Looking for the best San Diego bookstores? Here are 10 independent bookstores in San Diego you won’t want to miss out on, as recommended by travel blogger and San Diegan, Agnes!
San Diego is known for a lot of things. Warm, sunny weather, fish tacos and that one famous zoo come to mind.
But it’s also a city that loves its independent businesses, and that includes local bookshops.
Who knew that when it comes to independent bookstores, San Diego is one of the best places in the US to visit?
From niche topics to used paperbacks, cafe stops to shops with a view, the options are endless for bibliophiles, locals and visitors alike who just love a good bookstore.
Keep reading for 10 of the best San Diego bookstores to add to your San Diego itinerary.
10 Best Bookstores in San Diego, CA
Warwick’s (La Jolla)
This La Jolla staple tops the list as the oldest continuing family-run bookstore in San Diego and the entire United States. How crazy is that?
Warwick’s first opened in Minnesota back in 1896 by the grandfather of the current owner, Nancy Warwick. The bookshop moved to La Jolla in San Diego by 1930 to join family members there, and perhaps chase better weather.
Today, this San Diego bookstore remains a family affair with a loyal following of customers who love the personalized shopping experience there.
With titles that span across numerous genres, the books available here are curated by staff who pick up on local interests, adding to their collection when asked about certain books and their own favorite reads, as well.
A fixture of the community, Warwick’s has become a gathering place for readings and a support for local merchants.
This destination bookshop also sells unique cards and gifts, fancy pens and fun jewelry and beautiful stationery, many from San Diego-based artisans.
Address: 7812 Girard Ave, La Jolla, CA 92037, United States
Opening hours: 9am-6pm Monday to Saturday; 10-5:30pm Sundays
D.G. Wills Books (La Jolla)
The inquisitive eyes of Albert Einstein beckon San Diegans and visitors inside to D.G. Wills Books, a used La Jolla bookstore that has a storied history of welcoming famous authors inside its old wooden doors.
Norman Mailer, Edward Albee and Maureen Dowd have all done readings of their books at the bookshop, a historical record of which is available on the shop’s YouTube channel.
This is on top of bookshop events that have brought the likes of Hollywood celebrities Sean Penn and Oliver Stone inside for readings and literary-themed talks.
Inside this San Diego bookshop, you’ll find a mix of both fiction and non-fiction, stacked high enough that you may have to enlist the help of staff on hand to get to your favorite titles.
The bookshop is named after owner Dennis Wills, who is a fan of interacting with customers looking for that one book they just can’t remember the title of and collecting local memorabilia from the surrounding La Jolla community.
Address: 7461 Girard Ave, La Jolla, CA 92037, United States
Opening hours: 10am-5pm every day (opens 11am Sundays)
Verbatim Books (North Park)
Leave it to the eclectic North Park neighborhood to turn a visit to a local San Diego bookshop into an experience.
Books purely for decorative purposes – you’ll see a note reminding you that they’re “not for sale” – line the high shelves forming a rainbow.
Ornamental books toward the back of the shop are for sale to help make your living room resemble an antique shop or Victorian sitting room.
A room set off to the side is meant for those looking to sell or trade their own unique books or antiquarian finds. If you’re looking to sell used books in San Diego the note the name of this bookshop down.
Interesting art and framed posters, including an image of actor Nicolas Cage reminding us all to READ, decorate the walls.
This is the place to find humorous books for that friend who has everything or a beautiful coffee table book to spark conversation.
Verbatim also carries rare books and magazines you may not find in other bookstores that cater to a more mainstream audience and a number of picks from local authors.
This bookshop is truly a hidden gem in this part of town.
Address: 3793 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104, United States
Opening hours: 11am – 6pm every day (closed Tuesdays)
La Playa Books (Point Loma)
La Playa Books is predominantly a used bookstore (with a few new books as requested by its customer base) specializing in rare finds and out-of-print books.
Popular genres include poetry, history, classic fiction literature and Californiana, a fancy word for all things pertaining to the state of California.
Stepping inside, the interior resembles an old library with narrow aisles and that tell-tale scent of old books and wooden shelves.
Cruise through the aisles to find a well-organized array of books that beg for your attention, or get some recommendations from the attentive staff.
Most of the employees who work here are residents of the surrounding Point Loma neighborhood, allowing for a deeper connection between the booksellers here and the community.
Address: 1026 Rosecrans St, San Diego, CA 92106, United States
Opening hours: 11am-4pm Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays only
Pennywise Books (Pacific Beach)
While the shopkeepers at Pennywise Books certainly love a good Stephen King novel, there’s nothing nefarious going on at the Pacific Beach used bookstore involving killer clowns.
Pennywise Books prides itself on its eclectic selection, with a section set aside for mishmash/grab bag-style books.
Popular genres otherwise include biographies, true crime, mysteries and horror, along with a variety of romance novels.
Historical, paranormal and romantic suspense can all be found here for your reading pleasure.
The shop also runs a hardback rental system where customers may rent new hardback fiction for $5 (on top of a deposit that covers the cost of the book in case it isn’t returned) for three weeks.
Late fees apply, just like at your friendly neighborhood library.
Address: 1331 Garnet Ave, San Diego, CA 92109, United States
Opening hours: 10am-5pm Tuesday to Saturday only
The Book Catapult (South Park)
The Book Catapult is known for its diverse offerings, including picks from first-time authors that you’ll likely have a hard time finding elsewhere in San Diego, and a staff that listens to the interests of its neighbors.
Those neighbors come for regular book club meetups, as well, and readings from featured local authors.
The shop is such a fixture in the hyper-local South Park neighborhood that when a series of health emergencies in early 2019 left the shop without anyone to keep it open, volunteers from other San Diego bookstores set up shifts to man the shop as long as it took for its regular staff to get back on their feet.
When your own competitors come to your rescue, you know you’re doing something right.
Address: 3010-b Juniper St, San Diego, CA 92104, United States
Opening hours: 10am-6pm every day
Bluestocking Books (Hillcrest)
The site of Bluestocking Books has seen a number of different bookstores since the first opened in 1967, and this latest iteration has stayed faithful to what the community wants with picks across genres.
Choose from bestsellers to the classics, historical fiction to children’s books.
Inside the bookshop, the decor is colorful and vibrant, a play off of the surrounding Hillcrest neighborhood.
A friendly staff just waiting to give you recommendations on their favorite books rounds out the experience.
Those looking to trade books for a fresh read are able to do so here as well for store credit, allowing visitors to both share reads they’d recommend and leave with something new.
Address: 3817 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92103, United States
Opening hours: 11am-6pm every day
Footnote Books (Hillcrest)
Footnote Books is one of the best used bookstores in San Diego and you’ll find old books piled up in nooks and corners and on top of books already lining the shelves of this small shop.
This can make it difficult to find exactly what you’re looking for but the lack of an obvious method to the (dis)organization is what keeps locals returning to this Hillcrest bookshop.
It’s all about finding something new and unexpected you may not have otherwise.
You can also certainly ask the bookshop’s staff about finding a certain title if you’re not feeling like rummaging.
The bookshop features a variety of genres, but those looking for military history and rare comic compilations will be well-served here.
Footnote Books also features a sampling of classic vinyl, an added bonus for visitors to the bookshop.
If you’re lucky you’ll come across one of the other hidden gems in the bookshop, like old auto maps, historical snapshots or first printings of popular fiction books.
Address: 1627 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92103, United States
Opening hours: 10:30am-6:30pm Mon, Wed, Thurs, Fri, Sat; 11am-5pm Sun (closed Tues)
Maxwell’s House of Books (La Mesa)
Maxwell’s House of Books has been selling used books in La Mesa, in San Diego’s East County, since 2003.
What you’ll find on the shelves is quite diverse, but the shop boasts a large selection of historical fiction, classic mysteries and books catering to academia in particular.
While you browse, keep an eye out for the resident cat, Rorschach, often found lounging on his perches set up around the shop.
Address: 8285 La Mesa Blvd, La Mesa, CA 91941, United States
Opening hours: 11am-5pm Tuesday to Saturday; 12-4pm Sunday
DIESEL, A Bookstore (Del Mar)
San Diego’s independent bookstore scene has certainly suffered over the last decade and especially over the last year, but that hasn’t stopped some intrepid book lovers to try their hand at opening new shops.
DIESEL, A Bookstore, arrived in Del Mar, just north of San Diego proper, in 2019.
With a successful bookshop already in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood, the owners were confident they could have success in San Diego, unaware of the struggles that would come their way shortly after they opened to the public.
A stubborn neighborhood that refused to watch the only independent bookstore nearby to shut down, the bookstore has been able to survive on online orders and locals making a conscious choice to buy local over supporting the big online retailers.
This San Diego bookstore is stocked with popular picks and books from diverse authors.
Signed books show off well-known authors who have stopped by the store for readings or just to shop for their own favorites.
The bookstore owners have also published a book of their own, unsurprisingly about some of their favorite novels.
Address: 12843 El Camino Real Suite 104, San Diego, CA 92130, United States
Opening hours: 10am-6pm every day
While a number of local, independent bookstores in San Diego have closed around the city over the last year, quite a few have survived thanks to neighborhood interest in keeping small businesses alive.
San Diego is well worth a visit not only for its sun and surf but for its independent bookstores, too.
You never know what you’ll find among those shelves!
All photos belong to Agnes of Travel on the Reg but were edited by Laura of What’s Hot?.
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Love this post? Check out my other bookshop guides:
Bookshops in Oxford
Bookshops in Cambridge
Bookshops in Paris
Bookshops in Amsterdam
Bookshops in London
Bookshops in Dublin
Bookshops in York
Bookshops in Edinburgh
Bookshops in Hay-on-Wye