Terrific Toronto Used Bookstores

The rumours of the used bookstore’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Though much of the trade has moved online to mega-sites like Abebooks and Amazon, the urban bricks and mortar used bookstore — with its dusty, overstocked shelves and shopkeeper who can name every book he’s acquired since 1972 — is alive and (mostly) well. They are still the place to save money on your book habit and find that title you didn’t know you were looking for. Besides, where else can you hang out where the female customers outnumber the men by three to one, and no cover charge?

A Good Read
A Good Read is that increasing rarity in Toronto: a used bookstore that doesn’t do double duty selling vinyl, CDs, DVDs or other pop culture paraphernalia (though it does have an excellent comics/graphic novel section). This is a big store with an even bigger selection, the emphasis being on first editions and local authors, who often drop in to check on their book sales. The owner must be doing something right: A Good Read has survived in its location on The Construction Site Formerly Known As Roncesvalles for almost five years. 341 Roncesvalles Avenue, 416-538-2665.

Re: Reading
Think of Re: Reading as the used bookstore that doesn’t look like a used bookstore. Bright, airy and featuring a mini reading parlour with matching wingback chairs, the store has become a favourite browsing place in a neighbourhood traditionally unkind to booksellers. Great selection of non-fiction and literary and genre fiction as well as several growing shelves of CDs and DVDs. 548 Danforth Avenue, 647-347-8733.

Frantic City
You wouldn’t know it from the countless media profiles, but there is life on the Ossington Strip before the bars and cafes open in the evening. Exhibit A: Frantic City, possibly the city’s coolest — in the rock and roll sense — used bookstore. Owner Tim Hanna is a veteran of the city’s punk and small-press scenes and his connections to those seemingly opposing scenes show in the store’s selection. Lots of music, lit, poetry and theory titles, while behind the counter you’ll see a first-rate selection from such countercultural heavyweights as William Burroughs, Hubert Selby Jr., J.G. Ballard and Kerouac. 123 Ossington Avenue, 416-533-9138.

Dencan Books & Magazines
A neighbourhood treasure in the up-and-coming Junction area, Dencan’s has everything you could possibly need for your shelves: books of all varieties, mags (including vintage nudies), CDs, vinyl and lots of quirky collectables. The place may look like a bit of a mess but that’s one of the charms of a good used bookstore. If you don’t feel like browsing, just tell the owner what you’re looking for — he knows what’s in stock and he won’t even roll his eyes when you ask, “Do you have that book with the word ‘river’ in it?” 3113 Dundas Street West, 416-763-2302.

Doug Miller Books
This is the place to get your geek on and indulge your inner — or actual flesh and blood — child. Bookseller Doug Miller was a long-time retail staple along the Mount Pleasant strip before the high rents drove him downtown. His new store in the Annex has the same dizzying selection of vintage, used and discounted new kids’ books for all ages as the original location, along with hundreds of graphic novels, literary fiction titles and an unmatchable selection of paperbacks adorned with spaceships, tentacled aliens and brawny dragon fighters and their scantily clad wench-mates. 663 Bloor St. West, 416-482-5665.

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Image courtesy of jennycore.

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