Best of L.A.

Best Of 2010

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Best Of :: Shopping & Services

Who the Hell Still Watches Movies on VHS?
Counterpoint Books

Counterpoint Books is a cool and quirky used bookstore and record shop that has been around for 30 years on the Franklin Avenue strip in Hollywood. It offers a great selection of used books, CDs, DVDs, out-of-print VHS movies and a large choice of ’60s and ’70s vinyl records including jazz, punk and classic rock, and it’s all painstakingly kept in alphabetical order. Its ever-changing book collection boasts everything from enormous coffee-table books to tomes on Hollywood history, humanity, fiction, art, poetry, philosophy, graphic novels and the occult. The adjacent Harmony Bookstore, owned by the same couple, John and Susan Polifronio, offers rare, fragile, eclectic and collectible books dating to the 1700s. Included in its inventory is the 1779 Benjamin Franklin: Political, Miscellaneous and Philosophical Pieces, the only book Franklin published while he was alive; a large collection of military history from the 1700s; Somerset Maugham’s The Painted Veil, inscribed to his wife, Syrie; and a signed copy of Charles Bukowski’s first-edition The Roominghouse Madrigals. 5911 Franklin Ave., Hlywd. (323) 957-7965. —Christine Pelisek

5911 Franklin Ave., Los Angeles, 90068
MAP
323-957-7965
Best Gifts for Your Garden
Rolling Greens

Rolling Greens is for things for your garden you can’t find at Home Depot — exotic plants and cacti, containers, statuary and other garden nonsense in four broad levels, sprawling down a hillside in the outer wilds of Culver City. I went there looking for some Mexican feather grass, that landscaping cliché that has become the staple of every new Southland mall. And, before you know it, I’m wandering and wondering, Would it be better to go with a cast-iron planter, or the zinc? Do I have space in the corner by the telephone pole for that nice wooden bodhisattva? And what about that topiary bush anyway? And I was thinking the distressed Mexican pottery would be good in my 4-foot patch of L.A. — maybe go for the whole post-Revolution hacienda-ruins look. Plenty of nonessential items to make your petty burgher dreams come true. 9528 Jefferson Blvd., Culver City. (310) 559-8656; also 7505 Beverly Blvd., Mid-City. (323) 934-4500, rollinggreensnursery.com. —Jedd Birkner

9528 Jefferson Blvd., Culver City, 90232
MAP
310-559-8656
Best Literary Stew (1975)
Book Soup

One of the last large independent bookstores in Southern California, Book Soup, which bills itself as the “Bookseller to the Great and Infamous,” survived the death of longtime owner Glenn Goldman in 2009, as well as the competition from Internet shopping and the huge chain bookstores and their discounted wares. In fact, according to Book Soup staff, the West Hollywood landmark is booming. A big reason for that is Vroman’s, a major independent bookstore in Pasadena, which bought Book Soup after Goldman died, and over the past year has invested its deep-pocketed resources to maintain and build upon Book Soup’s inventory of more than 60,000 titles. Another reason is that Book Soup, which opened in 1975, still specializes in books customers crave in the areas of art, photography, film, music, literary fiction, L.A. noir, celebrity biographies and controversial nonfiction. The store continues to champion hard-to-find books by university, international and small presses, while offering author signings every week. If you want to learn about a world of ideas and transforming stories, Book Soup is the place to go. 8818 Sunset Blvd., W. Hlywd. (310) 659-3110, booksoup.com. —Patrick Range McDonald

8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, 90069
MAP
310-659-3110
Best Backyard Inspirations
Yamaguchi Bonsai Nursery

The Japanese garden district on Sawtelle Boulevard in West Los Angeles features three nurseries side by side, companion planted, as it were, for mutual benefit. Of them, Yamaguchi Bonsai Nursery is the most artistic. As the name implies, bonsai is their specialty. But someone here has a keen eye for plant arrangements of all types — for the way in which dainty alyssum blossoms, say, complement a hefty profusion of petunias, mints and marjoram. Can a lowly house cactus inspire? It can here, jumbled into a pretty glazed clay pot with a squadron of weird little succulents. The place feels like nothing so much as someone’s wonderful backyard. Everything in tight spaces. Life bursting out of every corner. Yamaguchi’s is a great place for wandering, and it helps that the plants are happy, fat and healthy. The abundance of beneficial insects — ladybugs, bees, lacewings — zipping about is a good sign, too. Sales ladies Michiko and Kate won’t mince words about which plants will thrive in shade and which require hours of blazing sun. Lest we forget, gardening is science as much as it is art. To some, it’s practically religion. If she’s in good humor (and detects that you have a sense of humor), Michiko may even offer to whisper a blessing over your newly purchased plants. 1905 Sawtelle Blvd., W.L.A. (310) 473-5444. —Gendy Alimurung

1905 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles, 90025
MAP
310-473-5444
Best Glamourpuss Posh Hotel (1939)
Hotel Shangri-La

With its $30 million redesign completed last year, the Hotel Shangri-La in Santa Monica is the epitome of L.A. glamour — something that’s hard to define until you’re practically immersed in it. Built in 1939, the Shangri-La, with a glorious Art Deco design and superb beachfront location, has always seemed special, and it’s only gotten better with the renovation. Remaining true to its architecture, the pool area and dining room are tastefully sleek and modern, with an ultra-posh rooftop bar that offers great views, particularly at sunset, of the Pacific Ocean and Santa Monica Pier. Nearly all of the rooms have an ocean view and come with flat-screen TVs, wireless Internet, super comfy beds and iPod docking stations. To top it off, Santa Monica Beach’s clean white sand is a short walk away. 1301 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica. (310) 394-2791, shangrila-hotel.com. —Patrick Range McDonald

1301 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, 90401
MAP
310-394-2791
Best Tasteful Comic Book Geekitorium
Secret Headquarters

Secret Headquarters in Silver Lake is not the oldest, or the biggest, or the cheapest comic book store in Los Angeles, but it is the most beautiful. The impeccable nerd’s version of a man cave, this place is outfitted like a private library, with dark wood shelves, creaky wood floors, a ta , manga — then delve deep into one sub-specialty: alternative graphic novels. That Henry-Rollins-and-Glenn-Danzig-as-gay-lovers minicomic? They’ve got it. Along with Steve Reeder’s Cheetahs Never Win, Jeffrey Brown’s Cats Are Weird and Matt Haveron’s Harshmallow. What Secret Headquarters lacks in sheer bulk of mainstream titles (Isn’t that what the internet’s for?), owners Dave Pifer and David Richie make up for with atmosphere and knowledge. If you don’t speak geek, or don’t know what you like, the person behind the register here is happy to recommend something. No secret password required. 3817 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake. (323) 666-2228, secretheadquarters.com. —Gendy Alimurung

3817 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 90026
MAP
323-666-2228
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Who the Hell Still Watches Movies on VHS?: Counterpoint Books

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