Unique and independent bookstores in Ontario
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)
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 in 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.
Hours: Mondays to Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5:00 p.m.
Location: 177 Queen Street West, Brampton
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.
Hours: Mondays to Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Location: 779 Bathurst Street, Toronto
With a focus on promoting equality and diversity for the 2SLGBTQ+and BIPOC community, Another Story Bookshop is a proud, independent bookstore that’s been a staple in the Toronto West End community for 30 years.
This indie bookshop showcases a large variety of children's and young adults' books, as well as a great selection that deals 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.
Hours: Mondays to Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Location: 315 Roncesvalles Avenue, Toronto
Located in the heart of Toronto’s Church and Wellesley neighbourhood, Glad Day Bookshop is the world’s oldest 2SLGBTQ+ bookshop.
Having opened in 1970, this bookstore offers a wide selection of classic and new queer literature by Canadian 2SLGBTQ+ writers. On Sundays at 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., join Canada’s longest-running “Drag Brunch” for all-you-can-eat brunch with hosts Erin Brockobic or Selena Vyle.
Hours: Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 4:00 to 9:30 p.m., Thursdays from 11:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. and Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Location: 499 Church Street, Toronto
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.
Hours: Mondays to Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Location: 108 Queen Street East, Toronto
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.
Hours: Wednesdays to Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 4:00 p.m.
Location: 223 Queen Street South, Mississauga
York, Durham and Headwaters
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.
Hours: Mondays to Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Fridays from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Location: 62 Brock Street West, Uxbridge
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 a place where both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people can read and learn about Indigenous culture in a safe environment. Participate in events like the monthly book club or sacred medicine workshop.
Hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Wednesdays and Fridays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Location: 12 Jarvis Street, Fort Erie
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.
Hours: Mondays to Thursdays from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Location: 50 Lakeport Road #103, St. Catharines
Hamilton, Halton and Brant
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.
Hours: Tuesdays to Fridays from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 4:00 p.m.
Location: 226 Locke Street South, Hamilton
Il était une fois, which translates to “Once upon a time” in English, is the only Francophone bookstore in the area
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.
Hours: Tuesdays to Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
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.
Hours: Mondays to Fridays from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Location: 188 Mohawk Street, Brantford
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.
Hours: Sundays to Thursdays from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Location: 121 Grand River Street North, Paris
Huron, Perth, Waterloo and Wellington
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.
Hours: Mondays to Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Location: 41 Quebec Street, Guelph
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.
Hours: Mondays to Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5:00 p.m.
Location: 96 King Street South, Waterloo
Grey, Bruce and Simcoe
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.
Hours: Wednesdays to Fridays from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Location: 122 Mill Street, Creemore
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.
Hours: Fridays to Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Location: 316070 Highway 6, Williamsford
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, as well as off-site events like the popular Kingston WritersFest to promote books in the Kingston area. Check their social media accounts or join the email list for notices of upcoming events.
Hours: Mondays to Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Location: 156 Princess Street, Kingston
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
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.
Hours: Mondays from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Tuesdays to Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Fridays from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. and Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Location: 213 King Street West Unit #1, Chatham
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
Kawarthas and Northumberland
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.
Hours: Mondays and Tuesdays from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Wednesdays to Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Location: 59 Hunter Street East, Peterborough
Ottawa and countryside
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.
Hours: Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Location: 417 Bank Street, Ottawa
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.
Hours: Mondays to Sundays from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Location: 1073 Bank Street, Ottawa
Haliburton Highlands to the Ottawa Valley
Open for more than 30 years, the Master’s Book Store 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, with information about upcoming events posted on its website. Read on a comfortable chair inside the store or pick a seat on the sunny outdoor patio.
Hours: Mondays to Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sundays from 12:30 to 5:00 p.m.
Location: 195 Highland Street, Haliburton
Muskoka, Parry Sound and Algonquin Park
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, non-fiction, 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.
Hours: Mondays to Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Location: 72 Main Street East, Huntsville
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.
Hours: Mondays to Fridays from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Location: 342 Main Street East, North Bay
Situated in Temiskaming Shores, Chat Noir Books offers a fantastic selection of bestseller, 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.
Hours: Mondays to Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
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.
Hours: Mondays to Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Location: 196 Algoma Street South, Thunder Bay
Last updated: October 11, 2023