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Want to Switch it Up? Here are Five Bookstores to Check Out in SLO County Besides Barnes and Noble

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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Cal Poly chapter.

Reading has had a major surge in popularity since the days of quarantine in 2020. The majority of people were doing school or work from home, and had extra time on their hands. Well, what better way to spend your time than picking up a new hobby? For many people, this was reading. I have been an off-and-on avid reader since I first learned how to read. I really enjoyed and appreciated seeing how many people got into reading for the first time in 2020, or those who got back into it after a dry spell (or “reading slump” as some call it). 

As someone from Los Angeles County, there is no shortage of small and cozy bookstores run by a married couple or entrepreneurial booklovers. In a smaller county like San Luis Obispo, this can be harder to find. However, this doesn’t mean that the only option for getting your books is a chain bookstore or Amazon. I highly recommend buying books from smaller bookstores or renting from a library. Although there’s nothing wrong with a bookstore chain, such as Barnes and Noble, it’s important to support the smaller businesses. Here is my list for the top five small bookstores to buy or browse from.

  1. Phoenix Books–986 Monterey St.

This small bookstore has received a 4.6 star average on Google Reviews, and is the most well-known used bookstore in the area. Going inside this bookstore is so comforting, from the brick walls to the endless rows and piles of books. The bookstore sells used books, so it’s the best option if you’re looking for a genre or theme instead of a specific book. My favorite part of this bookstore is the rustic atmosphere and the huge selection of books.

  1. Coalesce Bookstore–845 Main St.

Located in Morro Bay, about 20 minutes west of San Luis Obispo, Coalesce Bookstore has been serving SLO County with new and used books since 1973. According to their website, the bookstore even has a garden wedding chapel where they host weddings and events. This adds so much to the atmosphere and makes the store feel so quaint. The bookstore has a list on their website of their entire catalog of books currently on their shelves. This makes the bookstore a great spot for both casual bookshopping and searching for a specific book. The bookstore was founded by two Oregonian women, Janet Brown and Linna Thomas. I love to find and support woman-founded businesses. 

  1. Gavin’s Books–230 Betteravia Rd Ste K

Located in Santa Maria, about 30 minutes south of San Luis Obispo, Gavin’s Books hosts author signings, supports Central Coast authors, and even houses some textbooks that could be useful to students at Cal Poly. Named after the original owners’ dog Gavin, the store was taken over by married couple Darin and Beckie after the founder retired in 2012. This bookstore has so much history and love behind it, and houses both new and used books for a variety of reading. They’ll also buy your used books, DVDs, comics, and puzzles if they’re in good condition. This is another female-founded bookstore, as it was started by an English woman who came to California. We’ve got to support our fellow book-loving girls!

  1. Monarch Books–201 E Branch St.

Located in Arroyo Grande, about 20 minutes south of San Luis Obispo, Monarch Books was recently opened in 2022 by married couple Aaron and Taneesha. According to their website’s biography, the two grew up locally and wanted to make their dream of opening a bookstore come true. The website includes a 2024 reading challenge and their upcoming events. They also have an online browsing section, full of both new and used books. I love the organized interface of looking at their books online, and it definitely makes me want to come into their store to see more!

  1. Volumes of Pleasure Bookshoppe–1016 Los Osos Valley Rd.

Located in Los Osos, just south of Morro Bay, this bookstore carries gifts, jewelry, and spiritual goodies as well as books. Yet another female-owned bookstore, Carroll Leslie opened the bookstore in 1991. The store has a variety of books in genres relating to self-help, religion, children’s books, environmentalism, and more. The store also includes many spiritual and cultural items, including supplies for meditation and art. I would love to get a variety of products from this store, and will definitely be visiting it in the near future!

I hope that this list has excited you enough to go explore these wonderful small businesses and to meet the local owners who provide our community with so many wonderful opportunities.

Sam Fickett

Cal Poly '27

Sam is a first-year student at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, studying journalism with a concentration in news. She is currently an editorial writer at Cal Poly's Her Campus. She is from Santa Clarita, California. In the past, Sam has been a member of the gun violence prevention group Students Demand Action, and hopes to get involved again in the future. In Sam's free time, she enjoys reading, getting coffee with friends, and going to the gym.