Referral Friday: Bart’s Books

bart's books open-air used bookstore in Ojai, CA

Referral Friday is part of an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch’s Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!

Roughly 15 years ago, when I first moved to L.A., I read a story in the L.A. Times Travel section about a little town tucked in a magical valley about two hours from town. (Okay, 90 minutes: traffic was better in 1995.)

I was looking for day trips back then, ways to escape the relentlessly suburban landscape I had yet to appreciate, without breaking the dwindling bank that was sustaining us. The article mentioned places to eat (fine) and hike (uh, no) and even spa, if you were so inclined, but what drew my attention, and ultimately me, to Ojai, again and again, was mention of a little open-air used bookseller named Bart’s Books.

I think I spent two hours and $75 I could ill afford there that day. I’ve spent many times more since, but now I’m savvy to the very drill the author mentioned in the piece: save up your books, bring to Bart’s for credit, come away with more books.

There are indoor rooms with finer books, but without question, what makes Bart’s Bart’s (and makes me want to buy it and live there one day) is the sprawling outdoor area. The books do get dusty, and in places, a bit moldy: there ain’t much precipitation here in SoCal, but we’re generally ill-prepared for what we do get.

No matter. The books are impossible to find and a delight to look for; mustiness just adds to the experience. I’ll confess to a slight dip in my interest level with a changing of owners a while back, but I have all kinds of problems with change, so let’s just say it’s me. Truth be told, there have been some nice, if subtle improvements over the past two years, chief among them how many more of my books seem to get accepted for trade-in. (Or hey, maybe I’m just reading a better class of book!)

If you’re doing a tool up or down the California coast, consider making a small detour inland to walk the magical streets of Ojai: maybe get a bite, maybe do some shopping, maybe even get yourself a little hot spa action.

But if you do turn off to Ojai, you must stop by Bart’s. All books are more enjoyable for being browsed under sunny blue skies…


Image by communicatrix via Flickr. You may reuse under this Creative Commons license.


  1. Looks like a cool bookstore…I know that in Chicago, we’ve lost a lot of great used book stores here in the last 10-15 years. But there are a few left and I do enjoy visiting and supporting them every chance that I get. I will have to keep this place in mind if I get to CA anytime soon.

  2. I am such a book ho, so this was such a treat to read. It is understandable that in the larger cities, the “mom and pop” book shops get devoured by the national bookstores (think Barnes & Noble and Borders) and I love them too. The little out of the way towns are so interesting in discovering an “experience.” This includes a classic old world bookstore, a quaint little coffee shop, and a hidden dining establishment that reminds us of authentic relationships with their patrons.

    I look forward to keeping Ojai on my radar when I get a chance to travel the coastline. Which reminds me, I should make a list of places I would like to visit.


  3. Nice to see a Bart’s referral! I love Bart’s, rain or shine. I’m in Ojai 2 days a week. I recently amassed a giant credit with them because I moved and brought them all my “old” books. They have a whole section of 1st editions and signed books that I love to peruse.

    A quirk about Bart’s – if rain is even REMOTELY in the forecast, they will not take in any books for credit. But quirks are what make great shops. And people.

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