Discover Canada’s best independent bookstores

by M.C. Warford

Finding a great independent bookstore is like finding your own little paradise. Whether you're looking for your local literary fix or visiting town and eager to browse the shelves, these are 10 of the best independent bookstores that Canada has to offer. [Image credit: iStock.com/marcoventuriniautieri]

Discover Canada’s best independent bookstores

1. McNally Robinson, Winnipeg and Saskatoon

McNally Robinson is Canada’s largest independent bookstore, with branches in Winnipeg (where they were founded) and Saskatoon. Despite their size, they maintain their focus on fostering the local literary community and regularly host readings by some of CanLit’s biggest stars. The flagship store in Winnipeg has a beautiful spiral staircase twined around a large tree leading to the second-floor children’s book section. The in-store Prairie Ink Café is always worth a visit as well.

2. Encore Books and Records, Montreal

Encore Books and Records is more than just a bookshop. This eclectic used bookstore in Montreal’s up-and-coming Notre-Dame-de-Grace neighbourhood also offers a fantastic selection of vinyl records. A refreshingly unpretentious destination, if you like your bookstore overflowing with quality titles then Encore is for you.

3. Pages on Kensington, Calgary

Pages on Kensington is located in the middle of Calgary’s hip Kensington neighbourhood. The staff here curates a fantastic collection of literary titles and pretty much any major writer who passes through the city ends up doing a reading at this bookshop.

4. Type Books, Toronto

Type Books has two beautiful Toronto locations. Expect to find small press titles, literary fiction, children’s fiction, as well as art and design books here. This much beloved bookstore also hosts readings by local writers.

5. Wee Book Inn, Edmonton

Every great bookstore should have a cat roaming between piles of books. Luckily, Edmonton’s Wee Book Inn has three cats, each supposedly with their own unique literary tastes. Having been around for nearly five decades, the Wee Book Inn is a literary institution for the city.

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6. Librarie Drawn and Quarterly, Montreal

Referred to as “D&Q” by locals, Drawn and Quarterly is an internationally recognized and much awarded publisher of comics and graphic novels. Their store in the Mile End neighbourhood features some beautiful graphic novels, along with an impressive selection of literary, non-fiction, and poetry books in both English and French.

7. Owl’s Nest, Fredericton

For many people, the best type of bookstores are those that revel in a sense of controlled disorder. The overflowing shelves and hidden nooks at the Owl’s Nest, featuring quality used books at low prices, are just begging to be explored!

8. Mac’s Fireweed Books, Whitehorse

Arguably the best bookstore north of 60, Mac’s Fireweed Books is an institution in Whitehorse and throughout the Yukon. With an impressive selection of contemporary books in a beautiful historic building, this place is also great if you’re looking for topographic maps, guides, and books about the Yukon.

9. Ben McNally Books, Toronto

Bay Street isn’t where you’d expect to find one of the best independent bookstores in the country, but that’s exactly where Ben McNally Books is. The beautiful interior features an impressive collection of new books and it is the perfect spot if you’re looking for a gorgeous coffee table book.

10. Munro’s Books, Victoria

Founded by Nobel Laureate author Alice Munro and her husband, Munro’s Books is widely regarded as one of the best bookstores in the world. The 24-foot coffered ceilings make this bookstore feel more like a temple to literature than a shop. If you’re only going to visit one Canadian bookstore in your life, this is the one to see!

Canada’s independent bookstores are mainstays of their communities and they help keep Canadian literature alive and well. Whether you’re looking for a rare literary gem or want to experience the joys of browsing for hours in beautifully bookish surroundings, there’s a bookstore in Canada just for you.

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