Phone: (760) 390-4688
Dog-Friendly: Yes Kid-Friendly: Yes
Hours: Mon Closed Tues/Wed: 10:00 am - 7:00 pm Thu 9:30 am - 7:00 pm Fri/Sat: 9:00 am - 8:00 pm Sun 9:00 am - 6:00 pm
Several years ago after attending an art show in Carlsbad, we were heading home when an incredibly interesting building caught my eye. "Turn around!" The place was not open when we stopped by but I was fascinated with the bookshelves which lined the foundation of the store, filled with books that were free to the community. What a cool, selfless idea, I thought. We need more people on this tip.
Fast-forward to mid 2015 when I get a message from the owner, Sean Christopher, that the city is trying to shut them down! The nerve! Here's a unique concept that is giving back to the community and the city is looking for any microscopic issue to cause problems for them. This is a current issue and with the help of the people, hopefully they will get to stay around!
So what is LHOOQ/Exrealism? Lhooq (pronounced "look") is a vintage bookstore and venue for artists of all mediums. They have dreams and aspirations to grow much bigger so let's help them out! According to Wikipedia, L.H.O.O.Q. is a work of art by French artist and writer, Marcel Duchamp. First conceived in 1919, the work is one of what Duchamp referred to as readymades, or more specifically an assisted ready-made. The readymade involves taking mundane, often utilitarian objects not generally considered to be art and transforming them, by adding to them, changing them, or (as in the case of his most famous work Fountain) simply renaming them and placing them in a gallery setting. Take the Mona Lisa, whom he is famously known for adding a mustache to.
So how does this relate to the bookstore? Because Christopher has adopted the philosophy of change. Taking an old, decrepit building which had become an eyesore and turning it into something fresh and innovative. The outside of his bookstore is kind of like the Little Free Libraries but taken up 100 notches. The inside has such a lovely vintage feel with the smell of old books which has become such a rarity in the tech world we now live in.
UPDATE: It had been a couple years since I had visited Lhooq/Exrealism. Last time I was here, the owner was battling the City of Carlsbad to keep his spot in business. I am thrilled to learn that not only did he win the battle, but the shop has also had a lovely makeover! They now offer a variety of delicious coffee drinks while you scour your reading options. Give this spot a visit if you haven't already. It's definitely one of the most unique bookstores that San Diego has to offer!