Calgary may be known for hosting the largest rodeo in the world, having the second-largest urban park in Canada, and being the one of the most livable cities in the world, but it’s also home to some really fantastic bookstores.
These beautiful independent bookstores in Calgary each have something unique about them, with wide offerings of fiction, nonfiction, Indigenous and LGBTQ+ authors, and the oldest classics to the latest bestsellers.
Here are eight indie bookstores in YYC.
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Shelf Life Books is an awesome indie bookstore in the revitalized Beltline district. Founded in 2010 by two friends, William Lawrence and JoAnn McCaig, this shop carries a range of books, from fiction and nonfiction to Indigenous and LGBTQ+ books.
They’re known for their events and author appearances, having hosted writers like Vivek Shraya, Bill Bisset, and chef Matty Matheson, at their store. For a list of upcoming events, appearances, and signings, keep an eye on their website.
One of my favourites on the list, Owl’s Nest Books has an incredible selection of new bestsellers and older classics. They have a broad range of fiction, nonfiction, memoir and biography, self-help, and cookbooks.
Owl’s Nest also hosts three fantastic in-house book clubs. They also offer a 10% discount on any book that you’re buying for a book club, whether it’s in their store or not. I’m a big fan of the staff picks here, especially co-owner Michael Hare’s.
Fair’s Fair Books opened their doors in 1988 and has been serving up quality used books at fair prices ever since. They have two locations in the city, and are known for specializing in the widest book selection around.
A family owned business founded by George Henderson, the shelves at Fair’s Fair were stocked with more than 7,000 books the day they first opened. Since then, the collection has grown and diversified. A great place to sell your used books, Fair’s Fair offers cash or store credit on various days of the week at each of their locations. Check out their website for more info.
If you’re into comic books then Phoenix Comics is an absolute must-visit. Phoenix opened their doors in November 1994, and since then have expanded to two stores. They carry thousands of graphic novels from all genres, everything from Sandman and Maus to Spiderman and Batman. This bookstore also specializes in Manga, with a huge selection, from the latest releases to hard to find and out of print volumes.
Phoenix Comics offer an awesome comic subscription service, ensuring you never miss an issue. And it’s not only comics here, they also sell other items such as games like Dungeons and Dragons, Yu-gi-oh, and Pokémon. This place also hosts weekly tournaments for Magic the Gathering.
Located in Inglewood, one of Calgary’s oldest neighbourhoods, The Next Page is a great place to stop off for a new or used book. They specialize in independent presses here, so you never know what you’ll find. The Next Page also serves tea from Oolong Tea House and coffee from Matchstick Coffee in Vancouver.
If you’re looking to offload some of your shelf (so you can go out and buy more books), this bookstore offers $1 cash or $2 store credit for each book you bring in. They accept drop offs Monday through Friday from 11 am to 6 pm.
Pages is an independent bookstore located in the heart of the Kensington district. They carry a huge selection here, with everything from short stories and mysteries to celebrity memoirs and children’s books.
I recommend checking out their book ‘o’ the month club, where they select a book each month for you. It runs on a subscription-like model over 6 months, one year, or even more! Be sure to head down to the basement to check out their used books section.
For the curious reader, Sigla Books has the most interesting selection out of all of these bookstores. You never quite know what you’ll leave here with. Located in the Downtown West End area of Calgary, Sigla has been providing out-of-the-ordinary books to Calgary bibliophiles for a number of years now.
The store’s selection is constantly changing, and the staff here are incredible at helping you track down the most obscure and out of print books. They’ve expanded since their opening and now feature a vintage clothing section, vinyl records, and coffee bar.
Calgary’s only designated children’s bookstore, Monkeyshines, opened their doors in 1998, and has carried a range of books, toys, trinkets, teaching aids, travel games and more ever since. Located in the Marda Loop district, this store’s mission is to help create compassionate, healthy, and intelligent kids.