With the Inspire! Toronto International Book Fair taking place the weekend of November 13-16, the event has welcomed bloggers from all over Canada, the U.S. and even Europe. Thanks to the team at Tourism Toronto who organized a guided tour of independent Toronto book shops on Friday morning, Ardo, Chandra, Wendy & I were thrilled to join the group that consisted of the lovely bloggers from The Book Smugglers, Dear Author, Book Riot, Tor.com and Chapter by Chapter. I was so honoured to be in such amazing & friendly book blogging company for the morning. Guided by travel writer Michael Kaminer and Tourism Toronto reps Vanessa & Zena, we spent a jam-packed 4 hours stopping at 8 different bookstores. 7 of the 8 shops we stopped into to talk to the staff and get a sense of their curating and clientele while leaving about 15 minutes at each store to browse and purchase if we wanted.
1. Book City (1430 Yonge Street)
Founded and operated in 1976, each of the four locations around Toronto cater to a different demographic in the neighbourhood that they are located in.
2. BMV Books (471 Bloor Street West)
With the original location further downtown near Yonge & Dundas Square, this large 15,000 sq ft. 4-floors-of-books location is now the flagship store and the largest bookstore for used and discounted books in Canada.
3. Ten Editions Books (698 Spadina Ave)
This family-operated store has a bright blue storefront on the corner of Spadina and Sussex. The name “Ten Editions” comes from the founder having ten children. To be honest, we’ve walked by this store so many times and had never gone in. But once we did step inside, it’s like we’ve walked into a true book lover’s collection. Floor to ceiling shelves, ladders and card catalogues, and a back room that’s full of even more treasures. Unfortunately their location may be turned into student housing for the University of Toronto in the future.
4. Bakka-Phoenix Books (84 Harbord Street)
This independent science fiction and fantasy bookstore is well known to some of us local bloggers as there have been many book launch parties that are hosted in this shop. Everything about this store oozes with the love of science fiction & fantasy, from the name (“Bakka” is from Dune) to the staffers (both former and present) that are prominent writers such as Robert J. Sawyer, Cory Doctorow, Michelle Sagara and Leah Bobet.
5. Caversham Booksellers (98 Harbord Street)
Located just a few storefronts away from Bakka-Phoenix is Caversham, which specializes in psychology and philosophy books.
6. Parentbooks (121 Harbord Street)
We didn’t end up stopping into this one which was another block or so past Caversham, but Parentbooks carries titles for kids, their parents, councellors, therapists and educators.
7. Willow Books (333 Bloor Street West)
I cannot believe how many times I’ve walked by this shop and never noticed it. The entrance is small, unassuming and possibly overshadowed by the large Bata Shoe Museum next door. However, once you walk inside past the shelves that sit outside the door you’re thrown into a labyrinth of shelves and stairs that continue to lead all around the store. I had no idea how vast this store actually was!
8. Seekers Books (509 Bloor Street West)
Another unassuming shop, this location has a modest sign and the front door is after you go down a few steps from the sidewalk. Seekers Books is known for its wide selection of books about spirituality but they actually have so much more than that. If anything, they might have one of the largest collections of YA and Children’s books that I’ve seen in an independent store. Not many new releases but a large collection of childhood favourites like the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Babysitter’s Club.
4 hours and 8 (well, 7) book shops later we were dropped off at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre where the Inspire Book Fair was being held. Overall, it was a great time being a local tourist. While there were a few of the ones on the list I had been to before, I was pleasantly surprised to discover so many other ones that are hidden gems in plain view. I did find the order with which we went to some of these stops a bit odd. From going to BMV, then the Spadina/Harbord stretch, we doubled back around twice by going to Willow Books, then doing another loop around to hit further west on Bloor – especially considering Seekers Books was about a block away from BMV. Totally appreciated the comfortable bus transportation though!
Ha, @JustALilLost says we should always travel by bus now to all all our bloggers meet ups and retreats.
— Chandra Rooney (@sakuralovestea) November 14, 2014
Huge thank you to Tourism Toronto for including us local bloggers in the fun! We definitely had a great time seeing our city, meeting new out-of-town friends and playing a bit of tour guiding ourselves!