Saturday, 20 November 2010

Bookstores, Part II

Illahie, Victoria, BC
 In August 2007, I was transferred by the Canadian Forces from my job in Comox down island to Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Esquimalt, in Victoria. Since Jo and I were well settled in Comox and she had a good job there, we decided that I would go down by myself and either come home weekends or she and Nikki would come and spend time there as they could.

I ended up renting a place off St Charles Street in Victoria. It was an old mansion that had belonged to the first big lumber baron.  You can see the place on the left; it was quite fantastic and I had the one of the top floor flats (there were three).

Living room
 My rooms ran the whole length of the front of the house, consisting of a bedroom, living room and kitchen. The picture to the right is actually the living room of the apartment that backed onto mine, but it was very similar.

For the first few months, I generally drove back to Comox on Friday afternoon and then returned on Sunday. In 2008 and until I retired from the military in Apr 2009, Jo and Nikki came down more and more often to Victoria. In fact quite often Jo worked out in Sydney at the other Tab Store (that was the name of the store in Courtenay.)

So often on a Saturday, when Jo was working in Sydney, I would spend an afternoon walking around the downtown, visiting the various book and comic book stores there. There were many new and used book stores down town and just near my apartment and as well, on Johnson Street a number of comic book stores.

Comic Book Stores

I'll start with the comic book stores. Legends and Curious Comics were the two main comic stores I frequented. Curious Comics is a chain, that has stores in other locations on the island and on the mainland. Besides comics, it specialized in games, comic related knick-knacks, etc. Legends, located just up the street from Curious Comics was an interesting place, with a wide variety of new and used and collectible type comics. It was always fun to look through its back-issues and catch up on some of those that I had missed before. I started to collect the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, plus other Alan Moore series there and also J. Michael Straczynski's Rising Stars series.

New Books

Munro's Books

The best store for buying new books in Victoria, is in my opinion  Munro'sBooks.
It began in 1963, owned by Jim Munro and his wife, author Alice Munro. They started on Fort Street and after another moved, finally settled in its current location in 1984.

The store is great, lots of selection and I love the displays. I've purchased many a Xmas present and added to my collections as well.

An interesting story about Munro's Books. Jo was trying to find me a copy of Sheila Munro's book, Lives of Mothers and Daughters; Sheila's biography of her life with her parent's, Alice and Jim Munro.

Jo checked on line, checked the local book stores in Comox and was having no luck as the book had been out of print. Well, Jo called Munro's Books to see if they might have a copy. She talked to Jim Munro's partner but they didn't have a copy either.

But very shortly afterwards, Sheila Munro called Jo as they had called her to see if she might have some copies, herself. Unbeknown to me, Jo made an arrangement to purchase one of Sheila's copies. To finish off the story, one Saturday afternoon just before Xmas, Sheila knocked on our door, at our place in Comox and personally delivered me a signed copy of her book. It turns out she lives across the Straits in Powell River, BC and had some errands to run in Comox anyway. Anyway, I guess I've nattered on a bit, but just to say, that Munro's has fond memories for me in many ways.

Ivy's Books

Another cute little book store in Victoria is
Ivy's Books, in Oak Bay. Oak Bay is a lovely little area of shops, bakeries, tea shops, antique stores, art galleries and Ivy's Books, as well as another I'll discuss later, Grafton Books.

Ivy's is a small shop, but has a nice selection, especially of biographies and fiction, as well as magazines from England. It's a great place

Cadboro Bay Books

The other new book store that I want to mention is the Cadboro Bay Book Store, located, where else, but in the Cadboro Bay area of Victoria. It's a genteel sort of area, quite quaint and nice to wander around. There aren't a lot of shops in this small corner of Victoria, but enough to make an enjoyable place to spend a couple of hours.

The book store is hidden in a small courtyard and possesses a lovely, different collection of fiction, children's books and others. I found it to be a very eclectic store to wander around.

Used and Antique Books

There were quite a few stores I spent my time wandering around in my search for used books. Besides Victoria, I also went up to Sydney (about 30 minutes drive) to visit Jo and also spend time looking at the used book stores up in Sydney. But my favourite time was to wander through the book stores in downtown Victoria.

The first store I'll mention is the Grafton Bookshop, located in the same area as Ivy's Books. It was an excellent store, especially if you were looking for antique books. I found my copy of Arthur Conan Doyle's book on the Boer War as well as another that he wrote concerning specific time frames in World War I. We found many interesting books there and it had a very wide selection.

Russell Books, located on Fort Street, has been there since 1962. It occupies two stories, the main floor displaying calendars, children's books and a variety of others. I tended to go to the second floor, accessed by a narrow stairway immediately off Fort Street. It had my genre of books, science fiction, mystery and fiction and it had an excellent selection.
The final store I'll mention is one of my all-time favourite bookstores. Even the name is different. Chronicles of Crime, located further up Fort Street. It's another neat area of Victoria; our favourite Indian restaurant was there, plus a number of antique and collectible stores.  As you may have guessed from the store name, Chronicles of Crime specialized in crime/ mystery stories, both used and collectible. It was organized in such a neat way; not your standard, A-Z listing, but rather, by genre's of mystery. Shelves dedicated to French mystery writers, female detectives, police stories, spy thrillers, hard boiled fiction. It was a neat store, and had a feel of a mystery book store. Jo bought me quite a few of my Ian Rankin, Rebus stories there. It was just a fun place to spend an hour or so, looking at books and enjoying talking with the proprietress. Great place.

Anyway, enough nattering on and on. Suffice it to say, one of the best things about being in Victoria was the book stores and having my family spend time with me while I was there. In Mar 2009, I retired from the Forces and now we are happily living back in Comox, where we belong. :0)


  1. What a beautiful mansion!

    That Munroe’s book store looked huge! What a special building! I would love to go book hunting there!

  2. It's not huge when you get inside, but still it's large enough. Jo can tell you that book hunting is one of my passions. :0)


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