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Toronto’s Best Independent Book Stores

BY SAM CHEUNG & CRAIG MOY

Ben McNally Books (photo: Lisa Clarke)

Ben McNally Books (photo: Lisa Clarke)

Perhaps you’ve heard about the death of print? Well, even in a city like Toronto, which is filled with Kindle-, Kobo- and iPad-addicted readers, the demise of the physical book has been greatly exaggerated; the city has all manner of thriving independent book stores to make sure you’re stocked up with beautiful coffee-table tomes, out-of-print vintage editions, and, of course, the newest hardcovers across all genres.

Toronto’s Best Independent Book Store for New Recommendations
Longtime bookseller Ben McNally is a favourite among Toronto’s literary crowd, and his eponymous Ben McNally Books is rightly regarded as one of the city’s most sophisticated shops. McNally himself can often be found in the store, and is known to be a fount of wisdom regarding the latest and greatest reads. First-edition hardcovers (sometimes signed by writers) are abundantly available here, while the boutique’s refined, library-like setting has made it a preferred location for book launches and other author events.

• Ben McNally, 366 Bay Street, 416-361-0032; benmcnallybooks.com
Map and reviews

Toronto’s Best Independent Book Store for Graphic Novels
A bastion of comic-book culture, The Beguiling is filled wall-to-wall with comics, graphic novels, manga, and comic-related artwork and merchandise. Tweedier than the stereotypical comic shop, the internationally known store focuses on non-traditional books, meaning that you’ll probably want to look elsewhere for the latest issues of Ultimate Spider-Man. On the other hand, if it’s books by Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes or Marjane Satrapi you’re after, then the Beguiling ought to be your one-stop shop.

• The Beguiling, 601 Markham St., 416-533-9168; beguilingbooksandart.com
Map and reviews

Toronto’s Best Independent Book Store for Budding Superheroes
Though adult enthusiasts tend to dominate Toronto’s comic book scene, Mirvish Village’s Little Island Comics (from the owners of The Beguiling) caters to the format’s original connoisseurs—children and teenagers. A paradise for young imaginations, the shop features low-height shelves so your tykes can easily browse the wares, including traditional favourites like Archie and Peanuts comics, kid-friendly Japanese manga, and picture books and graphic novels by authors ranging from Maurice Sendak to Neil Gaiman.

• Little Island Comics, 742 Bathurst, 416-901-7489; littleislandcomics.com
Map and reviews

Toronto’s Best Independent Book Store for Design Enthusiasts
Design aficionados have very specific tastes when it comes to printed content, and we don’t just mean a dislike for the Comic Sans typeface. Where many general-interest retailers make do with a fairly shabby selection of art and design books (and the case is even more dire when it comes to volumes on architecture), beloved Swipe Design Books & Objects carries numerous contemporary tomes on subjects ranging from graphic design and typography to architecture, photography and other visual arts. The selection is both broad and deep enough to satisfy even the pickiest of artistic dispositions. As a bonus, books aren’t the only things under Swipe’s purview: true to its name, the store also sells a variety of cool stationery products, housewares and home decor items, children’s toys, and other design-y knick-knacks.

• Swipe Design Books & Objects, 401 Richmond St W., 416-363-1332; swipe.com
Map and reviews

Type Books

Type Books

Toronto’s Best Independent Book Store for Discovering Local Writers
This city is proud of its bookish heritage; we’re even more chuffed when it comes to our current crop of writers-in-residence. Eminent authors including Margaret Atwood, Lawrence Hill, Anne Michaels and Dennis Lee make their homes in this city, while a significant number of younger Toronto-based novelists are enjoying growing success across the country and abroad. Type Books is arguably the retail epicentre of the local literary scene—the place to visit for books by Toronto scribes and small presses. The Queen West location is particularly notable for its artistic, oft-changing window displays, as well as its proximity to Trinity Bellwoods Park, which, in clement weather, is pretty much the best place for diving into your newest acquisitions.

• Type Books, 883 Queen Street West, 416-366-8973 & 427 Spadina Rd., 416-487-8973; typebooks.ca
Map and reviews

Toronto’s Best Independent Book Store for Sci-Fi Fans
With a name partially taken from Frank Herbert’s seminal science-fiction masterpiece Dune, Bakka Phoenix Books is Toronto’s hub for sci-fi and fantasy literature. In operation for nearly 40 years, the shop has long nurtured an intimate relationship with the city’s sci-fi scene; several notable Canadian writers have been employed by the store in the past, and it often hosts book clubs, author events and more.

• Bakka Phoenix Books, 84 Harbord St., 416-963-9993; bakkaphoenixbooks.com
Map and reviews

Toronto’s Best Independent Book Store for the LGBTQ Community
Claiming the title of the world’s oldest LGBTQ bookshop, Glad Day—in business since 1970—proudly flies its rainbow flag as a pillar of the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer community. The store notably stocks LGBTQ literature that is no longer in print or otherwise difficult to obtain.

• Glad Day Bookshop, 598 Yonge St., 416-961-4161; gladdaybookshop.com
Map and reviews

Toronto’s Best Independent Book Store for Mystery Lovers
A keen wit will immediately identify the namesake of Sleuth of Baker Street as the master of all literary detectives, Sherlock Holmes. Although mystery has for many years been the bread-and-butter genre of book publishing, and a wide selection can be found in most big-box book shops, the Sleuth does well by offering a truly prodigious compendium of mystery novels from the finest writers the Canada, the U.K., the U.S., and around the world. Specialization means that the store’s staff boast vast knowledge of literature’s greatest crimes, femmes fatale, crack detectives. Though a little out of the way, the shop is a must-visit for anyone seeking a new (or classic) whodunit.

• Sleuth of Baker Street, 907 Millwood Rd., 416-483-3111; sleuthofbakerstreet.ca
Map and reviews

Toronto’s Best Independent Book Store for Literary Oddities
A truly delightful destination for fans of the printed word, The Monkey’s Paw boasts an exceptional collection of esoteric antiquarian books and uncommon artifacts just waiting to be discovered by an appreciative new reader. Of particular note is the store’s “Biblio-mat,” a first-of-its-kind coin-operated machine that dispenses random old books.

• The Monkey’s Paw, 1229 Dundas St W., 416-531-2123; monkeyspaw.com
Map and reviews

Toronto’s Best Independent Book Store for Beautiful Art Books
Like The Monkey’s Paw, Acadia Art & Rare Books traffics in rare and out-of-print books—its stock numbers more than 10,000 titles. Among the store’s real finds, however, are its vintage art books, as well as prints, maps and other visual ephemera. You know, the sort of stuff that helps turn a ho-hum room in your house into a real library.

• Acadia, 232 Queen St. E., 416-364-7638; acadiabooks.com
Map and reviews

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