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Top Bookstores in San Diego

Top Bookstores in San Diego

San Diego might be best known for its sun and sand, but the bookstore scene is something to get excited about

San Diego may have nearly perfect weather, but booklovers will find plenty of reasons to spend at least some time indoors. Throughout the city, you can find lots of quirky independent bookstores stocked with rare reads, bestsellers, used books, and more. These hubs also often host social events and readings by local and national authors.

Of course, you can always shop at the bookstore chains, too. Barnes & Noble has several locations including the Bookstar Point Loma, located inside the art deco–themed old Point Loma theater. However, the local independent shops do more than just sell books you won’t find anywhere else—they also deliver a unique experience and a window into the city’s cultural soul. Whether you’re in the market for an easy beach read or a rare out-of-print scholarly tome, find what you’re looking for at these top used and independent San Diego bookstores.

The Top Bookstores in San Diego, Verbatim Books

Verbatim Books San Diego

Best San Diego Bookstore for: Finding rare books
Location: North Park
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturday

With a rainbow book display, a gothic living room feel, and a giant “Verbatim” sculpture built entirely out of books, Verbatim Books in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood is an eclectic destination known mostly for its used, antique, and rare books. With 35,000 titles, it’s considered the largest independent bookstore in San Diego. Verbatim also makes room for 200 local authors, an entire section devoted to lesser-known `zines, and new releases from small presses. If there’s a book you can’t find anywhere else, check the shelves of Verbatim Books.


Best San Diego Bookstore for: Up-and-coming author and book events
Location: La Jolla
Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday–Saturday; 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday

One of the country’s oldest family-run bookstores, Warwick’s first opened in Minnesota in 1896 before relocating to San Diego in 1939. A community staple, Warwick’s is known for its personalized staff recommendations and busy calendar of book events. Four to five days per week, this bookstore, located in the coastal community of La Jolla, hosts readings for both up-and-coming and popular bestselling authors. Visit on a Sunday to hear from San Diego–based authors during the Weekends with Locals series. Plus, every week the store staff hosts a virtual tea time to deliver their book recommendations.

La Playa Books

Best San Diego Bookstore for: Out-of-print books
Location: Point Loma
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday–Sunday

The only used bookstore on “the Point,” La Playa Books specializes in used and rare (especially out-of-print) books. They do have new releases too, primarily on request, and an additional 20,000 books in their archive. You can search online, but it’s better to experience this library-like bookstore located at the busy entrance to Shelter Island on the Point Loma peninsula in real life. Staffed mostly by neighborhood locals, the shop also hosts community events, like its monthly Wine and Conversation Book Club, and it has a well-stocked California collection.

D.G. Wills Books

Best San Diego Bookstore for: Meeting famous literary figures
Location: La Jolla
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday–Saturday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday

Norman Mailer, Gore Vidal, Edward Albee, and Maureen Dowd have all spoken at this eclectic little bookstore. Books are stacked so high that you may need owner Dennis Wills or one of this staffers to lend a hand. You can see past visits from famous literary figures on the store’s  YouTube channel, but it’s better in person. Check the calendar to see when the next noted academic, poet laureate, Supreme Court justice, or Hollywood celebrity will make an appearance amidst La Jolla’s largest selection of scholarly books.

The Top Bookstores in San Diego, Bluestocking Books

Bluestocking Books

Best San Diego Bookstore for: Young adults and kids
Location: Hillcrest
Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday

For 60 years, a number of funky independent bookstores have taken up residence in this San Diego Hillcreststorefront. But in 1999, Bluestocking Books set up shop and has been delivering used books across genres—with particular selections for teens and kids—ever since. Their selection includes highlights of diverse stories and BIPOC authors. Orders for new books are placed once per week, so if you want something in particular, get in touch before Monday morning. You can also trade in your old books for credit.

The Book Catapult

Best San Diego Bookstore for: Uber local San Diego vibes
Location: South Park
Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday–Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

This independent bookstore started as a book blog and then launched with a series of San Diego neighborhood in-person events (including one featuring an arm wrestling world champion). The Book Catapultopened its doors in 2017 and quickly became ingrained in South Park culture. The small bookstore with an insider feel partners with area businesses for cocktail and coffee book clubs, sells local gifts and knick-knacks in its small boutique, and features readings from local authors. Bookstore staff members also incorporate neighborhood interests in their picks.

Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore

Best San Diego Bookstore for: Science fiction and fantasy
Location: Point Loma
Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday–Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Opened in 1993 at the base of Point Loma, Mysterious Galaxy specializes in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and young adult (YA) books. Fans of romance novels or YA will appreciate the shop’s themed book clubs. Author events are similarly focused with horror panels, Dungeons & Dragons meetups, and a mystery writers group. This is the kind of independent bookstore where a miniature dragon flies from the ceiling and there’s a cookbook section with recipes from fantasy and sci-fi novels.

Maxwell’s House of Books

Best San Diego Bookstore for: Used books
Location: La Mesa
Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday–Saturday; Noon to 4 p.m. Sunday

Named one of the 50 best independent bookstores in the U.S. by The Huffington Post, San Diego’s Maxwell’s has aisles and aisles of used books, with over 30,000 in their total stock and a particular specialty in academic and scholarly books. You can also sell your used books (and then buy more to replenish your supply). Founded in 2003 by Craig Maxwell, whose grandfather ran the historic (and now closed) Wahrenbrocks Book House near the Gaslamp Quarter, the small store is piled high with tomes. There’s even a resident cat, Rorschach, named after the famous psychological test.

Footnote Books

Best San Diego Bookstore for: Browsing hidden gems
Location: Hillcrest
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday–Saturday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday

You might be overwhelmed when you walk into Footnote. Books are stacked along each wall, in front of other books, and tucked into every corner—but this San Diego used bookstore is full of hidden gems, and finding them is half the fun. Feel free to peruse valuable rare books, a collection of comics and graphic novels, a small array of classic vinyl, and the odd historical map or snapshot. (You can also ask the staff for help to order online, but that’s less fun and doesn’t include the full catalog.) For three decades, this used independent bookstore has been a Hillcrest mainstay.

Libélula Books & Co

Best San Diego Bookstore for: Photo ops and unusual finds
Location: Barrio Logan
Hours: 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday–Sunday

While piled-high bookstores have their own charm, Libélula’s breezy, beautifully curated shelves offer the opposite aesthetic. You’ll want to linger on the antique upholstered sofa and snap a picture in front of the industrial chic shelves. Located in the heart of Barrio Logan, this queer and BIPOC-owned bookstore fully embraces the neighborhood’s rich Mexican-American culture. Find everything from used and new books to colorful ceramics and tarot cards.

These bookstores provide a great entry point to San Diego’s literary scene, but there’s even more to explore nearby. The sprawling San Diego Central Library next to Petco Park features multiple floors of every sort of book, plus a shaded courtyard café and a buzzy gift shop. Each spring the San Diego Library Foundation hosts an annual Book Crawl, featuring fun prizes from independent shops. Plus, America’s Finest City plays host to the ever-vibrant Comic-Con International, and all across the state there’s something fun for Harry Potter fans

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