Skylight Books in Los Angeles

The first thing that anyone will notice when they step through the doors of Skylight Books in Los Feliz is the huge ficus tree in the center of the room. Known to many locals and even some out of towners as the “tree of knowledge,” it stands directly beneath an equally as large skylight. This skylight insures that the tree always gets as much light as it needs, while still manages to gift the rest of the space with a calming, natural light. Before the bookstore even had shelves it had this ficus tree and skylight, these are just two of the small nuances that make Skylight the bookstore that it is today. Surrounding the tree is a circular bench where patrons of the store can sit and read for as long as they want, immersing themselves into all different kinds of literature, leaning up against a tree that might even be older than they are. Skylight is a place where people from any background can congregate and celebrate their love of literature.

Skylight Books has evolved with the neighborhood of Los Feliz, which is populated largely by creative types — musicians, actors, filmmakers. When visiting this area, one has the sense of stepping back in time. For as long as many residents can remember, the block where Skylight Books is located has always had a bookstore, the 1934 Los Feliz movie theater, and a coffee shop on the corner. Up the street from Skylight Books is Fred 62, a 24/7 diner that has been there for the past 20 years, which is a common stop for booklovers and moviegoers.

Chatterton’s was the original bookstore at that location, but was closed in 1993 when the owner died. Three years later, building owner Milton Kaselis and Kerry Slattery mobilized a group of investors to launch Skylight Books. Kaselis knew that he wanted Los Feliz to have another bookstore; however, people in the community were worried Skylight Books would not live up to the legacy of Chatterton’s. As a result, Kaselis and Slattery made a concerted effort to determine exactly what types of books the community wanted and went about procuring literary fiction, books in which Los Angeles plays a major role, mysteries, science fiction, young adult, and children’s literature. They also host many author events, with a wide range of authors, from literary stars to indie darlings. In addition, every August the bookstore features a staff showcase since many of the employees are writers, musicians, and filmmakers.

Skylight Books works collaboratively with Barnsdall Art Park as well as the Los Feliz library. The store hosts events with Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, provides space for readings for graduate writing students in local colleges around the greater metropolitan area and works alongside PEN America and LARB in supporting the literary arts. In addition, Skylight Books contributes a portion of its daily earnings to numerous charitable causes, such as the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in support of their fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the LEAF Project, which provides legal representation, education and advocacy for unaccompanied children at the border.

In an interview with Steven Salardino, the manager of Skylight Books, I asked him what his hopes were for the future of the bookstore. He said, “This year is our 22nd anniversary, and my goal is to cement our legacy and to continue to represent literary Los Angeles.”

Salardino said the store specializes in fiction, always keeping up with the latest and greatest books that have been published. He is also proud of the extensive Los Angeles history section. In addition, he stated: “People are trying to understand what’s going on in the world and looking for answers by reading and turning to books for that.” The bookstore works hard to stock the most current works on politics and current events in order to help customers satisfy their need to know.

In 2008, Skylight Books expanded and opened a second store just two doors down from the original store. This store, called the Arts Annex, specializes in art and photography books and graphic novels. It also houses a large zine selection and a wide array of magazines.

 

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