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Pilgrimage to Book Soup


Last weekend I went down to Southern California to visit my friends. On the way to Palm Springs I spent a day in Los Angeles. Even on a tight schedule—between a hike up to the Hollywood sign, happy hour in West Hollywood, and Korean BBQ in Koreatown, I managed to pay Book Soup a visit.

In the fold of LA’s gay neighborhood, on Sunset Boulevard, Book Soup is probably the best bookstore on the west coast. Upon entry, you’re greeted by tall, teetering stacks and mazes of shelves crammed with titles that attracted book lovers, entertainment and tourist industry clientele. The vertiginous shelves remind me of those from City Lights Bookshop in San Francisco but this bookstore is free of all those tourists (who are not readers) who just come into City Lights to check off their list. All the new hardback fiction are grouped together in one section. The mystery and paperback fiction are on opposite sides of an aisle. I could literally spend all day browsing just this area alone. I like their staff recommendation cards which come in handy when I am pressed for time.

Vroman’s in Pasadena now owns Book Soup but thank God Vroman’s preserves Book Soup’s chic, stylish, and creative setup around the store. The store was founded in 1975 by Glenn Goldman. Goldman and David Mackler (both in graduate school at UCLA at the time) raised $50,000 and, after doing extensive research on where to locate their store, opened Book Soup on Sunset Boulevard. The rationale for the location, as Goldman explained, was that there “had been a period of upheaval here in the ’60s—of thought and ideas—and I felt that the people who lived in the neighborhood would and could really support a bookstore.” Goldman announced he was selling Book Soup on just before he died of pancreatic cancer in Jan 2009. Vroman’s Bookstore and Book Soup signed an agreement October 9, 2009, to purchase Book Soup.


8 Responses

  1. I can’t remember the name of the book store in Santa Cruz that you once recommended, but I do remember that C.J. and I both loved it. So, the next time I’m paying Palm Springs a visit…..

    • In downtown Santa Cruz, you’ll find Logos Books, which resemble a used bookstore in Berkeley. Very hip. The other one is Bookshop Santa Cruz, a primarily new book store that caters to every age. I enjoy both and find myself browsing all afternoon. Bookshop Santa Cruz has a lot of featured sections like movie tie-ins, classics you didn’t read in high school, award winning books, and featured authors.

      Book Soup is right in WeHo. vroman’s, which owns Book Soup, is in Pasadena, which is on the way to Palm Springs on 210 freeway. Next time you drive to Palm Springs, stop by either place to pick up some poolside readings.

  2. I love this store, when in LA I stayed at the Montrose around the corner and would spend many happy hours and $ in the store.

    • It’s like a candy store for me here! 🙂 They have have wonderful coffee table books, a huge section on biographies.

      By the way, I enjoyed cocktails at the Le Montrose lounge.

  3. You should also try Skylight Books in Los Feliz on your next trip to LA. It’s closer to the Hollywood Bowl, but has a great selection of indie books as well as more mainstream. They also have a second store about two storefronts down for graphic novels, art books, photography, etc.

    • We drove by Skylight on our way back from the Griffith/Hollywood Sign hike—and I instantly bookmarked the place. I love the Los Feliz neighborhood. There’s a restaurant there with a huge front porch called Alcove. I would go there with a book and grab some brunch.

  4. I definitely need to visit this one on my next trip to LA.

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