A tropical tree in front of a brick building.

Beach Reads | Port Dover

Unique and independent bookstores in Ontario

A tropical tree in front of a brick building.

Beach Reads | Port Dover

Many are hidden gems within a bustling city or small town, offering book recommendations from staff, author visits, out-of-print books, foreign language novels, music performances or café services to make your visit a special one.

You may also find unique book-related gifts like art, bookmarks or accessories themed on local authors and their works.

Here are some of the top unique, independent and specialized bookstores in Ontario.

Greater Toronto Area (GTA)

Knowledge Bookstore

Browse through African, Caribbean, African-Canadian and African-American literature at the Knowledge Bookstore in Brampton.

This independent, Black-owned bookstore is a gathering space for parents, writers, poets and artists and the Black community, where anyone can read and chat about their favourite books. You’ll also find Black dolls, greeting cards, beauty products and gift items that may not be available in mainstream stores.

Location: 177 Queen Street West, Brampton

A Different Booklist

Open in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood for over 28 years, A Different Booklist is an award-winning multicultural bookstore.

This bookstore specializes in new books from the African Caribbean Diaspora and the Global South. A cultural centre for the local community, you’ll see people frequently stopping by to catch up on current events, ask questions about the city or chat with other visitors.  A Different Booklist also features events like book launches and book signings by local and international authors.

Location: 779 Bathurst Street, Toronto

Another Story Bookshop

With a focus on promoting equality and diversity for the 2SLGBTQ+and BIPOC community, Another Story Bookshop has been an important part of the Toronto West End community for 30 years.

This Toronto indie bookstore showcases self-published and small press titles, a variety of children's and young adults' books and also large selections with themes of social justice. The staff are very knowledgeable about the Ontario curriculum and are happy to help you with custom orders for schools. You’re also invited to attend the store’s many book fairs and educator events.

Location: 315 Roncesvalles Avenue, Toronto

Glad Day Bookshop

Located in the heart of Toronto’s Church and Wellesley neighbourhood, Glad Day Bookshop is the world’s oldest 2SLGBTQ+ bookshop.

Opened since 1970, this bookstore offers a wide selection of classic and new queer literature by Canadian 2SLGBTQ+ writers.

Join the fun the at Canada’s longest-running “Drag Brunch” on Sundays at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.

Location: 499 Church Street, Toronto

Ben McNally Books

Explore thousands of rare and popular books at Ben McNally Books, one of the best bookstores in Toronto.

This charming bookstore is family-run and features a wide range of books in various genres, including books from the United States and the United Kingdom. Situated in downtown Toronto, it’s the perfect spot for anyone to enjoy a quiet read in an elegant setting, steps away from the bustle of the city.

Location: 108 Queen Street East, Toronto

The Book Wardrobe

Situated in Streetsville, Mississauga’s charming village-in-the-city, The Book Wardrobe offers a curated selection of fiction and non-fiction books.

Found on the second floor of the Robinson-Bray heritage house, this former photography studio office is a quaint bookshop with plenty of natural light and filled bookshelves. This historical shop also has a tea room and gift shop, plus space for regular book events.

Location: 223 Queen Street South, Mississauga

York, Durham and Headwaters

Blue Heron Books

Named one of the “Best Bookstores in North America” by the Globe & Mail newspaper and two-time winner of the Libris Award “Bookseller of the Year” for Canada, Blue Heron Books is a popular destination for book lovers.

Explore a large selection of books in this spacious brick store. This celebrated store hosts a variety of events honouring books and authors, such as The Book Drunkard Festival. You can join classes, programs and book lists for students and teachers. There’s also a book club that meets every month for casual, informative discussions on a rotating list of books.

Location: 62 Brock Street West, Uxbridge

Niagara Region

The Barn Swallow Tea and Bookshop

Specializing in Indigenous stories, The Barn Swallow Tea and Bookshop is situated in Fort Erie, just a half hour drive south from Niagara Falls.

This quaint book and tea shop is the perfect place to read and learn about Indigenous culture in a safe environment. Participate in events like the monthly book club or sacred medicine workshop.

Location: 12 Jarvis Street, Fort Erie

Thistle Bookshop and Cafe

A premier bookstore in the Niagara Region, Thistle Bookshop and Cafe is housed in a classic brick building on the banks of Lake Ontario and the old canals.

Inside this striking bookshop, you’ll find a specially curated selection of fiction, non-fiction and children’s literature, particularly Celtic and ancestry-related books.

Enjoy a good book with a cup of steaming coffee or tea. Thistle Bookshop and Cafe is family-owned with ancestral ties to Scotland and aims to be a comfortable place that inspires storytelling within its community of coffee, tea and book lovers.

Location: 50 Lakeport Road #103, St. Catharines

Hamilton, Halton and Brant

Epic Books

From science fiction and fantasy to mysteries and thrillers, you’ll find books of all kinds of genres at Epic Books.

Located in Hamilton’s downtown centre, this small bookstore hosts regular events. Witness book launches and participate in moderated conversations with local authors. Check the website for upcoming featured events—tickets can be purchased online.

Location: 226 Locke Street South, Hamilton

Il était une fois

Situated near Lake Ontario in Oakville, this quaint bookstore is stocked with French language books for both children and young adults. In addition, you’ll find games, educational information and creative hobby materials for all ages. Join the adult book club for the chance to talk about great books and meet with local authors.

Location: 126 Lakeshore Road West, Oakville


Specializing in First Nations, Métis and Inuit books, GoodMinds has been a well-regarded bookstore in the Brantford community for over 20 years.

This is a First Nations family-owned business that prides itself on community philanthropy and quality customer service. As a leading source of Indigenous educational resources for schools and libraries in North America, GoodMinds helps nurture Indigenous authors, illustrators and translators. Find English, French and foreign language books, with 5% of sales going to the Supporting Indigenous Libraries Today (SILT) fund.

Location: 188 Mohawk Street, Brantford

Dog-Eared Cafe

Curl into a comfortable couch with a warm coffee and a good book at the Dog-Eared Café, a cute, second-hand bookstore in the small town of Paris, Ontario.

Featuring a cozy atmosphere, colourful books and tasty treats, it’s the perfect place to read on your own or mingle with the community. On Friday and Saturday evenings, enjoy fully licensed cocktail events like Trivia Night and Open Jam with special discounts on beer and wine, plus delicious shareable snacks.

Location: 121 Grand River Street North, Paris

Huron, Perth, Waterloo and Wellington

The Bookshelf

Experience the classic, small-town bookstore atmosphere at The Bookshelf in Guelph.

This comfy place in the town’s downtown core boasts a cinema, bistro and bar in addition to a wide variety of books, including both children's and adult literature. Sample light fare and cocktails before flipping through a new book or catching the latest movie. If you live in Guelph, free delivery is available on online orders.

Location: 41 Quebec Street, Guelph

Words Worth Books

Open since 1984, Words Worth Books has been an important part of uptown Waterloo for almost 40 years.

Discover hundreds of quality books, magazines and DVDs by Canadian and international authors. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, you can have it special-ordered. There are six different book clubs to choose from, including literary fiction, sci-fi and fantasy, mystery, babies’ books and food-themed books. Drop in for fun arts and literature-related community events—15 to 20 events are held every year.

Location: 96 King Street South, Waterloo

The Village Bookshop

Snap a photo of the charming Village Bookshop before heading inside to peruse the bookshelves for historical biographies, Canadian stories, children’s classics, best sellers and more. Check back soon to learn about events that will take place in the bookstore and outside in its lovely garden. Besides books, you can also find puzzles and games to keep everyone entertained.

Location: 24 Main Street North, Bayfield

Grey, Bruce and Simcoe

Curiosity House Books

You can’t miss the bright pink exterior tucked in the heart of Creemore, housing Curiosity House Books.

This small bookstore and publisher specializes in quality literature, non-fiction and children’s picture books. Staff are knowledgeable and happy to recommend books based on your preferences. Multiple initiatives are hosted throughout the year, including regular author meet and greets, book signings and the annual Holiday Hospital Raffle. Participate in the book club to read the best latest books and meet with fellow book lovers for intellectual discussions.

Location: 122 Mill Street, Creemore

Great Books & Cafe

Located inside the historic grist mill Williamsford Mill, the Great Books & Cafe doubles as a restaurant and bookstore. It’s the perfect place to spend an afternoon with delicious food and incredible books.

Treat yourself to homemade breakfasts and lunches like baked goods, soups, salads, beef burgers and desserts. Then explore the shop’s unique collection of literature, with thousands of books to discover.

Location: 316070 Highway 6, Williamsford

Southeastern Ontario

Novel Idea

An independent bookstore in Kingston since 1988, Novel Idea features one-of-a-kind books by local authors. In addition, find calendars, greeting cards, journals, postcards and literary periodicals.

If you don’t see what you’re looking for, ask for a special order. The shop holds book launches and author signings. The bookstore also promotes books and sells tickets for the popular Kingston WritersFest.

Location: 156 Princess Street, Kingston

Secondhand Stories

A registered non-profit, Secondhand Stories offers used books donated from the community.

Based out of Lombardy, which is just an hour southwest of Ottawa, this online shop is also a micro sanctuary that cares for rescued chickens. Its mission is to be a loving home for abandoned and abused farm animals.

The gently used books given to Secondhand Stories allow them to raise funds for the sanctuary and bring the reading and animal-loving communities together. The used books can be viewed on their website.

Location: Online, based out of Lombardy

Books & Company

Located in downtown Picton, Books & Company is also a community hub enjoyed by locals. As a Rainbow Registered business, it is a 2SLGBTQ+ welcoming space. Enjoy events such as PEP Rally, an open mic poetry reading. When you’re in the mood for a small snack, head next door to Lily’s Café for treats and coffee.

Location: 289 Main Street, Picton

Southwestern Ontario

Turns and Tales

Whether you’re looking for some secluded reading time or a fun game night, Turns and Tales is a great place for you to visit.

This spacious board game cafe features a huge board game library with both classic and hard-to-find games. Book a table online and sample local beer, wine or special seasonal cocktails while playing. Alternatively, try some of the best coffee and tea in Chatham. And visit the bookstore, which features local, Black and Indigenous authors’ works.

Location: 213 King Street West Unit #1, Chatham

Brown & Dickson Bookstore

If you live in London or you’re visiting there’s a good chance you’ll spot the pop-up Brown & Dickson Bookstore, one of the best used bookstores in London, Ontario.

This mobile, secondhand bookstore carries all kinds of books, particularly rare and fascinating books for literature lovers and book collectors. The store ships worldwide, so anyone can shop for books online and either pick them up at the bookmobile or choose to have them delivered. To visit the bookmobile, check the pop-up schedule on the shop’s Instagram page.

Location: Around London

Beach Reads Bookshop

Port Dover’s local indie bookstore offers a safe space to browse various genres of books. You’ll feel at home in the cozy mid-century building on St. George Street that houses new and second hand-books. It’s not too far from Port Dover Beach if you’re looking for your next beach read. The store also carries art supplies and gift items.

Location: 230 St George Street, Port Dover

Fanfare Books

Fanfare has been Stratford’s independent bookstore since 1967. The dog-friendly bookstore has a wide range of reading choices for all ages.  Whether looking for new releases or classic titles, bookworms can enjoy the store’s warm and inviting atmosphere.

Location: 92 Ontario Street, Stratford

Kawarthas and Northumberland

Take Cover Books

With a large following on Instagram and TikTok, Take Cover Books is a popular spot for young readers seeking recommended books.

This new bookstore hosts author readings, events and book club meetings on the last Wednesday of every month. Browse through the Staff Picks collection or search through the diverse selection of books for your next ideal read. The store’s full inventory is available on their website for online ordering.

Location: 59 Hunter Street East, Peterborough

Ottawa and countryside

Book Bazaar

If you love finding great bargains on used books, stop by the Book Bazaar, one of the top used bookstores in Ottawa.

The store’s tall bookshelves are packed with new arrivals, classic literature and gently used sheet music, all in good condition and spread across two floors. This family-run business has been open since 1974 and is the largest independent bookstore in Ottawa.

Book Bazaar specializes in Canadiana, Indigenous, philosophy, religion and science books. Famous senators, parliamentarians and international literary figures are known to have visited this extensive bookshop.

Location: 417 Bank Street, Ottawa

Black Squirrel Books & Espresso Bar

With the finest local roasts, cool vibes and plenty of new and used books, the Black Squirrel Books & Espresso Bar is the perfect spot for an exciting day of reading and conversations.

Located in the Glebe neighbourhood, the place is a combination of a bookstore and bar, making it a favourite for students, socialites and book lovers. Snack on light bites and cookies with a cup of coffee and peruse the shop’s 90,000 curated books. You’ll find everything from bestseller books to classic literature.

Location: 1073 Bank Street, Ottawa

Haliburton Highlands to the Ottawa Valley

Master’s Book Store

The Master’s Book Store has been open for more than thirty years and is a cornerstone of the Haliburton Highland literary community.

Explore a large array of books, gifts, maps, DVDs, art and more. Kids will love playing with the puzzles, games and crafts available.

This bookstore also regularly hosts events like author readings and book signings, and information about upcoming events is posted on its website. You can read in a comfortable chair inside the store or on the sunny outdoor patio.

Location: 195 Highland Street, Haliburton

Muskoka, Parry Sound and Algonquin Park

Cedar Canoe Books

Cedar Canoe Books is a place for book lovers in the Muskoka community and beyond to gather and embark on adventures through storytelling.

This quaint, indie bookstore features Canadian bestsellers, fiction, nonfiction, kids’ books, Indigenous stories, and more. You’ll also find gifts like candles, tote bags, local art, and bookmarks.

Shipping across Canada is available, with free local delivery in the Huntsville, Port Sydney and Bracebridge area. Look out for fun Meet the Author events held on-site.

Location: 72 Main Street East, Huntsville

Northeastern Ontario

Allison the Bookman

Experience quality customer service and a wide collection of unique books at Allison the Bookman.

Open since 1973, this used bookstore showcases novels that have been picked up from airports in Japan, Europe and the United States. This is a family business, with the tradition of collecting books having started three generations ago in the Allison family.

The store’s online catalogue allows you to search over 100,000 books by genre and offers suggestions on what you’d like to read next. You can also drop in for regular author readings and book events hosted on-site.

Location: 342 Main Street East, North Bay

Chat Noir Books

Situated in Temiskaming Shores, Chat Noir Books offers a fantastic selection of bestsellers, Indigenous, French language and local Northern Ontario books.

Sit underneath the shop’s tin ceiling with a cup of fair trade coffee in one hand and a good book in the other. Browse through illustrated books, manga, novels, stationery, tarot cards and more. Alternatively, come with your friends to play board games or mingle with other wanderers and adventurers in the community—everyone is welcome here.

Location: 57 Whitewood Avenue West, Temiskaming Shores

Northwest Ontario

Entershine Bookshop

Discover many new books at Entershine Bookshop in Thunder Bay.

You’ll find this small bookshop in the city’s historical Bay and Algoma district. Browse through hundreds of books, ranging from general fiction to non-fiction to kids’ books, with many written by local authors. If the shop doesn’t have what you’re looking for, you can ask the friendly staff to place a special order for it.

Also, join the bookshop’s monthly subscription program, for curated book box containing a new hardcover, local coffee or tea, a special treat, artisan bookmarks and other goodies.

Location: 196 Algoma Street South, Thunder Bay

Last updated: March 28, 2024

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