WHO DOES NOT LIKE walking the aisles of bookstores? People with poor taste, that’s who. I could spend hours in them, just browsing and enjoying the quiet atmosphere, and if the bookstore has a coffee shop, I’m likely to spend half the day getting buzzed on espressos and reading my new purchases or writing in my journal. Many a time while in a foreign city, I’d escape the street noise or the biting cold to seek refuge in a local bookstore. Once in Prague, I ducked into a bookshop that catered to expats and found myself in the middle of a heated trivia night competition at the attached bar/café. I was traveling alone but instantly felt at home in the joyous atmosphere.
If you’re like me and you think bookstores are local attractions always worth visiting, check out the 28 coolest independent bookstores in the US and start planning a literary road trip.
1. Strand Book Store, NYC, NY
A New York City institution, Strand has 18 miles of new, used, and rare books, as well as a large collection of tote bags, pins, mugs and other fun gifts. You’ll find books categorized not just by genre but by theme or mood. And you’ll find an eclectic mix of NYU students, locals, and tourists browsing the stacks.
Hours of operation: Mon-Sat 9:30 AM – 10:30 PM; Sun 11 AM – 10:30 PM
Address: 828 Broadway, New York, NY
2. Powell’s Books, Portland, OR
Powell’s flagship location takes up an entire city block and claims to house over one million books. It’s easy to get lost amidst the stacks and stacks of books so just grab a seat and stay for a while. A true Portland staple, Powell's Books hosts author events, as well as writing workshops and book clubs.
Powell’s City of Books (flagship location)
Hours of operation: Daily 9 AM – 11 PM
Address: 1005 W Burnside St., Portland, OR
Powell’s Books at Cedar Hills Crossing
Hours of operation: Mon-Sat 10 AM – 9 PM; Sun 11 AM – 7 PM
Address: 3415 SW Cedar Hills Blvd., Beaverton, OR
Powell’s Books at Hawthorne
Hours of operation: Mon – Thu 9 AM – 10 PM; Fri – Sat 9 AM – 11 PM;
Sun 9 AM – 9 PM
Address: 3723 SE Hawthorne Blvd., Portland, OR
Powell’s Books for Home and Garden
Hours of operation: Mon-Sat 9 AM – 9 PM; Sun 9 AM – 8 PM
Address: 3747 SE Hawthorne Blvd., Portland, OR
3. City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, San Francisco, CA
Known as a literary landmark for the counterculture, City Lights got its start in the 1950s during the anti-establishment Beatnik movement in San Francisco. Anti-authoritarianism is still a general theme in many of the books being sold and/or published here. And even though the bookstore is world famous, City Lights Booksellers & Publishers still maintains an intimate and casual vibe.
Hours of operation: Daily 10 AM – Midnight
Address: 261 Columbus Ave., San Francisco, CA
4. Women and Children First, Chicago, IL
Women and Children First is one of the largest feminist bookstores in the country with over 30,000 titles by and about women. The bookstore holds events featuring women writers, discussions on feminist issues, as well as children’s book activities. Other events include book groups and children’s story time.
Hours of operation: Mon-Tues 11 AM – 7 PM; Wed-Fri 11 AM – 9 PM;
Sat 10 AM – 7 PM; Sun 11 AM – 6 PM
Address: 5233 N. Clark St. Chicago, IL
5. Book Soup, West Hollywood, CA
Located on the Sunset Strip, Book Soup hosts high-profile author readings, stocks limited edition books, vinyl record reissues, and autographed books.
Hours of operation: Mon-Sat 9 AM – 10 PM; Sun 9 AM – 7 PM
Address: 8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, CA
6. Books & Books, Miami, FL
A place that’s helped to create a literary movement in Miami, Books & Books has a vast collection of books on art, architecture, and photography. Located in a historic building, you can enjoy a cup of coffee in the cafe or attend one of the community events.
Books & Books in Coral Gables
Hours of operation: Mon-Thurs 9 AM – 11 PM; Sat-Fri 9 AM – Midnight;
Sun 9 AM – 11 PM
Address: 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables, FL
Books & Books at Lincoln Road
Hours of operation: Mon-Thurs 10 AM – 11 PM; Sat-Fri 10 AM – Midnight;
Sun 10 AM – 11 PM
Address: 927 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, FL
Books & Books at Bal Harbour Shops
Hours of operation: Mon-Thurs 10 AM – 9 PM; Sat-Fri 10 AM – 9 PM;
Sun 10 AM – 9 PM
Address: 9700 Collins Ave., Bal Harbour, FL
7. John K. King Used & Rare Books, Detroit, MI
Michigan’s largest used and rare bookstore, John K. King Used & Rare Books has over a million books in stock — this is the place to find that unique book that you can’t get anywhere else.
Hours of operation: Mon-Sat 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM
Address: 901 W. Lafayette, Detroit, MI
8. Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI
With the belief that, “People still enjoy reading real books where real people work in a real bookstore,” Literati provides an atmosphere for die-hard literary types. Opened by two Brooklynites who wanted to create a gathering place in downtown Ann Arbor for the literary community, the space hosts author readings, book clubs, and poetry nights.
Hours of operation: Mon-Thu 10 AM – 9 PM; Fri-Sat 10 AM – 10 PM;
Sun 10 AM – 7 PM
Address: 124 E Washington, Ann Arbor, MI
9. Left Bank Books, St Louis, MO
The largest and oldest independent bookstore in St. Louis, Left Bank Books carries a diverse selection that represents communities historically underrepresented. Community involvement is a main goal for the bookstore and they’ve even created a foundation that brings author events and books to schoolchildren and disadvantaged populations.
Hours of operation: Mon-Sat 10 AM – 10 PM; Sun 11 AM – 6 PM
Address: 399 North Euclid Ave., St. Louis, MO
10. Prairie Lights, Iowa City, IA
Prairie Lights started off as a small bookstore in 1978 featuring only a few new authors who are now legendary, such as Raymond Carver and Alice Munro. In the decade that followed, it has grown to three and a half floors, including a cafe.
Hours of operation: Mon-Sat 10 AM – 9 PM; Sun 10 AM – 6 PM
Address: 15 South Dubuque St., Iowa City, IA
11. The Elliot Bay Book Company, Seattle, WA
Located in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, The Elliot Bay Book Company houses over 150,000 titles and is Seattle’s first bookstore cafe. It hosts author events and special appearances by influential figures such as presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.
Hours of operation: Mon-Thurs 10 AM – 10 PM; Fri-Sat 10 AM – 11 PM;
Sun 10 AM – 9 PM
Address: 1521 Tenth Ave., Seattle, WA
12. Antigone’s Books, Tucson, Arizona
A long-time Arizona indie bookstore, Antigone’s Books is a well-stocked and welcoming store for women and men alike. They host readings and writing workshops. Their commitment to the best in women’s, gender-based, and socially conscious literature has made them a star in the Tucson community. They hold book groups and will special order books.
Hours of operation: Mon-Thur 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM; Fri-Sat 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM; Sun 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Address: 411 N. 4th Ave., Tucson, AZ
13. Green Apple Books, San Francisco, CA
A neighborhood institution, Green Apple Books houses new and used titles, as well as music. You could easily spend hours browsing the eclectic selection of hard-to-find titles and vinyl. Green Apple Books also buys used books at its original location on Clement St.
Hours of operation: Daily 10 AM – 10:30 PM
Address: 506 Clement St., San Francisco, CA
Hours of operation: Daily 10 AM – 10 PM
Address: 1231 9th Ave., San Francisco, CA
14. Book Culture, NYC, NY
Book Culture started as an academic bookstore to help serve the Columbia University population in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights. It then expanded to three locations and has become a community gathering place. You can find interesting gifts such as tote bags, backpacks, tea kettles, scarves and mugs at Book Culture. It also houses a large children’s section with books, games, and toys.
Hours of operation: Mon-Fri 9 AM – 10 PM; Sat 10 AM – 8 PM; Sun 11 AM – 7 PM
Address: 536 West 112th St., New York, NY
Book Culture on Broadway
Hours of operation: Mon-Fri 9 AM – 11 PM; Sat 10 AM – 11 PM; Sun 10 AM – 10 PM
Address: 2915 Broadway, New York, NY
Book Culture on Columbus
Hours of operation: Mon-Sat 9 AM – 10 PM; Sun 9 AM – 8 PM
Address: 450 Columbus Ave., New York, NY
15. McNally Jackson Independent Booksellers, NYC, NY
Located in Manhattan’s SoHo district, known more for its trendy boutiques, bars, and restaurants, McNally Jackson beckons New Yorkers and visitors alike to browse the many stacks. A small cafe sits off to the side on the main floor with windows perfect for daydreaming and people watching.
Hours of operation: Mon-Sat 10 AM – 10 PM; Sun 10 AM – 9 PM
Address: 52 Prince St., New York, NY
16. Skylight Books, Los Angeles, CA
Skylight Books serves an eclectic clientele that includes artists, musicians, writers and scholars who come from the hip Silver Lake and Echo Park or the edgy Hollywood and downtown. The bookstore hosts regular author readings and the staff is happy to recommend their favorite reads.
Hours of operation: Daily 10 AM – 10 PM
Address: 1818 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, CA
17. Faulkner House Books, New Orleans, LA
With the tagline “A sanctuary for fine literature,” it’s easy to tell that this is a serious bookstore. Located in the heart of the French Quarter, Faulkner House Books houses rare editions and, of course, books by and about William Faulkner.
Hours of operation: Daily 10 AM – 6 PM
Address: 624 Pirates Alley, New Orleans, LO, LA
18. Off The Beaten Path, Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Off The Beaten Path carries a wide variety of books including a large children’s section in their kids’ book nook. A meeting place for “good books, good coffee and good friends”, grab a cuppa, a pint, or a glass of wine at the cafe.
Hours of operation: Mon-Sat 7:30 AM – 8 PM; Sun 7:30 AM – 6 PM
Address: 68 9th St, Steamboat Springs, CO
19. Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, NYC, NY
A neighborhood gathering place where you’ll find a large selection of used books, a well-stocked cafe, author readings and popular live storytelling events. Profits help to assist Housing Works, an organization that fights for the funding and legislation advocate for those living with HIV/AIDS. Located in the middle of SoHo, the space can be rented for special events like weddings.
Hours of operation: Mon-Fri 9 AM – 9 PM; Sat-Sun 9 AM – 5 PM
Address: 126 Crosby St., NYC, New York
20. Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN
Co-owned by bestselling author Ann Patchett, Parnassus Books was opened in 2011. Despite the wave of bookstores closing their doors because of the emergence of online book shopping and digital books, the author believes in the importance bookstores have as a positive space for the community to gather.
Hours of operation: Mon-Sat 10 AM – 8 PM; Sun 12 PM – 5 PM
Address: 3900 Hillsboro Pike, Suite 14, Nashville, TN
21. Politics & Prose Bookstore, Washington DC
Politics & Prose is not just a bookstore but a gathering place for the community. There is a cafe and wine bar, and the bookstore hosts author events and open mic night. They also offer publishing packages for writers who wish to self-publish.
Hours of operation: Mon-Sat 9 AM – 10 PM; Sun 10 AM – 8 PM
Address: 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC
22. Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe and Phoenix, AZ
This old-timer has been around for decades under committed and savvy owners. Changing Hands sells new books, used books, journals, toys, candles…everything to make your reading spot cozy. They host readings and writing workshops and community events, and are beloved in the community.
Hours of operation: Mon-Fri: 10 AM – 9 PM; Sat: 9 AM – 9PM; Sun: 10 AM – 6 PM
Address: 6428 S McClintock Dr., Tempe, AZ
Hours of operation: Mon-Sat: 9 AM – 10 PM; Sun: 9 AM – 8 PM
Address: 300 W Camelback Road, Phoenix, AZ
23. Common Good Books, Saint Paul, MN
Originally housed below a coffee shop, Common Good Books grew and moved into a larger, sunny space where they host author readings and offer a large collection of books.
Hours of operation: Mon-Sat 9 AM – 9 PM; Sun 10 AM – 7 PM
Address: 38 S Snelling Ave., St Paul, MN
24. Title Wave Books, Anchorage, AK
Title Wave Books is the largest bookstore in Alaska. It carries nearly half a million used and bargain books including an impressive selection of books about Alaska. The bookstore hosts regular events such as Scrabble night and children’s storytime and donates books to children’s organizations, local arts organizations, and groups that promote literacy.
Hours of operation:
Summer Hours (June – Sept): Mon-Sat 10 AM- 8 PM; Sun 11 AM – 7 PM
Winter Hours (October – May) Mon-Sat 10 AM – 7 PM; Sun 11 AM – 7 PM
Address: 1360 W. Northern Lights Blvd., Anchorage, Alaska
25. Trident Booksellers & Cafe, Boston, MA
Voted the Best of Boston in 2016, Trident is located in the Back Bay area of the city, serving a mix of clientele including students, tourists, and locals. It has a wide selection of books to choose from and a cafe serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Events at Trident Booksellers & Cafe include author readings, book swaps, and even a calligraphy class.
Hours of operation: Daily 8 AM – Midnight
Address: 338 Newbury St., Boston, MA
26. Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn, NY
Not just an independent bookstore but a community gathering place in Brooklyn. Greenlight hosts the Unbound Literary Series in partnership with Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) as other unique events such as the Drag Queen Story Hour. It also launched a First Editions Club that offers members the chance to get autographed first edition hardcover books.
Hours of operation: Daily 10 AM – 10 PM
Address: 686 Fulton St., Brooklyn, NY
Prospect Lefferts Garden
Hours of operation: Mon-Sat 10 AM – 9 PM; Sun 10 AM – 7 PM
Address: 632 Flatbush Ave., Brooklyn, NY
27. Longfellow Books, Portland, ME
Located in downtown Portland, Longfellow sells new and used books in an inviting atmosphere. Drop by for an author event or to just browse staff picks. Animal lovers will be happy to know that the bookstore hosts cats for adoption through the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland.
Hours of operation: Mon-Fri 9 AM – 7 PM; Sat 9 AM – 6 PM; Sun 10 AM – 6 PM
Address: One Monument Way, Portland, ME
28. Wooden Shoe Books, Philadelphia, PA
This tiny little anarchist bookstore in South Philadelphia is a must for anyone who leans to the left on the political spectrum. It has books on history, philosophy, economics, human rights, vegetarianism, pacifism, and pretty much everything else a lefty could want to read. They have comics, they have music, they have children’s books, and they have t-shirts. Wooden Shoe Books is run by a collective made up entirely of volunteers. Befitting their anarchism, they have no leaders, and decisions are made by consensus. They also host events (Occupy Philadelphia kicked off here) and lectures. It’s an inspiring and electrifying place, and is absolutely worth dropping in if you find yourself in Philly.
Hours of operation: Tue-Sun 12 noon – 10 PM
Address: 704 South St., Philadelphia, PA
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