For years now the publishing industry has been lamenting the death of print books, but thanks to the support of lit nerds like you and me, some indie bookstores have managed to dig their heels in and fight the good fight. Prepare yourself for some major bookshelf envy, because we're diving into our favorite shops around the states.
Strand Bookstore, NYC
The Strand Bookstore is an indisputable NYC institution, and while it may be known for holding down the fort on the corner of 12th and Broadway, it actually made its debut in a different part of town. In 1927, the Strand opened on Book Row, a six-block radius in Greenwich Village that held 48 bookstores. Today, as the only remaining BR shop, the Strand boasts 18 miles of new, used and rare reads, with over 2.5 million books and a whole floor of collectible first editions and autographed rare copies. In-store readings and author conversations have brought about the likes of Junot Diaz (This Is How You Lose Her), David Sedaris (Me Talk Pretty One Day), James Franco (you know who), and even Tuna, the insta-famous chiweenie. Not to mention they’ve got some killer merch, like Make America Read Again tote bags, pins, hats, shirts, and magnets.
Powell's Books, Portland, OR
In a city full of cold brew-drinking, plaid-wearing, bicycling-riding locals, it’s natural that a bookstore would reign supreme when it comes to top attractions. But despite our generalizations about the crowd, Powell’s Books isn’t any run-of-the-mill, hipster-pleasing shop; it’s filled with more than 2 million books and hosts 500 author events each year. It’s a PDX go-to for indie press releases as well as your pillars of lit, and we love the unpretentious nature of its layout, too. Whether they're new or used, paperback or hardcover, all mingle on the same shelves.
Brattle Bookshop, Boston, MA
A collection of more than 250,000 books, maps, prints, postcards, and out-of-print titles has catapulted the circa-1825 Brattle into the pantheon of highly-respected antiquarian bookstores. Three floors of books (one that’s entirely rare and special edition) and an oft-photographed outdoor shop done up with murals of Toni Morrison, W.B. Yeats, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, have also made it a favorite among downtown Boston’s college crowd. Main take away: it’s the primo place to pick up a new novel before hitting the Boston Common – just a block away – for a reading sesh.
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Dog Eared Books, San Francisco, CA
SF’s Dog Eared Books is as eccentric as the neighborhood it calls home. Tucked away in the Mission District, the store is hard to miss, given its bold turquoise window frames and an exterior painted like a bookshelf. While the shop specializes in beat, off-beat, small press releases, and close-to-home lit, it also functions as a gallery space, with walls monopolized by locally-painted canvases. Dog Eared is also in the book club business, hosting an LGBT reading group that meets the second Wednesday of every month. The next selections on their list include My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George and I Loved You More by Tom Spanbauer.
The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles, CA
The Last Bookstore starts off on a great (read: self-aware and ironic) foot, with a nod to the demise of print publishing right in their name. Since hitting the indie book scene in 2005, though, they’ve only been on the up and up, expanding from their original DTLA loft, to a 22,000-square-foot space with more than 250,000 new and used books. The shop is also outfitted with an Arts & Rare Books Annex, thousands of vinyl records and graphic novels, a literal maze of books known as the ‘Labyrinth Above the Last Bookstore,’ plus a mezzanine full of partner shops and galleries like the Gather Yarn Shop and the Spring Arts Collective. PS: don’t sleep on their reading series and lectures; previous guests have included BJ Novak, Tony Hale, and the Portlandia crew.
Politic & Prose Bookstore and Coffeehouse, Washington, DC
P&P packs all of our favorite things under one roof. We're talking books in every category under the sun; conversations with contemporary lit voices (hey, Zadie Smith) and powerhouse politicians (Bernie Sanders just dropped by); and a dual coffeehouse/wine bar known as The Den. Everyday has a different author talk, the shop hosts 18 different in-house book groups – teen, travel, science fiction, and classics, among them – and if that isn’t involved enough for you, they also organize journaling retreats and programs in places like Sonoma County, Paris and South Africa.
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Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL
Floor-to-very-tall-ceiling bookshelves, a palm-studded, open-air courtyard (with free live music every Friday and Saturday night), and regular trivia nights are just a few of the things that keep us coming back to Books & Books. Other selling points? The Coral Gables shop resides in a 1927 Mediterranean-style building – on the city’s Register of Historic Places – that's managed to hold onto its original charm, and they’ve got a bangin’ collection of international newspapers and magazines.
Elliott Bay Book Co., Seattle, WA
Sherman Alexie (Thunder Boy Jr.), David Sedaris (Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls), and Michael Chabon (Moonglow) are just three of the critically-acclaimed authors to have graced the Elliott Bay Book Company’s 2015/2016 event roster. Since the independent, family-owned store was founded in the 70s, it’s called Pioneer Square and now Capitol Hill home. Today, the store averages 10 readings and events a week, including book groups (picks include contemporary fiction, science fiction, and “underground”) and kid’s storytime.
Faulkner House Books, New Orleans, LA
Faulkner House Books packs a historical punch and we’re pretty sure you can figure out why. If not, we’ll spell it out for you. The bookshop operates in William Faulkner’s former French Quarter apartment, in the heart of NOLA; the very place where he wrote his first published novel, Soldiers' Pay. Take a detour from Jackson Square to step inside the sunny yellow home and you’ll find first edition classics, rare titles, and of course, a healthy selection of books by, and about, Faulkner.