7 Places to Be Inspired By the Written Word

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Los Angeles has a vibrant literary scene that features many visiting writers from all over the world, as well as opportunities to hear from local writers and poets. No surprise that one of the cities responsible for the birth of noir (and one that was home at one point to such literary giants as Raymond Chandler, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Thomas Mann, F. Scott Fitzgerald, among others) should have a plethora of free reading opportunities to choose from. Find inspiration at any of these locales!

crowd listens to a reading at Skylight Books in Los Angeles
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1.     Los Angeles Central Public Library

It all happens at the library. The [ALOUD] Lecture Series at the gorgeous, Art Deco designed library downtown is free to the public and covers a variety of types of events—from literary readings, to local and state-wide history, to cultural criticism. In need of inspiration, or an opportunity to take a creative detour into a new subject? You can find it all at the library. 630 W. 5th Street, Los Angeles, CA  90071 (Downtown)


2.     The Last Bookstore

The Last Bookstore, located in downtown Los Angeles, is not only home to a plethora of free reading events as well as ticketed book clubs, but it’s also home to an honest-to-goodness book labyrinth. The labyrinth is perfect for photographers looking for a unique shot, artists looking to immerse themselves in the uncanny, or simply those who love books and want to live inside them. 453 S. Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013 (Downtown)


3.     Skylight Books

If making it all the way to Los Feliz for a reading is too far to go, don’t fret: this neighborhood and beloved LA staple (with a tree growing in the middle of the store!) offers podcast versions of all readings. And there are lots of readings: the Skylight calendar averages 3 – 5 free readings and events per week. 1818 N. Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90027 (Los Feliz)


4.     Beyond Baroque

For readings a little closer to campus, Beyond Baroque in Venice offers a healthy calendar of literary events (including various writing workshop groups) to get the words flowing. The calendar also boasts artistic events, such as gallery exhibits and performances. While there’s a suggested community donation to attend events ($5 – 10), as per the website: “No one is turned away for lack of funds.” 681 Venice Boulevard, Venice, CA 90291 (Venice)


5.     Eso Won Books

This independent bookstore highlights titles written by African-American authors, and offers events for the community. Authors featured at recent signings and readings have included Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Maya Angelou, and Walter Moseley. You can also find photography books, picture books, nonfiction, fiction titles, and more. 4327 Degnan Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90008 (Leimert Park)


6.     Chevalier Books

Los Angeles’s oldest bookstore (established in 1940) is also home to a variety of free readings, signings, and events. You can find poetry readings, literary conversations, and readings from recent releases, all for free, onsite. In the mood to find a new book? You can join one of the various book clubs that take place each month and receive a discount on book club books. 126 N. Larchmont Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90004 (Larchmont)


7.     Vroman’s Bookstore

Ok, so this one isn’t in Los Angeles, per se—but on the weekends (or off hours) it’s not too long a hop up north to make it to Vroman’s truly spectacular lineup of free literary and artistic events. Events happen almost every night of the week and range from readings and signings to trivia nights to classes to art receptions. Make sure you check the calendar for all upcoming events—we can practically guarantee there will be one that strikes your fancy within the next few months! 695 E. Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena, CA 91101 (Pasadena)


Photo by Fawad Assadullah for Otis College