Sunday Nibble #19: Go on an Odyssey at the Iliad

I don’t make it a habit to plug commercial venues here, although I will promote friendssites, but I’m going to make an exception with an opening caveat: I was not asked to do this and I am not being paid or otherwise compensated to do so. But I just wanted to give back to a local business that has been a big part of most of my adult life.

It’s a used bookstore that I discovered not long after it first opened and not long after I moved out on my own after college. It’s called the Iliad, and for several decades was next door to a video rental place called Odyssey. I’m not sure which came first, but it was a perfect combo.

Odyssey survived right up until 2019, despite a Blockbuster having opened up across the street in a cynical attempt to drive it out of business. Well, Odyssey won that battle but, ultimately not the war, most probably because they specialized in “Adult” videos and DVDS, as well as more obscure, artsy non-adult titles, and they didn’t edit R-rated flicks.

Iliad (and Odyssey) survived the ’94 Northridge Earthquake. The former, but not the latter, also survived a greedy landlord, up until the point that they moved to a cheaper and larger store — their current location — and then got socked with the current crisis.

But… happy accident… they’d been planning to close for a remodel anyway, which is in progress. And before I get to the plug, let me get back to why I love this place so much.

They have everything, and the people who work there know what they have. They also have bookstore cats and dogs that wander freely, some of them quite friendly, and post newspaper clippings on the appropriate aisles noting the passing of various authors and literary figures.

They carry both new and used books, and their used book prices are very reasonable. Their collection is also incredibly eclectic. When it comes to fiction and graphic novels, their genre shelves are deep, and if you’re into language, science, humor, generally weird shit, plays, music, history, art, photography, biography, reference, or anything else, they’ve probably got it.

Their massive Two Dollar table was always a joy to explore, because it held all kinds of really eclectic stuff — frequently coffee table size — that was often outdated but fascinating precisely for that reason. And, come on. Two bucks. How can you go wrong?

To me, visits to the place have always been magical treasure hunts in which I can explore for hours, come out with a large stack of exciting finds that cost me less than what a movie ticket would and, bonus points: they always have boxes of “Shit we really wouldn’t feel comfortable charging you for, so take ‘em” on the front steps, and even those have their gems.

For example, that’s where I found the entire Norton Anthology of English Literature, for free, one November evening. That’s something like eight or nine volumes, from Beowulf to nearly now.

So that’s what I love about them, and whether you’re in L.A. to do curbside pick-up or are elsewhere but want to order online, I encourage you to visit their website, look around and buy stuff.

I really didn’t realize it until I sent out a random “what’s up” email to them — and actually got a response — that the store has been staffed by mostly the same people since the beginning, and as I mentioned, I’ve pretty much been a customer since then, too. I’d like to keep being one, so help them out if you can.

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