The Best Local Bookstores in San Diego
From new to used, vintage to modern, memoir to science fiction, you’re sure to find the page-turner you’re searching for—and plenty of others you didn’t even know you wanted
Verbatim Books | Photo by Sydney Prather
San Diego is one seriously book-loving town. How do we know? It’s full of local bookstores whose shelves are sagging under the weight of your next well-spent afternoon. Stephen King nailed it when he said that "Books are a uniquely portable magic." Whether you’re headed to the airport, your couch, or the beach, stop at one of these book shops and pick up a bit of magic. (Just make sure to use extra sunscreen if you’re beach bound; there’s no telling how long you might be under the spell of a good read.)
This small Point Loma outpost has brimmed with new, used, and antiquarian books since 2016. In addition to selling great titles, La Playa also hosts events like Wine and Conversation Book Club (with vino courtesy of The Wine Pub) and New and Noteworthy Book Club, whose caffeinated deep dives take place at Point Loma Coffee.
Hours: Tues.-Sun., 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Where: 1026 Rosecrans St.
One of San Diego’s oldest family-owned book shops, Warwick’s deserves its own history volume: It debuted in Minnesota in 1896, reopened in Waterloo, Iowa in 1916, and finally made its way to La Jolla in 1939. Today, upcoming and well-known authors grace the shop to speak about their work. This year, they are hosting Sex and the City creator Candice Bushnell, spy novelist Kate Quinn, and Bruce Holsinger, author of The Gifted School, a colorful commentary on education in Colorado. Warwick’s also offers author lunches and discounts to book clubs sourcing their books.
Hours: Mon.–Sat., 9 a.m. –6 p.m.; Sun. 10 a.m. –5:30 p.m.
Where: 7812 Girard Ave.
This funky Hillcrest establishment covers all your used book needs from Shakespeare, Atwood, and children’s books to newer titles like Becoming and Educated. Bluestocking also allows you to trade in your old books for store credit on their shelves of tantalizing titles. Start rummaging!
Hours: Mon.–Thurs., 11 a.m. –6 p.m.; Fri. and Sat., 9 a.m. –8 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m. –5 p.m.
Where: 3817 Fifth Ave.
Few bookstores can say they started off as a book lover’s blog, as this South Park shop did. Owner Seth Marko went from chronicling 117 days of reading James Patterson on his site, now titled The Old School Book Catapult, to launching a bookstore seven years later. Embracing the brick-and-mortar approach, it has no online store. The Book Catapult slings a variety of new titles like The Library Book and Gross Anatomy: Dispatches from the Front (and Back). The shop also partners with businesses like Communal Coffee to host informal Java-fueled book discussions.
Hours: Tues.–Sat., 10 a.m. –6 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m. –5 p.m. Closed Mon.
Where: 3010-B Juniper St.
Tucked away on Coronado, this island staple ought to be your itinerary. With a giant array of books, plus journals, greeting cards, and magazines, you’ll find plenty more than beach reads to stuff into your bag. Island residents, you’re in luck: the shop provides free shipping to your door.
Hours: Mon.–Sun., 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Where: 1029 Orange Ave.
Lose yourself in a galaxy far, far away...as far as Clairemont Mesa, anyway. Upon transporting to this bookstore, you’ll encounter endless fodder for the imagination: science fiction, fantasy, mystery, young adult, romance, horror novels. Pick your poison! Delve further into these fictional worlds with bi-weekly YA book clubs or the monthly Book Discussion Group.
Hours: Mon. –Thurs., 10 a.m. –7 p.m.; Fri., 10 a.m. –8 p.m.; Sat. and Sun., 10 a.m. –5 p.m.
Where: 5943 Balboa Ave.
Craving a comfy chair where you can disappear between two covers? Look no further. This diminutive, laid-back shop fits right into its beachy OB environs. Whether you’re seeking contemporary nonfiction, fiction, YA, or children’s books, it’s all here. Allow the friendly staff to help you find the right title, even if it’s not in stock. The shop hosts clubs and discussions of books like The Cracks in Our Armor.
Hours: Tues. –Fri., 11 a.m. –6 p.m.; Sat. 10 a.m. –6 p.m., Sun.,11 a.m. –5 p.m. Closed Mon.
Where: 4912 Voltaire St.
This North Park destination is built on used books, beginning with the sculpture spelling out the shop’s name in worn volumes. Though Verbatim generally sells only used books, it makes exceptions for local authors looking to build a readership. Stop by for open mics for the Verbatim Poetry Society, held at least once a month. Any budding children’s book authors should be sure to attend children’s literature workshops on the third Tuesday of every month. They also buy used books, so consider trading in those tattered Stephen King editions for...some more Stephen King?
Hours: Mon. –Sun., 10 a.m. –8 p.m.
Where: 3793 30 St.