Arts & Culture

West Hollywood Legacies: Book Soup

The historic indie book store has been a cultural fixture of the Sunset Strip for Over 40 Years

The city of West Hollywood was established in 1984, but many well-known WeHo businesses got their start way before then. Our #TBT contributor, Alison Martino (Vintage Los Angeles), is telling us the stories of these quintessential places that make up the culture of West Hollywood. 

Book Soup was founded in 1975 by Glenn Goldman, who sadly died of cancer in 2009. Its original location—just a few blocks down the street from its current location—was at 8968 Sunset Blvd. Book Soup has been known, both then and now, for its endless supply of books, stacked high and crammed into tall shelves. Their titles have attracted a clientele of locals, tourists, and the entertainment crowd for decades. This beloved establishment has a reputation for art, photography, film and music books, as well as for hosting high-profile events featuring prolific authors and hip celebrities.

Book Soup has a deep commitment to university, international, and small presses, and a love for autographed books. Customers are delighted by the rare gems they discover on their shelves, including star maps and rare collectibles. My personal go-to section is the area dedicated to Los Angeles history.

Notable Patrons

Over the years, pop culture icons like Andy Warhol, Stan Freberg, Gore Vidal, Dennis Hopper, David Bowie, and Stephen King have dropped in. Just the other day while doing research for this article, Bette Midler stopped by to purchase a few of the latest novels. I remember my own celeb sighting when I spotted Bob Dylan browsing through the magazine section out front. His book “Chronicals: Volume One” had just been released.

Elton John is a loyal Book Soup customer (a poster of him hangs by the checkout counter), and the Chuck Palahniuk and Ozzy Osbourne in-store appearances have been their biggest draws to date.

Elton John poster hangs by the checkout counter

In addition to the book store’s famous clients, many fascinating people have also worked behind the counters, such as Fawn Hall who was spotted working there in 2012. Hall gained notoriety in the early 80s as the secretary to infamous Iran-Contra affair central figure, Lt. Colonel Oliver North. She was later married to author and former manager of The Doors, Danny Sugerman, before she took her turn at the Book Soup register. Actress Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order) is also a past employee of the bookstore.

What You’ll Find Inside

Book Soup also sells a wide selection of gifts, toys, and LPs. If you have a record collection at home, I spotted a few record players for sale in the records section. Some of my favorite elements of the book store are their iconic guardians, two golden dog sculptures, a bust of Elvis, and a blow-up boat in the window. These Book Soup relics have been with the store since its inception. And speaking of windows, their window displays are some of the most creative I’ve ever seen. They’re created by graphic designer and writer, Rob Bieselin, who also regularly sets up an extremely elaborate booth at the LA Times Festival of Books.

Window display by Rob Bieselin

Your tour of Los Angeles isn’t complete until you visit Book Soup on the Sunset Strip. Let the staff help you discover your newest read with their Staff Picks and recommendations throughout the store. Stay up to date with the Author Events calendar to attend a book signing from today’s hottest authors. And, the store is dog-friendly, too.

Alison Martino
About Alison Martino
Alison Martino is a writer, television producer, and Los Angeles historian. She founded the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles in 2010 and is currently a West Hollywood resident. Alison also muses on L.A’s. past and present on Twitter and Instagram.

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