Earlier this month, we began a quest to find the 10 most beloved bookstores in Canada. We turned to you, dear book lovers and book buyers, for help. Hundreds of nominations came in for dozens of stores from coast to coast to coast. It was inspiring to see this outpouring of support, especially during a time when the independent bookstore is struggling to survive.
While this is a top 10 list, we have to say that every bookstore in this country is a winner. These nominations made it clear that bookstores are a vital and vibrant part of communities across the country.
Without further ado, here is the list of your 10 favourite Canadian bookstores:
Blue Heron Books
The website of this Uxbridge, Ontario, bookstore says that "Blue Heron Books is more than a bookstore. It is the hub for all things literary in the quaint town of Uxbridge and for its many satellite communities," and its patrons heartily agree.
JanetPirie was only one commenter who sang the praises of this 20-year-old store, known for its knowledgeable staff and active book club community:
"Without a doubt it is Blue Heron Bookstore in Uxbridge, Ontario. The books are there and the environment is warm and inviting, encouraging you to linger and browse. And most importantly, the owner is irreplaceable — Shelley Macbeth takes reading to a new level. She infects all her customers and staff with her enthusiasm and love of literature. She holds fabulous readings and events — (a few years ago she was instrumental in converting the entire village of Uxbridge into Harry Potter's world, climaxing with the sale of the latest Harry Potter at midnight — Who does that?!!) Shelley challenges you to challenge her. She will find any book you desire no matter where it comes from and she will find the answers to the most obscure questions. Spending time at Blue Heron is an experience and an adventure. It's the best!"
The Book Keeper
The Book Keeper has undergone a name change and a move or two since it opened decades ago in Sarnia, Ontario, but it never lost its loyal base of local shoppers. And with charming events like Free Coffee Sundays, were are sure book buyers will keep returning for years to come.
Commenter VickiMellanby raved about the store and its staff:
"By far, the finest little bookstore is The Book Keeper located in Sarnia, Ontario. The selection of books of all genres are adequate and up to date. But, if you can't find what you need, their helpful, courteous and knowledgeable staff will locate it. Even if it's a rare find that has been out of print for years, these folks will track it down. Got a book you remember as a child, but can only remember the cover picture? They will do their best to find it, and have it promptly shipped in for your enjoyment. It's no wonder that for two years running this "little bookstore that can" has been nominated for Bookseller of the Year, winning this past year's honours! The environment of the store is colourful, open and warm to all and features Children's Story Time, a Teen Book Circle, author visits, readings and signings. Many Midnight Harry Potter parties filled with youth activities and fun have been held over the years. My children grew up with Harry Potter, and the Sarnia Book Keeper bookstore!"
This Spring Garden Road staple has been serving the south end of Halifax since 1989. Students from several universities in the city can find their required reading here, and anyone looking for a great new read will find something in this small but smartly curated store.
Just ask commenter Ann Foster:
"The Bookmark II in Halifax is by FAR the best independent bookstore in Canada! Knowledgeable staff, shelves chock full of great books, and it was chosen by Stuart McLean as one of his top three favorites...A great place to browse, and the staff are sooo friendly."
Collected Works Bookstore & Coffee Bar
Collected Works has its ABCs down pat: Art, books and coffee are the staples of this Ottawa bookstore. Since 1997, book lovers have enjoyed this community hub, which keeps patrons busy with events like open mic night and black jack seminars.
It's no wonder Nancy Gilbert voted it her favourite bookstore:
"Collected Works in Ottawa wins my vote. The knowledgeable (and amusing) owners and employees feature a great selection of books and peripherals and have always been actively supportive of Canadian — especially local — authors. Events include author readings, book launches and open mic nights. They are a wonderful element of an eclectic community. (And they have cookies and coffee!)"
Curiosity House Books & Gallery
This busy bookstore boasts that "You can't come to Creemore without a visit to the bookstore!" and its fans certainly agree. A changing monthly art show, a knitting group and plenty of activities for Creemore's younger set proves that Curiosity House is more than a bookstore, it's a community hub.
Commenter kjcoutts agrees:
"I'll support Curiosity House Bookstore in Creemore, Ontario. Bookstores like Curiosity House are organizations that support the local community, local/national authors and artists. Book signings, literary themed/based events, book release parties, children's storytime/craft programs and so much more are offered within this wonderful little shop. They are also a resource for the local population to access new pieces of popular literature and classic/obscure materials. Gotta love the independent bookstores!"
Furby House Books
Furby House Books has been open only since the mid-1990s, but it has a rich literary history. Alice Munro's daughter Jenny was once the manager of this store in vibrant Port Hope, Ontario, and authors Farley Mowat and Jane Urquhart are regular customers.
Commenters like NHooper understand why:
"My vote is for the Furby House in Port Hope, Ontario. The beautiful exterior draws you in, the most engaging staff welcomes you and the interior is a book lovers dream — even the children's section is delightful. Furby House is such a pleasure to shop, browse and enjoy. I was delighted to purchase a book there a few weeks ago that was signed by the author. Furby House is what every bookstore should be!"
Mill Street Books
Those who nominated this "small, community minded shop" in Almonte, Ontario, repeatedly sang the praises of owners Mary and Terry. A keen, knowledgeable staff and friendly ambiance make Mill Street Books well worth visiting.
That's why commenter Cheech86 nominated it:
"My vote is for Mill Street Books in Almonte, Ontario. This little gem is not only full of great books, it's also full of great people. The owners, Mary and Terry, are warm and welcoming, and have a keen intuition when it comes to recommending the perfect book. The bookstore is a bit of a gathering space on the main street, where you can often find yourself deep in discussion with a complete stranger about whatever book you've just picked up. They also have a great local and international music selection. They may be small, but if they don't have what you're looking for, they'll stop at nothing to find it for you."
This Victoria-based bookstore's website boasts that it's "Canada's most magnificent bookstore" and commenter after commenter agreed. Opened in 1963 (by Alice Munro's former husband, Jim Munro), it now resides in Victoria's Old Town, in a space worthy of the store's staff, selection and stature.
With regular customers like Joanne Spumoni, we expect this store to thrive for many years to come:
"Munro's Books in Victoria, B.C. has to be one of our country's best independent bookstores. The setting near the inner harbour is so beautiful. Munro's is in a wonderful old building with beautiful quilt hanging decor. The book selection is wonderful, the staff is great...everything you could want in a tranquil classic store."
Tattletales is the go-to store for Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, families in search of birthday presents, Christmas gifts or just the next great read for their little ones. Having served the Maritime community since 1995, this store's cheerful staff will find exactly what you and your child need: even if you don't know what you're looking for.
This is why customers like jenmac76 return year after year:
"My favourite bookstore is Tattletales, in Dartmouth. As a teacher, I can call during a break to check if they have a book or a resource that I need. When they are closed after hours, I can check online to see if the book is in the store. If something is out of stock, they will order it in with pleasure. They truly bend over backwards to accommodate their customers! As an aunt, it is my niece's favourite store, she can play with the toys, find books at her eye level. When she was 2, she pulled off books and laid on the floor and flipped through the pages. Even the smallest customers feel comfortable. Every customer is treated like gold and I value the service, knowledge and dedication to children's literature this bookstore offers!"
Words Worth Books
A community fixture since 1984, Words Worth Books in Waterloo, Ontario, thinks global and acts local when it comes to books and the environment. This eco-friendly store runs Waterloo's One Book, One Community initiative, and its knowledgeable staff has earned rave reviews. While an ownership change took place earlier this year, loyal customers should rest easy knowing that the Words Worth Books they have come to know and love isn't going anywhere.
This is a relief to commenter DebFerguson:
"Words Worth Books in Waterloo feels like family. They know me, and have treats for my dog! I can wander and browse without disturbance if I choose, or ask for a recommendation and get a great one. They sponsor author readings and have a reading programme for parents and babies that I wish had been around when I was at that stage. I am in a book club that was initiated by the store about 20 years ago. Usually the books I want are in the store, but if not they are easily ordered. I definitely recommend Words Worth Books."
Thanks to everyone who nominated a bookstore! There were so many passionate and thoughtful submissions. Everyone who wrote us was entered into a random draw to win one of two CBC Books prize packs. The winners are SMiddleton
Don't forget to check out all the nominations in the original contest post. You might discover a favourite new place to shop.
Did your favourite bookstore not make this list? Let us know why it's your favourite place to shop for books in the comments below.