Though the Indigo chain of huge book and lifestyle stores serves a fair share of the Toronto market, in-the-know literature lovers seek out the city’s independent booksellers for personal service (plus unimpeachably astute recommendations) rare finds (both new and used) and much more.
Setting the standard for Toronto comic shops, this shop is packed to the rafters with graphic novels and comic books by both mainstream publishers and small presses. The store also feature book signings and readings and is one of the founders of the popular Toronto Comic Arts Festival. 601 Markham St., 416-533-9168.
Ben McNally Books
Crisp and elegant hardcovers plus other first editions—some of which are signed by their authors—are the main feature of this sophisticated Financial District bookshop. Distinguished owner Ben McNally (he’ll be the one with the pony tail) and his staff are known for their impeccable taste, and are always good for a recommendation or two. 366 Bay St., 416-361-0032.
This mini chain retails used and remaindered books at three locations in the city. Its warehouse-like flagship store is, appropriately, in the cultured Annex neighbourhood. The bookshops feature a variety of fiction and general interest publications, as well as a smattering of DVDs and CDs. 471 Bloor St. W., 416-967-5757; 10 Edward St., 416-977-3087; 2289 Yonge St., 416-482-6002.
With five locations in Toronto, Book City offers a mix of new and old titles and a lot of great deals. The discounts in their bargain bins and on shelves full of fiction keep customers hooked. 501 Bloor St. W., 416-961-4496; 1430 Yonge St., 416-926-0749; plus other locations.
The Cookbook Store
A sought out destination for any foodie, domestic goddess or cooking novice, this Yorkville-area mecca for cookbooks has tomes for all skill levels and cuisine types. Celebrity chefs like Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsey have even stopped by for scheduled visits. 850 Yonge St., 416-920-2665.
The Monkey’s Paw
If you’re looking for a book about the odd, unusual or macabre, look no further than the Monkey’s Paw. This secondhand bookshop has an uncommon selection of out-of-print titles covering bizarre subjects, as well as related curiosities. 1229 Dundas St. W., 416-531-2123.
This eclectic institution in Old Town Toronto offers fiction, biographies, travel books, children’s titles and more with an emphasis on British authors, publishers and topics. A large part of the stock is composed of books that are only sold in limited quantities in North America. 45 Front St. E., 416-777-2665.
Of Swallows, Their Deeds and The Winter Below
This third-floor bookstore on College Street specializes in “scholarly books” with and emphasis on philosophy, politics, and general intellect—fitting subjects, given the shop’s proximity to the University of Toronto. Selling secondhand books in an e-reader world, the shop is dedicated to keeping the act of purchasing hard copies alive. 283 College St., 416-534-5173.
Echoing its Design District location, this cool store carries an assortment of contemporary books on graphic design, advertising, typography, architecture and more. (It’s such an authority that it serves as the official bookshop of the Registered Graphic Designers of Ontario and Advertising and Design Club of Canada.) Aside from its intriguing tomes, Swipe also carries a range of small decor objects, children’s toys, stationery and the like. 401 Richmond St. W., 416-363-1332.
A community hub for readings for local authors, book launches and even small art shows, this cozy space is well-stocked with fiction, art and cultural titles, many of which are Canadian. 883 Queen St. W., 416-366-8973; 427 Spadina Rd., 416-487-8973.