Drawn & Quarterly opened just down the street, focusing exclusively on children’s literature, including graphic novels for kids.
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly, 211 Bernard Ouest.
La Petite Librairie D+Q 176 Bernard Ouest.
4. Whodunit, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Photo, Aaron Cohen.
Looking for a great mystery novel?
is the place to find it. Open since 1994, this specialty bookstore offers a full range of crime fiction, with a special focus on Scandinavian, British and Canadian authors. On the last Tuesday of every month, Whodunit hosts a Mystery Reading Club. If you can’t find what you’re looking for in-store, the owners will gladly order it for you.
165 Lilac St.
5. Mabel’s Fables, Toronto, Ontario
Photo, Mabel's Fables.
Since opening its doors in 1988,
has become a go-to destination for books for children and young adults. Located in a two-story building in Toronto’s Midtown, Mabel’s Fables offers a book club for readers aged 9–12 and classes for adults on writing fiction for children (in association with George Brown College). Mabel’s Fables also collects gently used books for
Children’s Book Bank,
a charity that provides free books to low-income communities.
662 Mount Pleasant Rd.
6. Munro’s Books, Victoria, British Columbia
Photo, Munro's Books.
Located in the heart of Victoria’s Old Town,
has been a must-visit destination for book-lovers for more than 50 years. Original owners, Jim and Alice Munro, opened the store in 1963 in a spall space on Yates St. In 1979, it moved to a larger place on Fort Street, and then in 1984, to its current location, a beautiful neo-classical building with 24-foot coffered ceilings, originally built for the Royal Bank of Canada in 1909. Not sure what you’re looking for? The staff, most of whom have been with Munro’s for decades, are always eager to help.
1108 Government St.
7. Café Books, Canmore, Alberta
Photo, Cafe Books.
Nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rockies,
is a sight to behold. The majority of the furniture is reclaimed and salvaged. The main bookcase is made from an old butler pantry from a Pennsylvania Mansion; a Welsh chapel door from the 1800s was transformed into the washroom entrance; and an 18th-century French workbench with a draw and functioning vice is used as a table for the cashier tills. Along with a selection of books, the store also sells jewellery, pottery and artwork by Canadian artists.
100-826 Main St.
8. Bison Books, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Photo, Bison Books.
in downtown Winnipeg specializes in antiquarian, used, and out-of-print books (they currently have over 20,000 titles!), including many hard-to-find first editions. (They also offer recent fiction and graphic novels.) And if you have a book you think may be worth a penny or two, owner Aimee Peake will happily appraise it for you in accordance with the code of conduct set out by the
International League of Antiquarian Booksellers
424 Graham Ave.
9. Ben McNally Books, Toronto, Ontario
Photo, Ben McNally Books.
Open since 2007 in the heart of Toronto’s Financial District,
Ben McNally Books
specializes in first-run hardcovers and hard-to-find books from the U.S. and U.K. While the store itself might only be 10 years old, Ben McNally himself has been an integral part of the Toronto book scene, for many years, having worked as the manager of the now defunct high-end Nicholas Hoare Bookstore. The warm and inviting, wood-panelled 2,500-square-foot space also acts as an events venue after hours.
336 Bay St.
10. Spartacus Books, Vancouver, British Columbia
Photo, Allison Jones.
is a non-profit, volunteer-run bookstore and resource centre in downtown Vancouver. It’s also one of the longest serving (40 years and counting) collectively run bookstores in North America. Started by students from Simon Fraser University, its original name was Spartacus Socialist Education Society and today still sticks to its “radical bookstore” roots by offering sections such as anarchism, socialism, radical theory, and community organizing. Spartacus also offers free Internet and computer access, free coffee and tea, and cozy couches to curl up and read on.
3378 Findlay St.
11. A Different Drummer, Burlington, Ontario
Photo, A Different Drummer.
Situated in an Edwardian red brick house that was built in 1905,
A Different Drummer
in Burlington, Ontario, was founded by John Richardson and Al Cummings (Cummings was also Robert Bateman’s first publisher) in 1970. The bookstore occupies all three floors of the house and stocks books on a wide variety of subjects, with a special focus on local authors. Every spring and fall the store hosts “The Book and Author Series,” where guests get to enjoy breakfast as well as a presentation and book signed by the author of the featured book.
513 Locust St.