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Calgary Hidden Gems: A Rare Bookstore by DJ

By Ansharah Shakil, November 7 2023—

Big book chains often seem to take away the need for independent bookstores. With over ten Indigos in Calgary and with online ordering becoming even more accessible, some might say that this is all you need. Supporting independent bookstores, however, is an important part of any city, and especially an important part of living in Calgary. 

Calgary has a handful of local independent bookstores, such as Owl’s Nest Books or Shelf Life Books, that are a delight to visit because of how picturesque and authentic they are. One independent bookstore in Calgary which deserves recognition is A Rare Bookstore by DJ, located in Kensington. 

Kensington is more known for Pages Books, located near the Plaza Theatre. While it is a great bookstore, the books there can be a bit pricey. This is understandable considering it is an independent store not selling used books, but when you’re looking for something a little more quaint and for books that are slightly cheaper and still of great value, A Rare Bookstore by DJ is located just a few streets down Pages Books and is there for all your shopping needs. 

Easily accessible through public transit, A Rare Bookstore is near Sunnyside train station and is also across the street from a number of interesting food options, so you can grab a bite to eat after loading up on books. With delightful decor and reading nooks, the store is a welcoming area. It specializes in French and Spanish books — the owner is French, and there are a few French labels for books — but the great thing about it is that it still has a large variety of books. The last time I went there, I bought a book of T.S. Eliot poems for only a few dollars but found Dostoyevskys alongside a surprising One Direction unauthorized biography. There’s no doubt of discovering something new or interesting while at the store. Classics, well-known books, obscure books, books on travel and music and art — all these and more can be discovered within the shop. Works in translation, which can be difficult to find in other places, are in abundance here.

Despite being a small bookstore, the shop is packed with shelves from wall to wall. The books are all shelved under clever or funny labels by the friendly owner. Books of higher quality are priced higher but at a reasonable price. Used books are fairly cheap even when they’re not very damaged. It’s not just books that are sold at the shop either — there are many records, CDs, DVDs and cassettes. The shop also buys those and books which are used or donated. There is even potential for trades and discounts. 

Ordering books online or going to Indigo can be lucrative and a good time. I know I still get excited going into certain Indigo aisles. What’s also a great idea, however, is paying a visit to A Rare Bookstore. As Nora Ephron taught me in You’ve Got Mail, independent bookstores add something to our community, and bigger businesses shouldn’t eclipse them entirely. Sometimes the best places are the ones you wouldn’t expect to find at all.

A Rare Bookstore is a place which has a certain timeless quality to it. It’s the kind of original, cozy and offbeat place which deserves to be seen. It’s a hidden gem in Calgary that’s filled with hidden gems within its walls, waiting to be discovered. Don’t miss out, and head there prepared to be happily surprised. 

Check out the bookstore’s website for more details. 

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