Powell’s City of Books, Portland, OR:
Aptly named, the original location in downtown Portland claims to be the largest new and used independent bookstore in the world. It occupies a full city block and has seven branches around Portland. The color-coded rooms make finding a book a bit easier, but it can also be worthwhile to simply get lost in Powell’s maze.
City Lights Books, San Francisco:
Co-founded by Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who became famous following for publishing Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems, City Lights hasn’t outlived its counterculture, leftist heyday. It still attracts a colorful cross section of San Francisco residents and passing Beat wannabes.
Liberal propaganda sometimes hangs in the second floor windows, and, of course, City Lights has an impressive collection of Beat literature beyond just the Kerouac classics.
Faulkner House Books, New Orleans:
Squeezed into the French Quarter’s Pirate Alley, this small new and used bookstore operates out of part of the home William Faulkner rented rooms from when he wrote his first novel. Shelves of books reach to the high ceiling. The rest of the building is a private home, and be sure to walk gingerly—the old, cramped house feels fragile.
Elliott Bay Book Co., Seattle:
He warm glow of the exposed brick walls can easily envelop you for hours on a rainy morning in Seattle. Set in historic Pioneer Square among small shops, art galleries, and restaurants, the bookstore hosts an average of ten author readings weekly and has an extensive regional collection.
Tattered Cover, Denver:
the dark wood shelves, exposed beams and overstuffed chairs of the original downtown location are a nice escape from the bustle of 16th Street’s rather tacky outdoor mall. One of the largest independent bookstores in the country, it also has an extensive magazine and newspaper collection.
Everything is bigger in Texas, and BookPeople is the state’s largest. The independent bookstore in downtown is a local favorite. Lots of staff recommendation tags hang from the shelves—the most entertaining I’ve ever read in a bookstore.
Strand Books, Manhattan:
Home to “18 miles of books,” Strand is competing with Powell’s for the title of world’s largest collection of used books. It’s the city’s largest collection of rare books and has an entire floor of art titles. Strand also sells tote bags in over 30 designs, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Politics and Prose, Washington, D.C.:
Known by many because its readings are broadcast on C-SPAN, Politics and Prose has more than just political works. The store’s large selection also includes a respectable children’s section. Upcoming author events include Howard Dean and Senator Barbara Boxer.
Do you have a favorite independent bookstore? Share it with us in the comments section below.