The first time that I visited Stories Bookstore and Café in Echo Park, I left with a brown paper bag containing a slice of vegan lemon cake with pink frosting and, in a slightly larger brown paper bag, a new copy of Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem. To me, a Midwest girl who had been living in Los Angeles for just shy of two weeks, the purchases felt symbolic. With the two parcels tucked under my arm, I felt that I had my own bit of California. The thought flitted away as I sat in traffic for the next hour and seven minutes, but it was a thought that Stories created for me.
Upon entering its doors, you are immediately struck with the overwhelming impression that this is a Los Angeles bookstore, and it’s not just because of the well-curated section of Angeleno history and fiction. Stories is a type of bookstore that I could never find back home or on the East Coast. The bookseller and café combo doesn’t take itself too seriously. Although its towering shelves, jammed with new and used books, boast an impressive collection of everything that you should be reading, the stocking feels personal and the shelves are packed snugly in the front of the store to make room for the café area. Tables and chairs are clustered around the bar, spaced just far enough apart to allow for a pathway out to the sunlit patio. How can one be a literary snob when eating a delicious, two-egg breakfast burrito in the golden hours of mid-morning?
All of the tables were occupied when I first visited, despite the fact that it was two in the afternoon on a weekday. As I wound my way through the crowded area, I overheard conversations about books, song lyrics, the trendiness of certain hats, upcoming film releases, and more. Stories attracts all kinds of artists and art consumers. Their events include not only author readings and book release parties, but film screenings, performance groups, magic shows, comedy shows, musical performances, and storytelling events. As always, the audience is fortified with snacks, coffee, beer, and wine from the café.
Aptly named, Stories uses storytelling and literature as a foundation for all of the different kinds of art and creating that it hosts within its walls. It invites customers to stay and read for a while, to find something that they weren’t looking for. So stop by, buy a book and a gluten free brownie bite and find yourself at an interactive poetry reading or an indie rock performance. It’ll be a good story.
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