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Bound to Please: Calgary’s Best Indie Bookstores


Pages on Kensington is located in the building that once housed Calgary's first library branch (Photo: Jason Dziver)

Pages on Kensington is located in the building that once housed Calgary’s first library branch (Photo: Jason Dziver)

The massive online book retailer Amazon.ca recently dubbed Calgary the second most well-read city in Canada, based on print and e-book sales from its website. But, this statistic doesn’t account for the many bibliophiles who loyally frequent the city’s independent bookshops to hold the books in their hands and riffle through non-digital pages.

Calgary is home to a small handful of indie bookstores, each offering its own carefully curated selection. JoAnn McCaig, owner of Shelf Life Books, is not threatened by online book sales or e-books. “The ambience and sense of community found in a bookstore can’t be duplicated by Amazon,” she says.

“We pride ourselves on offering books that are beautiful both inside and out,” says owner McCaig. The store’s lively shelves are lined with books by Canadian authors and those outside the mainstream. Its welcoming book displays and browser-friendly atmosphere invite customers to stay a while, maybe relax in a comfy armchair and read a bit before they make a purchase.
• 1302 – 4 St SW, 403-265-1033, www.shelflifebooks.ca
• Map and reviews

This cozy, two-storey shop, which once housed Calgary’s first library branch, sells all manner of titles with an emphasis on fiction, art and poetry. The store hosts literary events throughout the week that include author readings and magazine launches. Owner Simone Lee says the city’s indie bookstores are far from bitter rivals, as there are more than enough book lovers to sustain the handful of shops. “I think Calgary is underserved by bookstores,” Lee says. “There could be at least 10 more. There are neighbourhoods in the city that are absolutely starved for bookstores.”
• 1135 Kensington Rd NW, 403-283-6655, www.pages.ab.ca
• Map and reviews

Like all the indie stores on this list, this little shop prides itself on friendly, knowledgeable customer service. It is also known for regular book club meetings, including a mystery club for adults and clubs for children and teens in the attached kid’s bookstore Owlets.
• 815A – 49 Ave SW, 403-287-9577, owlsnestbooks.com
Map and reviews

[RELATED: 10 Best Vintage Clothing Shops in Calgary]

Located in a funky converted bottle depot east of downtown, this hip boutique is known for an impressive collection of art and pop-culture titles as well as a larger-than-life mural painting of a very craggy Karl Lagerfeld.
• 1018 – 9 Ave SE, 403-265-2664, www.facebook.com/frosstbooks
• Map and reviews

Kids are the focus in this bright, fun boutique devoted to children’s books. The shelves are also stocked with toys, teaching aids, travel games and lots more.
• 2215 – 33 Ave SW, 403-240-1723, www.monkeyshinesbooks.com
• Map and reviews

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