On rainy days like these, there simply is nothing better than curling up on a couch and reading a good book. And, despite the convenience, there’s something to be said about holding a physical book in hand rather than the cold touch of a Kindle or Kobo. While you may have thought that Portland was the go-to place for picking up used books (hello Powell’s!), Vancouver actually has a surprisingly abundance of independent bookstores that offer that extra special something. If you’re in the mood for a good, new-to-you book, check out this list of three lesser-known second hand bookstores in Vancouver for you to check out:

Kestler Books Vancouver

Kestrel Books

If you’re going to Kits to go to a bookstore, it’s likely that you’ll be going to Banyen Books & Sound. While that store is great in its own right, just down the road you can find a haven for lovers of books. Kestrel Books specialises in rarities and antiquated books, so if you’re looking for an old book that may now be out of print, try here. The owner is really helpful and, like all independent bookstore owners, has an encyclopaedic knowledge of his store and its contents. You can trade old books here so if you’re looking to declutter your house and feel comfortable parting with a few titles – it’s difficult, we know – then you can bring your selection to Kestrel.

Location: 3642 West 4th Avenue, right down the street from Banyen (Kitsilano)
Our favourite little quirk:
 The cat! Ruby has her own chair and can be seen sprawled like a goddess on top of it.
Special area of interest: Old, rare titles and multiple titles in philosophy/psychology.
Hours: 11am-7pm daily (except Christmas and New Year)
Website: www.kestrelbooks.ca


criterion books vancouver

Criterion Books

Criterion is similar to Kestrel in that a popular bookstore is located very close-by. McLeod’s, which is rightfully a Vancouver institution and is worthy of at least an hour-long visit, is so close you could throw a copy of Joyce’s Ulysses from one store to the other (and that’s a heavy book). You could walk by Criterion twenty times and it could elude you.

It is based just east of McLeod’s, across the street, and up a set of stairs. You walk up the stairs and instantly the musky smell of old books hammers your nostrils. Breathe in a deep breath, book lovers! The store is quite small compared to others, but space is utilised to the maximum and you are free to browse for as long as you want. We found a few classic books here for bargain prices. Bear in mind that another great used bookstore, Albion, is right round the corner. It also does used vinyls. So you really are spoiled for choice in this part of town!

Location: 434 West Pender, across the street from McLeod’s (visit here as well!)
Our favourite little quirk:
The owner! Super friendly and doesn’t even have to label many shelves. He knows where everything is. Also, soccer fans will notice the cute touch walking down the stairs to exit. The owner is obviously a Liverpool FC fan because he has a sign saying Welcome to Anfield on the roof. It’s a replica of the one found in Liverpool’s soccer stadium. 
Special area of interest: There is a big section on Canadian literature and books about BC. We found a few great literary novels by European writers here also.
Hours: Normal business hours Monday – Saturday, and some Sundays too.
Website: located here


second hand bookstores vancouver

Spartacus Books

As epic as its name. This bookstore is a not-for-profit, volunteer-run space. That’s right: none of the workers here get paid. It’s a small bookstore with a welcoming atmosphere where you can sit and read and even have a coffee for free! The catalogue of bargain books you can purchase here is remarkable. Check out their $2 dollar shelf for some absolute steals.

They offer more than just a bookstore experience at Spartacus, and often hold interesting events. Their brilliant website is very user-friendly and provides a wealth of information about the store and its mission.

Location: 3378 Findlay Street, just off that confusing stretch on the 20 bus line where Commercial Drive turns into Victoria Drive. Here’s the postcode, stick it in your smartphones…much easier! V5N 4E7
Our favourite little quirk:
The FREE internet and coffee!  
Special area of interest: They have a plethora of books on a variety of topics. But look no further than Spartacus for interesting, obscure titles. They stock a lot of books about politics and revolution, first nations, and literature. Also they have some interesting periodicals. 
Hours: Monday – Friday 10am to 8:30pm / Saturday and Sunday 11am to 7pm
Website: www.spartacusbooks.net


By no means is this an exhaustive list of second hand bookstores in Vancouver! We’ll be posting more in the future. What’s your favourite bookstore in Vancouver?

Leave a Reply

  1. grayelf

    Pulp Fiction! And they can order new books at a discount too.

  2. Alethea

    A book day comprised of Banyen and Kestrel is delightful. So many great places around there now for lunch or coffee, too. Banyen also has a used books section, focusing on the subjects that they normally carry. Gems and deals can often be found there.

  3. jwcurry

    no Vancouver bookstore will ever compare with William Hoffer back in the day on Granville

  4. George Mills

    Hi there,
    I’m looking for my old friend Geoff Welch, been living in Van for many years now, we hiked together our way around South America in 1970. The last time we spoke he said he was planning on opening a second hand bookstore.
    If you know of him please give him my contact details.
    tel + 27 82 513 5266 (Cape Town South Africa )