If there’s one thing Canadians are good at, it’s spinning a yarn, and there’s no better way to connect with a community than to check out a local bookstore.
These destinations represent just a small sample of the incredible shops that are hard at work supporting local authors, hosting wonderful events, preserving heritage, giving cats a home, and setting the hearts of book lovers aflutter across the country. Once you start planning your visit, the only question is, what will you read next?
1. Abraxas Books And Gifts
Denman Island, British Columbia
On a remote island of 1,400 or so people, this cozy little bookshop thrives. Part of the explanation might be that Abraxas stocks much more than books — fans appreciate their nifty socks, puzzles, art supplies, and original art. Visitors will swoon over the “free post,” a wall of cubby holes where locals can leave letters, messages, and small gifts for each other.
Book To Check Out: Duck: Two Years In The Oil Sands, a graphic novel by Kate Beaton
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Charlottetown’s independent bookstore since 1972, Bookmark has a wide selection of local authors, national bestsellers, art and stationery supplies, and literary-themed novelties. It also hosts a jam-packed schedule of events including presentations from internationally renowned authors.
Book To Check Out: The Island Walk by Bryson Guptill, perfect for anyone setting out to hike this famous route
3. Bearly Used Books
Parry Sound, Ontario
Nope, that’s not a spelling mistake. Bearly Used Books indeed has a bear as its mascot. It also boasts tons of experience, with over 25 years in business and an inventory of some 250,000 titles. If you love historical romance, this is your spot. There’s an entire room alone devoted to the genre!
Book To Check Out: The Whispers of War by Julia Kelly
4. Ben McNally
Beloved by writers, Ben McNally was long known for its gorgeous downtown digs but is in the process of moving into a new space, still in central Toronto. Once resettled, visitors can expect excellent service and plenty of literary events. The store offers a personalized book-a-month subscription in which no two subscriptions are exactly the same.
Book To Check Out: The Book of Phobias and Manias by Kate Summerscale
5. Block Shop Books
Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
This small but mighty store is located in a historic building where the wooden blocks (or pulleys) were crafted for Lunenburg’s famous shipbuilding industry. Block Shop hosts a teen book club and offers an excellent collection of young adult literature, fitting as one of the owners, Jo Treggiari, is a Governor General’s Award–nominated young adult author.
Book To Check Out: Hummingbird by Natalie Lloyd, perfect for YA readers
6. Epic Books
This popular indie spot in Hamilton is actually a two-spot enterprise, with both a main location and a secondary store, charmingly called “The Sequel,” that’s attached to the Playhouse Cinema (and offers a great selection of movie-themed books.) Their main location often hosts author signings and recent visits have included such literary luminaries as Lawrence Hill.
Book To Check Out: A Minor Chorus by Billy-Ray Belcourt
7. Found Books & Shop
Found Books is an independent bookstore in Cochrane, Alberta, with a feminist, anti-racist, queer-celebrating focus. It also doubles as a community space, hosting everything from Pride events to concerts to games night.
Book To Check Out: Tractor Wars by Neil Dalhstrorm. This book about the rise of modern agriculture is the perfect primer for anyone visiting rural Alberta.
8. Huckleberry Books
Cranbrook, British Columbia
This bookstore in southeast British Columbia serves all genres to all ages — but what it really serves up is delight via interactions with the shop’s resident cat, Max. If you can pull yourself away from chatting with Max, you’ll find that Huckleberry Books also offers journals, stationery, gifts, puzzles, maps, and more. Its online reading challenge offers book lovers a different category of literature to pursue each month to keep their reading choices fresh.
Book To Check Out: Laughing With The Trickster by Tomson Highway
9. Mac’s Fireweed Books
Boasting “the best magazine north of 60”, with newspapers and magazines from around the world, this northern independent bookstore is a Whitehouse institution. They offer an excellent selection of Yukon guidebooks and topographical maps, Canadian and international titles, and a number of puzzles, games, and even seeds!
Book To Check Out: Nahganne: Tales of the Northern Sasquatch by Red Grossinger
10. Maktaba Bookstore
Situated among the gorgeous architecture of Old Montreal, this little English-language bookstore has an especially good collection of art, history, and political science books, and even a small section dedicated to Octavia Butler. Maktaba is also the home of the We Are The Medium independent artists’ collective.
Book To Check Out: Secrets of Divine Love by A. Heiwa
11. McNally Robinson
This beloved western Canadian chain has a gorgeous store in Saskatoon, which features a giant tree in the center of a spiral staircase leading to a second-story book loft. McNally shoppers can expect an excellent selection of local authors, a superb selection for babies, children, and young readers, and an unmatched selection of gifts, toys, and even records.
Book To Check Out: Scars & Stars by Jesse Thistle
12. Munro’s Books
Victoria, British Columbia
While many bookstores can boast an impressive pedigree, few can compete with Munro’s. It was founded in 1963 by Jim and Alice Munro. Yes, that Alice Munro, the 2013 Nobel laureate and 2009 Man Booker recipient. Munro’s location is equally impressive. Located in a 1909 neo-classical building designed for the Royal Bank, the store features artwork by Carole Sabiston and has won several heritage awards. In short, everything about it is amazing.
Book To Check Out: Fight Night by Miriam Toews
13. The Bookshelf
Many bookstores combine bookselling with tea rooms or cafes, but The Bookshelf in Guelph does things a little differently. It’s a combination of a bookstore, bar, and movie theater! If that combination wasn’t enough, they also offer a great wine list, an excellent selection of books on birds, and funky independent films.
Book To Check Out: Nightmare Fuel: The Science of Horror Films by Nina Nesseth
14. The Printed Word
Personalized curation and a strong selection of international poetry are just some of the things that make The Printed Word (which sells new, used, and rare books) a community favorite. It recently came very close to closing but found a new location in the nick of time, and its closing sale quickly became a relocating sale. Fresh stock will come to the new location.
Books To Check Out: Vintage editions of classic literature
15. Venus Envy
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Venus Envy, an education-based sex shop and bookstore, has been a Halifax must-visit since 1998. In its words: “We curate a book and zine selection built from a feminist and trans/queer framework that includes literature on subjects such as sexual health and well-being, race and decolonization, trauma and recovery, feminist and queer culture, queer and trans fiction, and so much more.” They also offer workshops on topics ranging from safe sex to social justice.
Book To Check Out: How To Become A Scandal by Laura Kipnis
16. Village Books And Coffee House
Richmond, British Columbia
Is there anything better than a great bookshop with an equally good coffee shop attached? I didn’t think so! Village Books’ selection of cookbooks and BC-focused content is especially good.
Book To Check Out: Destination Hikes In and Around Southwestern BC by Stephen Hui
17. Westminster Books
Fredericton, New Brunswick
The folks at Westminster Books don’t just sell great books. They also help pass them around for free! They’ve been partnering with the Fredericton Public Library’s Adapt-A-Book program, which supplies hundreds of new books to the library system. If that wasn’t awesome enough, this family-owned store supports local authors, hosts readings, and has wonderful window displays.
Book To Check Out: Death Between the Tables by Chuck Bowie
This delightful new and used bookstore in Winnipeg is a mystery lover’s dream. The staff’s knowledge is superb and reflected in their bi-monthly newsletter and book club. An in-house rewards program, a pretty location on Lilac Street, and a cozy interior all add to Whodunit’s tremendous charm.
Book To Check Out: Dead and Gondola by Ann Clair
19. Yellowknife Book Cellar
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
The Yellowknife Book Cellar has been in business since 1979 and has a unique bragging point: It is Canada’s northernmost bookstore. It describes itself as “a small but mighty independent bookstore… with plenty of great books to snuggle up with over our long winters.” How cozy is that? If that wasn’t lovely enough, there’s even a resident cat, Odin.
Book To Check Out: Child of Morning Star by Antoine Mountain
Can’t get your nose out of the pages? Check out: