“Truly independent,” Shelf Life Books in Calgary is a bookstore for avid readers and the unusually bookish, for browsers and meanderers, for independent minds and spirits. Located downtown in Calgary’s revitalized Beltline District, it is their hope that while customers might find the book they’re looking for, they’ll also find books that they haven’t seen anywhere else.
Shelf Life Books began in 2010 as the brainchild of two old friends, William Lawrence and JoAnn McCaig, who agreed that Calgary needed an independent bookstore downtown and worked hard to fill that need. Now, Shelf Life Books inhabits the Fourth Street building that many Calgarians fondly remember as the home of the gay bar Parkside Continental, which operated from 1973 to 1986. Other Calgarians may recognize the building as the one that sits behind Evelyn Grant’s familiar sculpture Counting Crows, which was installed in 2001. The building’s landmark status evolved further when, in 2019, Kyle and Derek Simmers painted a mural on the back wall as part of Calgary’s annual BUMP (Beltline Urban Murals Project) Festival in 2019.
In October 2020, Shelf Life Books celebrated its tenth anniversary. They have been warmly welcomed by the Calgary reading and writing community since first opening their doors and many important writers have appeared at their store, including Will Ferguson and Vivek Shraya. Shelf Life Books also prides itself on its community engagement and events programming, and many of Calgary’s local writers read and browse there on the regular. They are a dog-friendly store and offer special order services, a customer loyalty program, a book-of-the-month club, curbside pick-up, local deliveries, and support to their littlest customers with a virtual storytime and a children’s book review program where kids can submit book reviews for store credit.