part two lost horizon bookstore

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Biggest love and I spent one late morning wandering around lower State Street, she because she wanted to shop for throwaway clothes at Forever 21 and H&M and me because I wanted to check out Lost Horizon Bookstore.  The plan was to put her into a retail coma and then stop into the book shop to “rest” while we waited for the man we keep and littlest to return from the zoo.  Feeling like two tourists in Shanghai, we wandered around those two sprawling shops, one of which has taken over prime tri-level retail space formerly occupied by my favorite store Anthropologie, and all I could think about was how on earth they stayed in business.

I realize their marketing team considers me two decades past my retail prime and thinks I’m only interested in animal print shapewear, but I actually still have a pretty good game going on in my closet.  And if you ask me, nothing and I mean nothing in those huge shops was remotely attractive let alone wearable. And if I have lost my mind, then 21 is forever behind me.  No looking back, sister!   Miles of square footage crammed with garish garb in ill-fitting cuts and cheap fabrics, and yet these Forever 21 stores are taking over shuttered department stores and attempting to resurrect Asian knockoffs of 80s Rosanna Arquette or 70s Mrs. Roper.  come and knock on my door!  Just check out the pants on this page of their website–my personal favorites are the tropical print harem pants.  Think I’ll pick up a pair for a church potluck or maybe date night!  Or maybe they could be my go to drop-off pants.  All the parking lot moms will be so jealous . . . .

The pass through H&M was very brief, but we wandered all three levels of Forever 21 and actually found one item each.  I suspect with all that bizarre bazaar they’ve got going on they bank on someone finding that one thing they’d actually pay for.  A $20 loose knit white sweater and a $14 bikini.  Wish I could say the bikini was for me, but that’s why I’m going back to the bookstore now and not the beach.

Literary Shangri-La in Santa Barbara

Literary Shangri-La in Santa Barbara

Lost Horizon Bookstore is tucked away on Anacapa Street at Ortega.  There’s a convenient parking garage on Ortega between State and Anacapa with plenty of spaces and free use for 75 minutes, which is perfect if you just want to visit the bookstore.  This is a small shop for serious browsing, with neatly lined tall bookcases climbing the walls and shorter stacks and freestanding shelves in the middle of the room.  I could tell right away littlest love was not ready for this place yet as there aren’t that many children’s books and it has the feel of a library, inviting hushed tones and careful browsing, but my oldest spent some time on the floor looking at a coffee table version of the Apocrypha and an Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan of the Apes.  She even asked me to look for Bronte!

I wouldn’t fault this bookstore for not having a copy of Wuthering Heights when I needed it, though, because it is a lovely spot.  You will find a great variety of beautiful used books in excellent condition, from pricey first editions and signed copies to mass market paperbacks.  There was even a glass display cabinet with handwritten manuscripts and private journal pages for serious collectors and an area with leather bound tomes sold by collection.

I had a chance to visit with the owner, Angela, and talk about the fate of printed books and the future of her shop.  I expressed my belief that there would always be a market for print, but surprisingly (or not, considering she’s the proprietor paying the bills) she disagreed with me.  She said that while it wouldn’t happen in her lifetime, she believes the bound book will be lost.  Maybe she needs to change the name of her store and hold out hope.  I mean, I made my way there, didn’t I?  And despite not needing them, I bought six books from her.

Do you suspect as more and more people trend toward the disposable, cheap, and quickly rendered, the Forever 21s will thrive and the Lost Horizons will die?


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  1. What a fabulous bookshop & the pictures are great! I can almost smell the books–something one cannot do with an e-reader! Thanks for sharing! D

  2. Denise, when I look at these pictures now, they sadly remind me of another blog post I wrote describing how artists take “worthless” old books like these and turn them into museum pieces. You can sort of smell the must and dust in the angles of light, but the reality behind the photographs: that book shop is heavenly. I hope it survives!

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