Back in the late 80s/early 90s, before I moved there permanently, I used to make pilgrimages out of the North to Toronto to go to stores like The Silver Snail, Sam the Record Man (et al), and Bakka Books on Queen. I begged rides from friends, hitched rides on a 400 highway on ramp, and even rode box cars when I could get away with it. Getting home was always harder, because I’d be laden with records and books and other junk I was nerd-hoarding, but heading down was always exciting. There was nothing like Bakka in any of the small towns I grew up in. And it was a hub for other weirdos, which was refreshing growing up among the farmhands and rural bullies. I even met some famous authors there, and others who would become famous. It smelled like mildew and sweat at times, but was a great place and one of the top five most important book stores of my life.
In the summer of 1982, Margaret Atwood walked into Bakka Books looking for a copy of “The Hobbit.” Robert J. Sawyer, the celebrated Canadian science-fiction writer who was then working behind the counter, couldn’t believe his luck.
“It was pretty amazing — she knew all about the store and how we specialized in fantasy and science fiction,” Sawyer recalls of his encounter at the bookstore when it was in its first home on Queen Street near John Street.