If the ownership of books is a necessary precondition of, or alternative to, reading them, below you’ll find a few places to begin accumulating a sizeable library.
The Bob Miller Book Room in Basement at 180 Bloor St. West
Many professors order their course texts through this store. Bob Miller stocks excellent selections of poetry, drama, fiction, biography, classical literature, history, sociology and psychology, critical theory, women’s studies, mythology, and other interests. Their once-yearly sale in the spring is more than worthwhile: all books are between 10% and 25% off, and some selected items (recent books too) are 50% or even 75% off.
Book City at 501 Bloor St. West, and other locations throughout the city
Book City has a fine selection of past and present literature, a decent selection of criticism, and many magazines and journals. It also offers discounts on current authors in new hard covers.
Caversham Booksellers at 98 Harbord St.
Located conveniently near campus, this book store is one of the largest in North America that stocks books whose focus falls within the realm of psychoanalysis, psychiatry, trauma theory, and a range of associated topics and concerns. The books are widely inter-disciplinary within this focus, and offer texts catering to those in the Sciences, the Social Sciences, and the Humanities.
Chapters/Indigo at Bloor & Bay Sts. in the Manulife Centre
The Chapters/Indigo megastore has a number of locations around the city, but the “Poets’ Corner” in this location is worth a visit. The Chapters/Indigo brand also owns the enticingly-titled World’s Biggest Bookstore, which you can find at 20 Edward St., north of Dundas and Yonge (416-977-7009).
A Different Booklist at 746 Bathurst St., near Harbord St.
This shop specializes in books concerned with contemporary issues of culture, race and gender.
Glad Day Bookshop at 598A Yonge St.
The shop carries over 10,000 in-print titles for the LBGT community, including fiction and theory.
Of Swallows, Their Deeds, & the Winter Below at 283 College St.
We don’t know much about this new kid on the block, but it sounds like it’s going to be awesome! This bookstore specializes in secondhand scholarly books on subjects such as philosophy, cultural theory, and politics, and will host writing workshops as well as provide space for public assembly.
The much-beloved Pages has unfortunately lost its store at 256 Queen St. West, but it lives on in cyberspace. Well-known for its careful selection of theory, criticism, and fiction, its online offerings rival any bricks-and-mortar experience.
TheatreBooks at 11 St. Thomas St., between Bloor & St. Charles
The source for drama, old and new.
Toronto Women’s Bookstore at 73 Harbord St.
This store is often used by professors to order course books. Fiction is mostly upstairs along with books stacked according to course numbers. The store is good for feminist social theory, criticism, and humour.
U of T Bookstore at Koffler Centre, 214 College St.
The U of T Bookstore is stocked in all subjects, including English texts. It also has a book buy-back program for current textbooks. You can special order books here too, but this process can be excruciatingly slow. This store can be a frustrating place to browse in, but you’ll have to deal with it at some point, so it’s best to get used to it quickly!
Victoria University Bookstore at 91 Charles Street West in the Old Vic building
This is a smaller bookstore but well-stocked in the essentials, including some textbooks. Literature is always 10% off for students.
Abelard Books online
Though once a storefront mainstay of used books in the Annex, Abelard now operates as a mail-order business specializing in philosophy, theology, classics, medieval studies, and archeology.
Annex Books at 38 Howland Ave.
Specializing in Canadian literature, poetry, art, and modern first editions, this store is always open online and by appointment only in person.
Atticus Books online
Atticus has an excellent collection of secondhand books (including pristine review copies of recent critical works) and an outstanding array of mediaeval texts. This bookstore has currently an online-only business, though rumours suggest they may have a new College St. location in the near future.
Balfour Books at 601 College St.
This is not necessarily the best store if you’re looking for criticism, but it provides lots of choice in the way of old children’s books, fiction, history, and fair amounts of miscellanies.
BMV at 471 Bloor St. West.
Inevitability you will find yourself at some point browsing through this large store featuring remaindered and discounted titles along with many used books. Their smaller but less English-student frequented location on Edward Street is a good bet if you’re by the Eaton Centre.
Eliot’s Bookshop at 584 Yonge St.
Eliot’s has an enormous selection of books, some in passable condition, all at decent prices. With its multiple floors, tightly-packed rooms, and rather gnomic organization, this Eliot’s boasts an impressively vintage bookstore atmosphere. It also specializes in rare and high-end editions.
Frantic City at 123 Ossington Ave. between Queen and Dundas Sts.
This bookstore is a little far from campus, but it’s worth stopping in here on your inevitable foray down Queen St. West to check out their poetry and vinyl collection.
The Monkey’s Paw at 1229 Dundas St. West
As Toronto’s most idiosyncratic secondhand bookstore, it’s well worth the trek out to the Junction just to witness their often-startling window displays. Specializing in “the beautiful, the arcane, the macabre, and the absurd,” it also sells manual typewriters and biological specimens.
Seeker’s Books at 509 Bloor St.
Browse the shelves until midnight or anytime with the store’s online search engine. This incense-infused bookstore has been improving and expanding over the last few years and has impressive holdings on Eastern and Western religion, the occult, and science.
Ten Editions Books at 698 Spadina Ave. at Sussex Ave.
The store has a good philosophy collection, and a variety of disciplines are represented, including ephemera. The poetry section is better than most bookstores. Watch for their occasional 50%-off sale.
Campus Book Sales
As specific dates are not yet available for all sales, you’ll have to keep your eyes open for announcements. Everyone has his or her favourite, but try as many as you can. The best strategy (for the most acquisitive bargain-hunters) is to return more than once, as new books are brought out continuously. Another tip: bring a box or bag, as they are often not provided.
September 18-23 2014: Victoria College Book Sale at Alumni Hall and the Chapel, Old Vic
Low prices, fine paperback and rare book selections, but opening night (when the best deals are to be had) is absolute chaos.
October 23-27 2014: Trinity College Book Sale at 6 Hoskin Ave.
The first night carries a small admission charge, and people regularly line up five to six hours in advance. On following days, entry is free, but be prepared to jostle insistent book-dealers out of your way. Good deals on texts from all disciplines, organized by subject.
Mid-October 2014: University College Book Sale at 15 King’s College Circle
Prices may even be cheaper than Trinity, although the selection is not quite as large. No admission charge for students.
October 28-November 1 2014: St Michael’s College Book Sale at Kelly Library, 113 St Joseph’s St
A smaller booksale, but no less worthwhile. Free to students other than the opening night.
November: Knox College Book Sale
Already low prices go down as the day wears on: after 4:00 pm or so books are free. This sale tends to contain interesting older texts and criticism, standards and classics from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, history, mediaeval texts, theology, and philosophy. Some primary works, like collected letters, are also available.
Fall and Spring term: GSU Book Sale
Here you’ll find new books that have been remaindered. Some years are better than others, but it’s always worth a visit. The prices aren’t as good as the college sales, but given that these are new books, the prices are more than competitive. An array of Oxford World’s Classics, Penguin Classics, and Routledge titles—though when the seventeenth copy of Ivanhoe surfaces in the piles, the stock will seem a little repetitive.