The 15 Best Independent Bookstores in the US
When it's time to hit the road for a vacation, there are two things that bookworms know to be true. First of all, you can never pack too many books in your suitcase and carry-on (although those overweight luggage fees are definitely not on our side). The other is that, no matter where we go, it would be straight-up sacrilege to not visit any and all renowned independent bookstores in the vicinity.
With no disrespect to chain bookstores, there's nothing quite as magical as an independent bookstore. Each has its own unique atmosphere, decor, selection, and claim to fame, but they all have one thing in common — when a bookworm steps inside, we immediately know that we could spend an entire day there.
Despite the rise of e-readers, there's no shortage of incredible independent bookstores in America. In fact, some of us (*raises hand*) have even planned trips just so we can visit certain indies. Luckily, many of them are located in popular tourist destinations like New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago. So before you head out on your next trip, check out this list of the 15 best independent bookstores in the country.
Powell's City of Books (Portland, OR)
Powell's City of Books, the world's largest independent bookstore, is home to one million books. The store, which takes up an entire city block, boasts a massive collection of both new and used books. There are over 3,500 sections so, no matter how obscure your interests are, you're bound to find a section that's your cup of tea. And don't forget to visit the Rare Book Room to see the collection of autographed first editions and collectible books.
Strand Bookstore (New York, NY)
Does 18 miles of books sound like heaven to you? Us, too, and that's why we love the Strand Bookstore in the East Village of Manhattan. The bookstore recently celebrated its 90th anniversary of selling new, used, and rare books. The Strand also sells unique, fun tote bags and has entire section of knick-knacks that are the perfect souvenirs to bring home from the Big Apple for a book-lover.
The Last Bookstore (Los Angeles, CA)
The Last Bookstore is the ultimate retreat for book-lovers in the City of Angels. The spacious, multi-level store also sells records and showcases local art. As you navigate through the maze of books, be sure to take a photo peeking through the open circle of books (pictured).
Elliott Bay Book Company (Seattle, WA)
Elliott Bay Book Company, a cozy store located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, is open until 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays — so it's ideal for those of us who prefer bookstores to bars on weekends. In addition to its expansive selection and amazing bargain section, Elliott Bay Book Company hosts free author readings nearly every evening at 7 p.m.
Women & Children First (Chicago, IL)
As its name suggests, Women & Children First in the Windy City is a feminist bookworm's paradise. It's one of the largest bookstores in the country that's designed with women's interest in mind. It also features a fabulous section for children with a large selection of (you guessed it) empowering books about young heroines.
Faulkner House Books (New Orleans, LA)
Located in the former home of William Faulkner (be still, our hearts), Faulkner House Books is the center of New Orleans' literary community. It's home to myriad books both by and about Faulkner himself, as well as other iconic literature and rare editions. Faulkner House Books is often described as "America's most charming bookstore."
Common Good Books (St. Paul, MN)
Owned by author and Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor, Common Good Books is famous for its extensive poetry section. As you browse, you'll find employee notes attached to certain books explaining why they loved the title.
City Lights Books (San Francisco, CA)
City Lights Books, which doubles as a publishing house, is paradise for book-lovers who are passionate about the arts and progressive politics. While you're there, be sure to check out the nonprofit City Lights Foundation, which specializes in books about San Francisco's culture. What better way to immerse yourself in a city's history and culture than through reading?
Parnassus Books (Nashville, TN)
When Nashville's last independent bookstore closed its doors, author Ann Patchett and publisher Karen Hayes took matters into their own hands and opened Parnassus Books in November 2011. Parnassus is always well-stocked with books by local authors, and we love that Patchett used her clout to keep indie bookstores alive in Nashville.
Tattered Cover Book Store (Denver, CO)
With three locations in Denver, Tattered Cover Book Store is full of comfy chairs and couches so you can kick back and browse through your stack of books before making final selections. (We all know that struggle is real.) Don't miss Tattered Cover's "Espresso Book Machine" — if you're clamoring for a certain title but it's not on the shelves, the store can print it out for you.
The Rediscovered Bookshop (Boise, ID)
Housing Works Bookstore Cafe (New York, NY)
As if Housing Works' killer book selection, delicious cafe, and packed calendar of literary events isn't amazing enough, the bookstore's profits are donated to fighting homelessness and AIDS. So don't feel guilty stocking up here, because you can rest assured that your money is going to important causes.
Books & Books (Coral Gables and Miami Beach, FL)
Square Books (Oxford, MS)
Located in three separate historic buildings, Square Books specializes in Southern literature and boasts an impressive selection of children's books. It's full of collector's editions and signed copies of beloved books. Visitors note that it's common to stumble upon a favorite book with a totally different cover than they've ever seen, which is heavenly for those of us who love to collect multiple copies of our favorite titles.
Politics and Prose Bookstore (Washington, DC)
Unsurprisingly, Politics and Prose Bookstore is where it's at if you're in search of events and signings headlined by prominent political figures like Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. But events aside, Politics and Prose's staff is famous for providing top-notch recommendations to customers, and it also has an "Espresso Book Machine" so you won't have to leave empty-handed simply because you wanted to buy a self-published or out-of-print book.