Six Toronto Attractions for Book Lovers

Get vintage novels from a vending machine, drink book-inspired cocktails and visit the world's only Penguin Random House store.
 

Penguin Shop

Toronto is the perfect getaway for bibliophiles, with more than 100 bookstores, rare collections and one-of-a-kind literary attractions. Here are the best ways to have a bookish experience in Ontario’s biggest city.

The Monkey’s Paw

Head to this bookshop on Bloor Street West to find tons of uncommon books and printed materials, including old maps and pamphlets. If you’re having difficulty choosing what to read next, there’s the Biblio-Mat. It’s the world’s first randomizing book vending machine. Pop in a toonie and the machine spits out a vintage tome that could be anything from a 1920s comedy to an off-the-wall non-fiction guide.

Famous Last Words

Take a seat at the Scrabble tile-covered bar at this Junction-area lounge and try one of almost 50 book-inspired cocktails. The Goldfinch is named for Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and is made with tequila, mezcal, pineapple-rosemary shrub, Chartreuse and Amaro, while the cucumber gin Gimlet is an ode to detective story writer Raymond Chandler. The bar also runs monthly events such as book clubs and author-themed nights.

Lillian H. Smith Library

This College Street branch of the Toronto Public Library will delight the whole family with its medieval castle-like setting, puppet display and Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books with more than 80,000 children’s books. From June 17 to September 9, explore the collection at the library’s free Paws, Claws, Wings and Stings exhibit with books and art about real and mythical creatures.  

Penguin Shop

This 158-foot shop on Front Street West is the world’s only bricks-and-mortar Penguin Random House store. Sliding shelves decorated to look like book spines hold more than 300 classic and newly released novels, while the rest of the shop sells totes, mugs, luggage tags and onesies featuring the publisher’s colourful logo.

Leaskdale

Take a day trip to this small community about an hour and a half northeast of downtown Toronto to see where Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote 11 novels. The Anne of Green Gables author moved to Leaskdale in 1911 and the brick manse where she lived for 15 years hosts tours, afternoon teas, performances of Montgomery’s work and has the world’s only full-size bronze statue of the beloved author.

Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library

This more than 750,000-volume library is part of the University of Toronto but is open to everyone. Canada’s largest collection of rare books includes a Babylonian clay tablet from 1787 BC, a Dali-illustrated Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and a hand-written first draft of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. It also offers rotating exhibits like the current Struggle & Story: Canada in Print, which celebrates the country’s 150th birthday with photographs, manuscripts and more (on until September 9).

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