44 Great American Bookstores Every Book Lover Must Visit

Fighting the good fight for the American bibliophile. Have you shown your local indie love this week?

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1. Prairie Lights Bookstore, Iowa City, Iowa

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Located in the heart of crazy-literary Iowa City — yes, home to that writers’ workshop — Prairie Lights is known by locals and visitors alike as the one-stop shop for books, caffeine, and muffins.

2. Guide to Kulchur, Cleveland

Guide to Kulchur describes itself as an “incubator for emerging and marginalized voices within the print medium.” Um, COOL. This bookstore and “cooperative project” not only has a solid collection of art books with a social justice slant; Guide to Kulchur also serves as a gathering spot for Cleveland’s creative scene.

3. John K. King Used and Rare Books, Detroit

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Book lovers, hold on to your jaws. John K. King Used and Rare Books transformed a former glove factory into a stunning home for over a million books, organized into 900 categories. Set aside at least a day to explore this gem of Detroit!

4. Myopic Books, Chicago

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Stepping inside Myopic Books is like stepping into another world, where books abound and writers are royalty. Sit down at the long desks and pen your own masterpiece, sell your used books, or browse through the wide selection of new and old tomes at this Wicker Park shop.

5. Magers & Quinn, Minneapolis

With brimming stacks of new and used books set side by side, Magers & Quinn is one of the best-loved bookshops in Minnesota. Not only are the used books at this Minneapolis spot super affordable, this shop also features free poetry readings and community events every month.

6. Full Circle Bookstore, Oklahoma City

Full Circle Bookstore is the largest indie bookshop in Oklahoma, packed from floor to ceiling with books you can access via ladders, just like in the library scene in Beauty and the Beast.

7. Common Good Books, St. Paul, Minnesota

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Owned by the author and host of A Prairie Home Companion, Garrison Keillor, Common Good Books is an independent shop with a good sense of humor, known by locals as a place where you never know what you’ll find.

8. Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi

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From Faulkner to Welty to Williams, Mississippi literary culture runs deep. Good thing Oxford has a bookstore to match that storied history (heh). Square Books spans three post-Antebellum houses in the historic square of this vibrant Southern college town.

9. Bound To Be Read Books, Atlanta

Bound To Be Read will win your heart with its punny name, regal resident cat (her name is Kona), and superb collection of used books, new releases, and best-sellers. Locals are quick to praise the great service that makes this local stop way better than any online bookseller.

10. Maple Street Books, New Orleans

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Located in this pretty lil’ house on Maple Street, Maple Street Books is known for its cozy vibe. There’s even a reading room in back!

11. Parnassus Books, Nashville

Parnassus Books cares about Nashville and local writers, and local readers care about Parnassus Books. It’s no surprise why: Celebrated writer Ann Patchett opened the shop with noted publisher Karen Hayes after the last indie bookshop in Nashville closed. We love the idea of writers using their cache to keep indie bookstores alive!

12. Heirloom Bookshop, Charleston, South Carolina

Recently opened Heirloom Bookshop will have you craving a trip to South Carolina. Serving the folks of Charleston with a feast of vintage and rare cookbooks, this shop looks like it belongs on the pages of an interior design magazine.

13. Books & Books, Coral Gables, Florida

This booklover’s paradise, set in a gorgeous 1920s-era building, is one of several B&B locations around Miami. With high ceilings, dark wood, and a Mediterranean floor, your afternoon book-browsing will never be so aesthetically pleasing!

14. Faulkner House Books, New Orleans

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This bookshop takes up the first floor of a house where William Faulkner once lived with artist William Spratling, when he first arrived in New Orleans.

15. South Congress Books, Austin

Located in the hippest part of one of America’s hippest cities, South Congress Books specializes in rare books, out-of-print books, and first editions and is known for its friendly, down-to-earth staff.

Getty Images / iThinkstock Marko Beric

16. Dog Eared Books, San Francisco

If you find yourself in San Francisco’s Mission District, Dog Eared Books is a must-see. Carrying everything from McSweeney’s new releases to New York Times best-sellers to one-of-a-kind out-of-prints, this S.F. spot is full of character.

17. The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles

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As the largest bookshop buying and selling used books and records in California, The Last Bookstore maintains charm in its DTLA loft by covering the place with stacks of books and offering over 100,000 dollar books in its “Labyrinth Above the Last Bookstore.”

18. The Booksmith, San Francisco

Located in the Haight, The Booksmith is a Bay Area favorite for San Franciscans and visiting bibliophiles alike. In addition to a top-notch lineup of new fiction, The Booksmith carries an impressive comic collection, independent literary and art journals, and little knick-knacks you didn’t realize you needed in your life.

19. Skylight Books, Los Angeles

Skylight Books is a local favorite in the L.A. neighborhood of Los Feliz, featuring shelf after shelf of books you want to give to your friends, multiple readings a week, giveaway advance readers’ copies, and its own art book annex.

20. Henry Miller Memorial Library, Big Sur

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Nestled into the wilds of beautiful Big Sur, just off Highway 1, the Henry Miller Memorial Library is the bookshop you’ll want to move into. Stocked with books that inspired Miller, as well as a fairly full selection of Miller’s own works, the HMML has free coffee and tea set up on the porch and throws events ranging from outdoor film screenings to poetry readings throughout the year.

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21. The Toadstool Bookshop, Peterborough, New Hampshire

One of three Toadstool locations in New Hampshire, this Peterborough shop is well-stocked with personally curated books and lots of comfy seating.

22. Brattle Book Shop, Boston

As one of America’s oldest bookshops, The Brattle has a lot to live up to — and with a selection of over 200,000 books right in the heart of downtown, it’s the kind of place that will make you wish you lived in Boston.

23. Symposium Books, Providence, Rhode Island

Symposium is the kind of bookstore you visit not knowing what you want, and then trust that the shelves will reveal your desires to you! This stunning space in downtown Providence is a favorite of students and townies alike.

24. Politics & Prose, Washington, D.C.

Noted around the world not only for their book selection but for their amazing speaker lineup, Politics & Prose is a cherished D.C. staple. Rumor has it they make an amazing chai latte too. Readings, book-browsing, and a top-notch café? Sounds like a perfect date night in the capital.

25. Grolier Poetry Book Shop, Boston

This mom-and-pop, hole-in-the-wall shop in Cambridge will win your heart with its massive poetry collection, from big name anthologies to small press publications. Fun fact: Grolier is the oldest continually running bookshop in the United States.

26. Baldwin’s Book Barn, West Chester, Pennsylvania

This truly magical repurposed barn is full of books, old cellar doors, and kitty cats. It’s a place to browse, read, relax, and curl up. We like to imagine visiting on a snowy eve and curling up with a good mystery. Road trip to West Chester, anyone?

27. Longfellow Books, Portland, Maine

Longfellow Books prides itself on being “fiercely independent” in the age of the internet. (Check out their cool sign replacing Cyber Monday with Cider Monday!) No wonder it’s a local favorite in free-spirited Portland, Maine.

28. Atomic Books, Baltimore

Touting itself as a space for “literary finds for mutated minds,” Atomic Books is full of charm and surprises. Stocked with graphic novels and literary fiction, this bookshop has been praised by locals and John Waters alike.

29. RiverRun Books, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

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Packed with affordable used books — the prices range from around $7–12 — this staple in ultra-cool Portsmouth recently moved locations to a brand spanking new spot in town. But one thing has stayed constant throughout their 12 years: RiverRun is the place to go for that book everyone’s been reading, or that reading that everyone will attend.

30. Three Lives & Co., Manhattan

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Walk over to the West Village and sign away your afternoon: This shop is brimming with titles you’ve been dying to read and reads you didn’t realize you wanted. The love of books is good and alive at Three Lives, which will leave you wanting three lives to spend reading.

31. powerHouse, DUMBO

This stunning bookstore-cum-arts space will tickle your aesthetic eye and satisfy your literary belly with a wide range of fiction books from major and indie presses alike, and art books galore. Having made a speedy and impressive recovery from the damage done by Hurricane Sandy, this shop stands just a stone’s throw from the beautiful DUMBO waterfront — the perfect spot to take your latest purchase, hunker down, and read.

32. The Bookery, Ithaca

This college town favorite is full of first editions, old library books, rare finds, vintage prints, AND affordable used books. Add comfortable seating to the mix and you’ve got a spot to spend hours in Ithaca. Gorgeous.

33. McNally Jackson, Manhattan

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What we’d give to get locked into McNally Jackson on a winter’s night! This chic Manhattan bookshop is brimming with indie titles, art and literary journals, and readings galore. If you’ve got a favorite writer, chances are she’s read at McNally Jackson. Grab a book and a spot in the adjoining café for the perfect New York Sunday.

34. Housing Works Bookstore, Manhattan

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What doesn’t Housing Works Bookstore do? Not only does this New York institution have a book selection to make any bibliophile weep, a café serving hearty mac and cheese alongside espresso and beer, and awesome literary events and parties nearly every week — it’s also all for a good cause. Profits from the bookstore go toward Housing Works’ mission: “To end the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS.” Book-loving with a cause? New York, we love you.

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35. Powell’s, Portland, Oregon

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Powell’s is known around the globe, and with good reason: It’s the largest independent used bookstore in the world. THE go-to stop for new indie press reads and old-school classics, Powell’s is adored by writers and readers alike.

36. Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle

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Just look at this place! We’d spend any rainy day in this tall-ceilinged, wood-floored loft of books. With a café downstairs serving espresso and vegan treats, you literally never need to leave.

37. Shakespeare & Co., Missoula, Montana

Located in Missoula’s “hip strip,” this Montana spot takes after the Paris bookshop by the same name, supplying Missoulans with a huge array of books, from fiction and biography to queer literature and the occult.

38. Rediscovered Books, Boise, Idaho

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OK, Rediscovered Books in downtown Boise is seriously cool. Not only does this shop carry used and new books ranging from politics to cookbooks to sci-fi, they also host events like Book & Booze Night, which is exactly as awesome as it sounds.

39. Eclipse Bookstore, Bellingham, Washington

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Gorgeous Eclipse Bookstore is the kind of place we’d take a first date: crammed full with stacks and stacks of books from every genre, with big windows to let the moonlight in!

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40. The King’s English Bookshop, Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City book-fiends can’t imagine life without The King’s English Bookshop. Set in a lovely baby-blue house in SLC, The King’s English is brimming with cozy, sunny spots to read.

41. The Poisoned Pen, Scottsdale, Arizona

In search of a good thrill? This Arizona favorite is devoted to mysteries; if it’s a scare you’re seeking, you’re likely to find it here. They also carry “thrillers, historical and literary fiction, and literature of the American Southwest,” so you’ll leave Scottsdale very satisfied.

42. Bookworks, Albuquerque, New Mexico

This family-friendly spot has everything you could want in an indie bookshop, and more: There’s a fireplace. With an affordable used book selection as well as new books, children’s books, and reading programs every month, there’s no literary itch Bookworks won’t scratch.

43. Red Letter Secondhand Books, Boulder, Colorado

Looking for a local used bookstore in Boulder with a ton of history and knowledgable staff? Red Letter Secondhand Books has been around for nearly 25 years. Red Letter sells and buys good-quality used books, and the place is covered with stacks, on and off the shelves.

44. Tattered Cover Bookstore, Denver

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With three locations around Denver, Tattered Cover keeps the Mile High City well-read. Full of old-style lamps, leather couches, and all the books you could ever wish for, this Colorado institution even has its own Espresso Book Machine, where you can print your own novel in minutes!

There are so many amazing independent bookstores thriving in America, we know this list is just the beginning. Help us out and tell us about YOUR favorite indie bookstore!

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