If you, or someone you know, is a booklover, you know there’s nothing quite like the thrill of stepping over the threshold into a bookstore. You never know what you will find, what new soon-to-be-favourite author you might discover or what treasure awaits.
Ontario is home to several top-notch bookshops, each run by dedicated, knowledgeable and passionate staff. Any one of these would make for an ideal destination—better yet, consider this your indie bookstore to-do list and visit them all!
The Bookshelf in Guelph is a one-of-a-kind experience, with a lot packed into one very cool space. The store, owned by Ben and Hannah Minett, hosts regular author readings and events, you can enjoy light fare and cocktails in their fully licensed restaurant, eBar, and there’s even an indie movie theatre on site! The store will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2023 and is known for its welcoming atmosphere and incredible sense of community—all the more reason to visit if you never have before. Plan to spend several hours here and catch a movie as well, to get the full experience.
If there are any young or beginning readers in your life, you’ll want to pay a visit to this Burlington mainstay. This beautiful bookstore also has a storied history, having been in business since 1970. Located in a pretty red brick house, A Different Drummer Books has hosted live jazz performances and book launches onsite, as well as a popular Book & Author series that is held at the Royal Botanical Gardens. You’ll find bestsellers here, as well as university press and small press titles. Owner Ian Elliot is a champion of authors and the written word; lucky shoppers benefit from his deep knowledge and passion.
This heritage bookstore north of Toronto is located in downtown Orillia and has a stunning storefront. You won’t believe the wide selection available: Manticore Books carries French titles, Black Voices, Pride Reads and DiversityReads, and has a strong First Nations, Métis and Inuit collection. They sell puzzles and award-winning books, can offer suggestions for kids and teens, and have helpful curated book lists for readers of all ages and interests. If you’re a teacher, they have great resources to help your students both in the classroom and beyond. Indie bookstores can’t be matched when it comes to in-depth knowledge of the market, what’s a hit, and making thoughtful recommendations. Their themed lists are a great jumping off point for anyone in search of that next special book.
This small independent bookstore in Uptown Waterloo is the hub of local literary life, hosting author events, six different book clubs and fun-filled family afternoons. Words Worth Books, owned by Dave Worsley and Mandy Brouse, was established in 1984 and quickly became a thriving cultural drop-in centre, where you can shop not only for books and magazines, but attend a number of literary events. They stock new Canadian and international fiction and non-fiction, cookbooks, DVDs, and have a strong backlist, as well as lots of titles for children and teens.
The Book Keeper is a cherished spot that is centrally located in Sarnia’s Northgate Plaza. They carry a wide selection of books to keep customers of every age informed and entertained. Great recommendations and staff picks—along with a range of adorable Jellycat stuffies—are sure to please the young readers in your life. There are lots of fun extras to pick up here too; everything from puppets to cheeky socks, games, puzzles and a handful of treasures handmade by local artisans. If you happen to live in the area, check out their teen or adult book clubs. They meet once a month and are a great way to meet fellow booklovers and talk about the latest titles.
These indie bookstores make a great destination any time of year, whether you’re shopping for a gift to mark a special occasion or treating yourself for no reason at all. Learn firsthand the difference a dedicated community bookstore can make.