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Book Crawls: The Danforth

June 26, 2010

Pub crawls and book crawls may be the antithesis of each other, but they both have one thing in common: they work on the same fundamental base element…your brain cells. I’ve been doing a lot of book crawls lately, and have the bursting shelves to prove it. Sadly, I don’t think any of that weight has made it to my brain-cell count. C’est la vie.

Planning is an essential feature in any crawl, as with any other travel activity. Endurance, time, the ability to carry increasing weight…all of these play factors in any book crawl. Finding that complete set of Ondaatje hardcovers when you already have too much to carry can be more than a bibliophile can cope with. Plan accordingly.

I’ve lived near the Danforth most of my life, and although it may be far from the main ‘book strips’, it has it’s hidden gems.

Starting out

The Danforth starts at Broadview and peters out after Victoria Park. If you choose to walk east, start at Chester station; west, start at Victoria Park station (which is, incidentally, being remodelled). I walk west from Vic Park, so that’s where I’m starting this crawl. Walking from Vic to Chester is a bit of a challenge, so hop the subway when you can.

The Psychic Centre and Book Shop

Just past Shopper’s World, on the north side, is The Psychic Centre and Book Shop. The lady who runs the shop is a psychic who regularly does readings and performs other psychic services. Whatever you may think of this, the shop is well-stocked, has rare/antiquarian books, and there are a lot of hidden gems.

Bookshop unknown

I actually don’t know the official name for this shop, but it’s located just west of Main Street on the north side. This place is awesome for vinyl freaks; almost half the store is records, cd’s and dvd’s. The other half is largely bestsellers, mystery, and romance paperbacks. They have a fairly large sci-fi/fantasy selection, and although the non-fiction is anemic, you can still find some good stuff in here.

St. John’s Thrift Shop

Lots of buried treasure here! It doesn’t look like much compared to the enormous Value Village next door, but the back of the store contains shelves of books, and it’s a real grab-bag. I found a very early printing of Buber’s I and Thou in here. You can occasionally find some vintage camera gear here, as well.

Value Village

The Value Village on the Danforth, frankly, isn’t the greatest place for books. They only devote a small amount of the store to it. I mainly go here hunting for vintage camera gear. But they can occasionally surprise.

From here, you have a couple of choices. You can hop the Woodbine 92 down to the beaches, and start a Queen East crawl (a topic for another post), or take the Eastbound to Greenwood, and keep going.

Comics and More

C&M is the local comic/gaming/toy shop, and the owner is a nice guy. They stock a fairly wide selection of trades and back issues, have the latest every Wednesday, and have good RPG’s, toys, and CCG’s in stock regularly. For a small shop, the atmosphere is good, and the employees know their comics.

Circus Books and Music

Circus is an example of what I call a ‘curated’ shop…the owner is very selective in what he stocks, and his tastes are generally excellent. For those looking for choice vinyl, cd’s, dvd’s, and books, Circus will have something for you. I rarely walk out without something. Shops like this tend to be a little more pricey than places like BMV, but they are worth it. Circus should be on your ‘visit often’ list of bookshops.

Re:Reading

Re:Reading is a shop I try to support as often as I can. It’s a beautiful shop in the middle of Greektown (which means you can eat in style after shopping). The owner has a good selection of fiction, mystery and sci-fi/fantasy. Balanced with a lot of non-fiction, some cd/dvd stock, and even comics, this is a good, small shop. Check it out.

Book City

Last stop on the crawl (first if you choose to walk east), Book City is Toronto’s ‘classic’ alternative book chain. Stocking a large variety of bestsellers and recent releases, the core of Book City’s backlist is material you won’t find at Chapters. They also stock a wide selection of journals and alt magazines. The staff are well-versed pros who will help you find what you need.

And we’re done

From here you have several choices: take the streetcar down to Queen for more book shopping, or take the subway west to Sherbourne, to start either a Bloor or Yonge book crawl…of course, subjects for another time.

A Danforth book crawl isn’t the biggest crawl you can take in Toronto. And it doesn’t have the ‘star’ shops like Queen or Yonge does. But you can find some awesome material here, and the Danforth has a great selection of quirky little shops along the way.

And the history of the street does it justice. From the notorious Purple Village of the 70’s, Unknown Worlds in the late 80’s, and Open City in the 90’s, Danforth has had some pretty impressive bookstores, all owned by folk who care about culture. If the past and present is any indication, there will be more great shops in the future.

Come check out the east end.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 20, 2010 6:19 pm

    I live off the Danforth and regularly go book shopping with a friend. The only surprise for me on your list was Bookshop Unknown. Will have to check that out.
    We so miss Open City!!!

    If it’s ok with you I’m going to put a link on my blog.

    • ramblebramble permalink
      August 20, 2010 7:43 pm

      I’m ok with folk linking to the blog. Thx for reading! Open City was one of the best bookshops in Toronto, and I miss it, too. I know a lot of folk with OC stories…

  2. Jeff Wyonch permalink*
    April 15, 2015 2:54 am

    Unfortunately, since this was written, The Psychic Centre and Book Shop and Comics and More have shut down. Sadly, the owner of Comics and More passed away. He had a great shop and did a lot for the community.

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