Along with my book obsession, I also really love writing letters and postcards to people around the world. I’ve participated in a few different mail swaps, and I was lucky enough to meet my friend Laura through one of them. This is the tale of the day we finally met face to face. 🙂
Laura was in Toronto for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince™ In Concert, but she had Saturday free, so we decided to meet up and go on a bookish adventure. Laura is from the USA and had been yearning to go see The Monkey’s Paw, so I planned a crazy route that took us to a bunch of different bookstores along Bloor Street. We took buses and subways here and there, and Laura really got to see TO the way locals do.
Indigo Bay & Bloor
As an Indigo employee, I can’t help but be proud of this beautiful store. Laura had never been to this location, so we wandered around checking out all the amazing holiday stuff and the wonderful book displays. I haven’t been in-store in a while because I was working at home office for the Love of Reading Foundation, so it was nice to get a peek at all the stuff I’ll be selling in the next few weeks during the holiday rush.
Snakes & Lattes Annex
Neither of us had eaten a good breakfast, so by 12:30pm we were getting hungry. I suggested stopping in at Snakes & Lattes since it would be a new experience for me too. It was still early in the day, but there were already a bunch of people inside playing games. We picked ‘Dinosaur Tea Party’ because the art is adorable and we wanted something fun and easy. We still managed to get the rules wrong at the beginning, but figured it out about half way through lunch.
I had tried to find this store on a previous adventure with another friend, but it eluded us, and now I know why! It’s below another building, and if you aren’t paying attention it is easy to miss. It was super quiet, with only one other person in the shop. We were whispering the whole time, but we got to see the adorable bookshop cat, Churchill, which really made our day. While browsing the fantasy stacks I spotted a copy of ‘Kingmaker’s Sword’ by Ann Marston and mentioned that it was one of the first fantasy books I ever read. Laura decided that she would purchase it in honour of our trip, so I am very much looking forward to her review.
I was sure that I hadn’t been to any of the bookshops on this trip (other than Indigo), but when I walked into BMV I knew that I had been to that location before. The staircase is a dead giveaway. We wandered the stacks here for quite a while, pointing out pretty covers and authors we like. Then Laura spotted Glenn Cooper on the shelf and got really excited, which made me excited because I don’t know many people who have heard of this author. She had read the first book, ‘Library of the Dead’, while on a trip to Cardiff but wasn’t able to find the others in the US. It was a great find, and Laura’s book haul was getting bigger by the second.
Little Free Library @ Trinity-St Paul’s United Church
We took an unexpected detour when I got turned around, but it ended up being a happy accident because we found a Little Free Library along the way. This copy of ‘The Chronicles of Faerie’ by O.R. Melling caught Laura’s eye immediately, and since I’ve read it before I could vouch for it being a good pick.
Synopsis: Canadian Gwen and her Irish cousin, Findabhair, have long planned a summer of backpacking around Ireland, visiting sites out of the old legends of fairy folk. Little do they know that it is the summer of the Hunter’s Moon, a dangerous time for mortals who meddle with the kingdom of Faerie.
The Monkey’s Paw
Back on track, and we finally ended up at the one place that Laura really wanted to visit. The Monkey’s Paw is listed by Atlas Obscura as one of the top places that people want to visit in Toronto. The Biblio-mat, a vending machine that will dispense a randomly selected vintage volume when a token is inserted, is just the tip of the iceberg in this shop. There are so many incredible old books in here, and it’s easy to loose track of time just picking up random books to see what you will find. I visited this store back at it’s old location, and was happy to see that it’s a little bigger but has the same unique feel as the original store. It’s a definite must-visit in my opinion.
Zoinks! Music and Books
Apparently my sense of direction decreases as the day goes on, because I was turned around again but it ended in a second happy accident. At first I wasn’t sure we would make it to Zoinks because I had us going back and forth all over Bloor, but luckily Laura spotted this gem as we wandered. Inside, the owner was playing some funky music that was exactly what you would expect from a store with a name like Zoinks! We searched the shelves and Laura found a Murdoch Mystery that she had been looking for, so we had another win. I definitely have to tell my vinyl-loving friends about this spot because I am sure they will find some really unique stuff here.
And so our tour came to an end. We did try to visit The Lockhart at the end, but my timing was off and it was closed. Since we had both had a long day by this point we decided to call it and head home. It was so great to share my love of random bookstores with another friend, and now Laura has a reason to come back so that we can visit some more fun spots!
If you would like to visit these spots, check the map below!