“Indie Bookstores are Back,” The New York Times proclaimed early last year. “People Are Still Buying Books At Indie Bookstores,” Forbes announced a few months later, somewhat incredulously. A quick piece from The New York Post on the “indie-bookstore boomlet” this month seems to seal the deal: independent bookshops are definitely not dying.
Those who tolled the death knell too early are probably just as happy as everyone else. No one wants to see a neighborhood bookshop suffer. Who can resist the pungent smell of old novels, the shadowy intimacy of packed aisles, or the incredibly satisfying feel of a heavy tote bag filled with staff picks? If anything, we’re buying more books that we can actually read, which is hardly a problem for the brick-and-mortar booksellers still threatened by behemoths like Amazon.
If the mere mention of book odor makes you want to sprint into the shop around the corner, your timing couldn’t be better. April 29 is Independent Bookstore Day, and in honor of the occasion, we asked people across the HuffPost newsroom to nominate a few stores they’ve grown to love over the years. After a days of waxing poetic, we came up with a mega-list of incredible indie bookstores that are alive, well and deserving of your patronage on this most holy of literary holidays.
Behold, 50 of the best indie bookstores in America:
1. John K. King Used & Rare Books (Detroit, Michigan)
”One of the most unique bookstores in the Midwest, John K. King is one of the hidden jewels of Detroit. The shelves are filled with books you can’t find anywhere else. The bookstore holds around 1 million books in stock.” ― Philip Lewis, Front Page Editor
Check out John K. King here.
2. Taylor Books (Charleston, West Virginia)
“Taylor Books is a beloved spot on a quaint street in West Virginia’s capital city that offers a good read, beautiful art, a solid cup of coffee and a quiet place to enjoy it all. Taylor doesn’t just have a great selection of books ― the store hosts live musicians, holds book signings with notable authors and even serves as a place for creative types, like creative writing and improv groups, to meet. I love that they make sure to feature authors, artists and publications based in and around West Virginia and work to promote other arts-related businesses in the community.” ― Paige Lavender, Senior Politics Editor
Check out Taylor Books here.
3. Literati (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
”A great bookstore for a great college town, Literati sits right in the middle of Ann Arbor’s downtown shopping district. It’s the perfect place to spend an hour ― or two or three ― browsing the staff recommendations, which are reliably excellent.” ― Jonathan Cohn, Senior National Correspondent
Check out Literati here.
4. The Strand (New York, New York)
“I worked at The Strand when I first moved to New York City and it truly embodies so much about what makes this global city so amazing. Not only have numerous influential creatives worked here at some point in their careers, but the space itself is a defining part of the history of New York City. The last remaining staple of the historic ‘Book Row’ ― a massive area of 48 different bookstores dating back to the late 1800s ― The Strand is now the second-biggest used bookstore in the entire country. Go get lost in the literal miles of books while you discover some of the rich history of the store itself.” ― James Michael Nichols, Deputy Queer Voices Editor
Check out the Strand here.
5. Left Bank Books (St. Louis, Missouri)
”When I was going to college in St. Louis, Left Bank Books was a short bike ride from my apartment. The shop has incredible new and used book selections, ingeniously themed reading groups, impressive author events, and just a generally inclusive vibe that makes it seem like a neighborhood spot for anyone and everyone.” ― Katherine Brooks, Senior Arts & Culture Editor
Check out Left Bank Books here.
6. Old Tampa Book Company (Tampa, Florida)
“Old Tampa Book Company is this little store in downtown that usually gets overlooked, but the second you step in it’s the best place you’ve ever been. All the shelves are filled to the brim and you can find so many out-of-print or unique editions of books. And the entire place just smells like books ― overwhelmingly so.” ― Doha Madani, Associate Trends Reporter
Check out Old Tampa Book Company here.
7. Women & Children First Bookstore (Chicago, Illinois)
”Women & Children First is the kind of indie bookstore that belies an easy, convenient characterization. Sure, it’s a feminist bookstore with a name eerily similar to a certain Portlandia sketch. But it’s not some caricature. This place has a real heart and cares about their neighborhood and city, hosting regular community events spotlighting both emerging local and established international names. And their handwritten book recommendations throughout the store have never led me astray. It’s the real deal.” ― Joseph Erbentraut, Senior What’s Working Editor
Check out Women & Children First here.
8. Dickson Street Bookshop (Fayetteville, Arkansas)
“Dickson Street Bookshop is located just a short, lovely walk from the University of Arkansas campus in Fayetteville, so it’s a huge draw for college students and bibliophiles alike. Its towering, overstocked bookshelves wind in and out of rooms, almost as if they go on for miles. As an undergraduate, I needed a copy of Arthur Miller’s ‘Death Of A Salesman’ for a theater class I was taking that semester, and the shop owner knew exactly which room, which shelf and which precise stack of books was home to the one I needed, leading me right to it. I still have the tattered, out-of-print copy to this day.” ― Brittany Nims, RYOT Studio Editor
Check out Dickson Street Bookshop here.
9. Powell’s Books (Portland, Oregon)
“If there’s a list of great wonders of the literary world, Powell’s sits at the top. They call it ‘Powell City of Books’ for a reason ― it occupies a full city block and supposedly contains more than a million volumes.” ― Jonathan Cohn, Senior National Correspondent
Check out Powell’s here.
10. Farley’s Bookshop (New Hope, Pennsylvania)
”Farley’s is nestled on the Delaware River in the historic and queer enclave of New Hope, Pennsylvania. There’s always an angelic cat that greets you (and every good independent bookstore should have that). It feels like a quintessential Americana place that could’ve easily been in a scene in ‘Hocus Pocus’ or something.” ― Melissa Radzimski, Social Media Editor
Check out Farley’s here.
11. The Book Barn (Niantic, Connecticut)
“I never miss a chance to visit the Book Barn when I’m up in Connecticut. I could spend hours perusing the shop’s collection, which is actually spread out over four small locations in the coastal town of Niantic, which is worthy of exploring in its own right. Every visit is an adventure!” ― Curtis Wong, Senior Queer Voices Editor
Check out the Book Barn here.
12. The Last Bookstore (Los Angeles, California)
”Part bookstore, part art collective and sculpture, this shop has a solid selection of indie new stuff plus an extensive user collection that is worth checking out. A beautiful place.” ― Robb Monn, Head of Engineering
Check out the Last Bookstore.
13. Prairie Lights (Iowa City, Iowa)
”It’s everything you could want in a bookstore. A staff that knows their stuff? Check. A kids section that feels like a secret hideaway? Check. Coffee, cookies, and booze upstairs? Check. A secondhand books section so you can splurge? CHECK.” ― Chloe Angyal, Senior Front Page Editor
Check out Prairie Lights here.
14. The Children’s Bookstore (Baltimore, Maryland)
“This little bookstore is tucked away on a side street in the Roland Park neighborhood of Baltimore, and it’s so great. The staff is super knowledgeable, and they have a great selection of books for all different ages. Back when Harry Potter books were still coming out, The Children’s Bookstore would host a huge celebration leading up to the midnight release. They’d close off the street and have tons of activities for all of the dressed-up wizards and witches. You could get your book there at midnight, or they had a delivery service that would drop books off to the houses in the neighborhood (starting at midnight). It’s a great bookstore and community.” ― Hollis Miller, Associate Voices Social Editor
Check out the Children’s Bookstore here.
15. Elliott Bay Book Company (Seattle, Washington)
”I love reading staff recommendations, and this enormous bookstore had way more than I could skim in one visit. There’s a comfy coffee shop inside, so it’s the perfect zen stop, whether you’re working in the city or visiting from out of town. Grab a book, relax and people-watch.” ― Katherine Brooks
Check out Elliott Bay here.
16. Books Galore (Eerie, Pennsylvania)
“Independently owned and operated, I’ve frequented the place since I was a kid and continued to do so until I moved to Louisiana last year. When I was a kid, I liked going there every week to get my favorite comics. As I got older, they were a great resource for old books ― especially rare and hard-to-find books. They are great people and always friendly. They also do a lot of things for kids in the community, such as hosting games, having folks dress up as superheroes and hosting a free comic book day.” ― David Lohr, Senior Crime Reporter
Check out Books Galore here.
17. J. Michaels Books (Eugene, Oregon)
“A cozy and colorful fixture of one of Americas most colorful small cities. The owner is usually behind the counter, obscured by his curated selection of new releases. His arrangements never fail to compel even this most casual of bookworms to purchase. On your way out, take a peek at first editions and antique copies of many of Americas greatest writers. My wife and I once drove a Penguin Books–branded Mini Cooper across America, visiting indie bookshops all along the way. There is none quite like J Michaels.” ― Isaac Schmidt, Software Engineer
Check out J. Michaels here.
18. Westsider Rare & Used Books Inc. (New York, New York)
“If there were a car air freshener called ‘Used Bookstore’ they would go to Westsider Rare & Used Books Inc.” ― Marc Janks, Multimedia Platforms Manager
Check out Westsider Rare & Used Books here.
19. The Iliad Bookshop (North Hollywood, California)
”Iliad Bookshop is a place you can get lost in ― and if you’re a book lover like me, you might suddenly discover that hours have elapsed while you were blissfully exploring that rabbit hole. They specialize in literature and the arts and have an impressive collection of rare books, in particular. If you somehow tire of the endless maze of books, you can take a break to play with the shop cats (yes, literal cats, not just cool people) or chat with the very friendly staff.” ― Antonia Bloomberg, Religion Reporter
Check out the Iliad here.
20. The Montague Bookmill (Montague, Massachusetts)
“You know those bookstores where you can spend a whole afternoon? The Bookmill is like that, but more like days, or weeks ― I’d rent a room there if I could. The 1800s gristmill is home to thousands of used books, thoughtfully organized and sprawled out in room after room designed for wandering and hiding out among the shelves. If you somehow get bored of book buying, you can take a picturesque stroll by the Sawmill River or bring your finds to the Lady Killigrew Cafe, order a local beer and start reading.” ― Kate Abbey-Lambertz, National Reporter
Check out the Montague here.
21. Green Apple Books (San Francisco, California)
“Green Apple is the kind of bookstore that reminds you what an otherworldly escape reading is and makes you wonder why you spend so much time watching Netflix. It’s sizable but divided up into smaller rooms and alcoves you’ll want to hole up in for hours. It was named Publisher’s Weekly bookstore of the year in 2014, but it’s remained a humble neighborhood spot exactly as I remember it as a little kid growing up around the corner.” ― Lydia O’Connor, Reporter
Check out Green Apple here.
22. Maxwell’s House of Books (La Mesa, California)
“Maxwell’s has a lot of rare academic and scholarly titles as well as other hard-to-find titles. The owners are happy to engage in deep conversations about the books. It’s in a cozy neighborhood in a San Diego suburb and I feel like everyone is stopping by to say, ‘Hi.’” ― David Moye, Reporter
Check out Maxwell’s here.
23. Chamblin Book Mine (Jacksonville, Florida)
“I used to get lost in this place when I was a nerdy high school kid in Jacksonville. The aisles go on forever, and it’s basically impossible to leave empty-handed. It’s a great place to sell your old books, too. Highly recommended.” ― Kate Palmer, Lifestyle Editorial Director
Check out Chamblin Book Mine here.
24. Book Culture (New York, New York)
“This is everything a modern bookstore should be. It has something for everyone. Best Part: They have mystery books wrapped up so you can have a blind date with a book.” ― Marc Janks
Check out Book Culture here.
25. Books and Books (Coral Gables, Florida)
“Every author who’s done a tour knows about Books and Books, because it’s practically a South Florida institution. Worth visiting for the architecture alone, but it’s the reading that will keep you coming back.” ― Jonathan Cohn
Check out Books and Books here.
26. William Caxton Ltd Books (Ellison Bay, Wisconsin)
”This is one of the finest book stores I’ve ever been too, made even more incredible due to its location, completely off the beaten path on the Wisconsin peninsula. The owner is a retired professor and collector of rare books. This is a place you go to find books you’ve never seen before.” ― Andy McDonald, Comedy Editor
Check out William Caxton Ltd here.
27. Relay Bookhouse (Bethel, Connecticut)
“It literally has tunnels of books from floor to ceiling — it’s like a maze. Books are piled up on the floor, you can hit dead ends and you can spend hours in it. I didn’t know bookstores like this still existed. Whenever I’m in the area I always stop in and walk around for a bit.” ― Samantha Tomaszewski, Associate Social Media Editor
Check out Relay here.
28. Inquiring Minds Bookstore (Saugerties, New York)
“In upstate New York, nestled in the quaint town of Saugerties, lies Inquiring Minds Bookstore. During a recent weekend stay in the area, I stumbled upon this cozy independent shop, filled to the brim with both new and used books. There’s a coffee shop inside, and you can get lost wandering around and browsing the journals, CDs and toys, which are also for sale. Inquiring Minds has a sister shop in New Paltz, New York.” ― Lauren Moraski, Entertainment Editorial Director
Check out Inquiring Minds here.
29. Skylight Books + Art Annex (Los Angeles, California)
”The most solid new bookstore for fiction and art books. Great staff picks and great staff. I’ve found many gems here that I’d never have known existed.” ― Rob Monn, Head of Engineering
Check out Skylight here.
30. McNally Jackson (New York, New York)
“This is my favorite bookstore in the city ― it’s really well-organized and I love all of the recommendations from the staff. They also have a great magazine section, and they even have a little cafe where you can grab a coffee and read your newest purchase.” ― Hollis Miller, Voices Associate Social Media Editor
Check out McNally Jackson here.
31. Book Revue (Huntington, New York)
“Growing up on Long Island surrounded by lacrosse bros and meatheads, Book Revue served as an oasis of art and literature. Big-name authors came to town for talks there. The 17,500-square-foot space is flanked by book shelves in nearly every possible space, a café with Korean candies and decent loose-leaf tea and a used book section where I bought my first W.H. Auden book for just $1. It’s always amazed me that, even as the record stores and other shops I loved folded, this place remained open. Thank God for that.” ― Alexander Kaufman, Business & Environment Reporter
“I usually force whichever family member I’m visiting on Long Island to make a stop at Book Revue, located in the picturesque, walkable downtown of Huntington. The store is expansive enough to easily kill an hour or two browsing, and they have a nice selection of inexpensive literary remainders — useful for anyone wishing to build up their classics library. With ample readings and events, they’re a good resource for the bookish who don’t want to travel all the way into Manhattan.” ― Jillian Capewell, Entertainment News Editor
Check out Book Revue here.
32. Little City Books (Hoboken, New Jersey)
”It’s a super-friendly atmosphere with welcoming staff, and carries a diverse range of novels and nonfiction. It’s also has a vast children’s section. It frequently holds readings and Q&As with authors and hosts a variety of book clubs focussing on different genres and writers.” ― Will Tooke, Producer
Check out Little City here.
33. Main Street Books (Saint Helena, California)
“Tucked between pricey boutiques and wine shops, this tiny gem of a bookstore was a saving grace for me growing up in a small Napa Valley town when I was too young to enjoy the tasting rooms and vineyard tours the region is famous for. I’d spend hours in this little shop (roughly the size of a small bedroom), picking up dozens of used novels (better for my babysitting-fund budget) while always eyeing the new titles with envy. I still make a point of dropping in when I’m home for a visit, particularly to check out the latest additions to the well-curated cooking section or ask for a recommendation. And if they don’t have a book in the shop, the owner will happily order it for you. I’ll forever be grateful for when she pre-ordered Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix for me and let me pick it up before the store opened for the day.” ― Mollie Reilly, Deputy Politics Editor
Check out Main Street here.
34. Prospero’s Bookstore (Kansas City, Missouri)
“As a high school kid in Overland Park, Kansas, Prospero’s was an oasis. Its basement smells like centuries-old book pulp ― it’s where I found one of the strangest used Cold War history books I’ve ever read and will never get rid of. On the main floor, you can find more precariously stacked books, plus work from students at the Kansas City Art Institute, or see performances from local musicians and poets. It’s much more than a bookstore, as it should be.” ― Katherine Brooks
Check out Prospero’s here.
35. Book Beat (Oak Park, Michigan)
“A short drive outside of Detroit, Book Beat was one of my favorite destinations as a kid. From the inconspicuous storefront ― they’re located in an outdated suburban strip mall ― you’d never guess that inside it’s warm and lively, with thousands of books are crammed into every inch of available space, stacked up to the ceiling. Friendly staff members are always happy to help you locate a title in the piles, or recommend a book you didn’t know you wanted. They carry a wide range of subjects, but their children’s book collection is truly unbeatable.” ― Kate Abbey-Lambertz
Check out Book Beat here.
36. Karma (Amagansett, New York)
”Karma (with locations in NYC and Amagansett) is both a gallery and a bookseller. They boast a beautiful collection of contemporary art books, many of which they publish themselves.” ― Willa Frej, Reporter
Check out Karma here.
37. Faulkner House Books (New Orleans, Louisiana)
”This teeny, tiny bookstore is housed in a building that was constructed in 1840. William Faulkner lived there in the early 20th century — hence the name — and wrote his first novel Soldiers Play. The space is as charming and mythic as any bookstore lover would hope, with low-slung chandeliers and books lining the walls, ‘Beauty and the Beast’-style. It has a great selection of New Orleans-centric books, from history to cookbooks, for people from out of town.” ― Priscilla Frank, Arts & Culture Writer
Check out Faulkner House here.
38. Book Thug Nation (Brooklyn, New York)
“So intimate, so cozy and so friendly. I don’t know how they get by selling books for $2.50, but I try to always check out their selection first before I go anywhere else. And Book Thug gets new books every day, so there’s always something to discover.” ― Allison Fox, Lifestyle Trends Editor
Check out Book Thug Nation here.
39. Linden Tree Children’s Books (Los Altos, California)
”You won’t find the children’s books tucked away in a corner here. It’s the entire store. Linden Tree has a friendly and helpful staff, great selection and plenty of in-store events.” ― Ed Mazza, Reporter
Check out Linden Tree here.
40. Half Price Books (Dallas, Texas)
”Half Price Books might be a chain, but it’s family-owned, and, more importantly to some readers, it lives up to its name. Like any used bookstore, visiting comes with the wonder of discovery, a sensation absent from, say, shopping on Amazon. But the flagship store in Dallas is essentially a vast warehouse of books, and getting lost in its aisles is half the fun.” ― Maddie Crum, Books & Culture Writer
Check out Half Price Books here.
41. Haslam’s Book Store Inc (St. Petersburg, Florida)
“Finding refuge in stacks of books from the humidity of Florida and losing track of time was a common occurrence for me at Haslam’s, a massive new and used bookstore established in 1933. I’d take short vacations to St. Petersburg while studying in university to visit friends and wander through the expansive bookshelves, read excerpts on the back of book covers and then flip through pages upon pages of poetry, fiction, memoirs and essays. The science collection in Haslam’s is astounding, and this bookstore helped nurture my love of science out of the classroom. It has an unassuming facade but, as with most good bookstores, once you step inside you are transported into another place and time, lost in your own thoughts, to a place just waiting to be explored.” ― Madeline Wahl, Associate Editor
Check out Haslam’s here.
42. Book Woman (Austin, Texas)
“In its annual collection of book review and book reviewer data, VIDA has shown that gender parity still hasn’t been achieved when it comes to literature. Women are less likely to get reviewed in several major outlets than men, and they’re less likely to win awards, too. Which is why the concept of the simply named BookWoman is so great. The store showcases women writers, and particularly women writers working in Austin — and it hosts intersectional reading events, too.” ― Maddie Crum
Check out Book Woman here.
43. Off the Beaten Path (Steamboat, Colorado)
”I’ve approached the staff at Off the Beaten Path with as little info as: ‘I’m looking for a really good book. Like, really, really good.’ And I always walk out with something I can’t put down and that I insist pretty much every friend and family member read. The people who work here are incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about books and will keep pulling titles until they find something you’re excited sit down with. They support local authors, and the ‘staff picks’ are the best way to find out about little-known writers and remember why you should go back and read the classics from high school. And the coffee … OMG, amazing.” ― Eleanor Goldberg, Impact Editor
Check out Off the Beaten Path here.
44. Housing Works Bookstore Cafe (New York, New York)
“Housing Works, a smallish yet well-stocked two-story shop in Manhattan, is more than a bookstore. The organization takes seriously its role as an advocacy group for people with HIV/AIDS, and raises funds through events to that end. This alone makes it a worthwhile place to buy books, but the spot itself is charming, too, with winding stairways and high ceilings and timely author readings.” ― Maddie Crum
Check out Housing Works here.
45. Stone Soup Books (Camden, Maine)
“Stone Soup is a tiny used bookstore that sits at the top of a creaking staircase in an almost comically narrow building in Camden, Maine’s downtown area. Inside, it feels like the kind of place where the protagonist of a children’s movie would find a long-lost book that unlocked a portal to some sort of fairy tale world. It’s packed with books, most of them well-loved, extremely affordable paperbacks, lining every available inch of wall space and occupying numerous other shelves and piles throughout the store. Every time I’ve been there, one of the owners has been there behind the desk reading, and is exactly the kind of of older gentleman you’d hope to presiding over a charming secondhand bookstore.” ― Hilary Hanson, Reporter
Check out Stone Soup here.
46. Parnassus Books (Nashville, Tennessee)
“I stopped into Parnassus Books during a trip to Nashville a few years ago, and, like many of the city’s other small businesses I visited with friends, it felt like a place that really serves the local readers, both in terms of book recommendations and community space. Fun fact: The store is co-owned by author Ann Patchett.” ― Katherine Brooks
Check out Parnassus here.
47. Source Booksellers (Detroit, Michigan)
“Source Booksellers opened just a few years ago, but it’s thriving, with tons of readings and events ― probably because owner Janet Jones has been collecting and selling books since 1989. Her compact but extensively curated selection of nonfiction books ― with great titles on local subjects, history, culture, art and spirituality, are chosen with an eye toward educating people and enhancing their lives.” ― Kate Abbey-Lambertz
Check out Source Booksellers here.
48. 2nd Edition Books (Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina)
“An independent bookstore in an airport? Yup. You’ll find 2nd Edition in the terminal at Raleigh-Durham International, past security near the gates. They sell only previously used books, but they have a wide selection (and many are barely used). They’ll even ship to your destination if you want.” ― Jonathon Cohn
Check out 2nd Edition here.
49. Books on the Square (Providence, Rhode Island)
“As a college student in Providence, I had the opportunity to explore some great local spots, and Books on the Square was a true highlight. Located in Wayland Square, it’s welcoming neighborhood shop with a cozy atmosphere and loyal customer base. The staff is very friendly and they often host events and speakers.” — Caroline Bologna, Parents Editor
Check out Books on the Square here.
50. Politics & Prose (Washington, D.C.)
”No roundup of indie bookstores would be complete without mentioning Politics & Prose, the D.C. institution that, beyond selling books, hosts open mics, nerdy trivia, teach-ins and conversations with politicians, authors, filmmakers and more. When I first visited D.C., I knew enough to add this shop to my itinerary, squeezing it in between tourist spots. And it was worth it.” ― Katherine Brooks
Check out Politics & Prose here.
There are many other indie bookstores that we didn’t write about, but are excellent destinations you should probably check out. Including…
- Myopic Books in Chicago, Illinois
- Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi
- Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver, Colorado
- Bluestockings in New York, New York
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