Photo: Parnassus Books

The 28 Coolest Independent Bookstores in the US

United States
by Stephanie Grace Mejia Loleng Sep 16, 2021

WHO DOES NOT LIKE walking the aisles of bookstores? 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

The top independent bookstores in the US and why you must visit them

Photo: Strand Book Store/Facebook

A New York City institution, The 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. The Strand now has multiple locations: the landmark store in the East Village, a second store in the Upper West Side, and a retail space in LaGuardia Airport’s Terminal B.

Address: 828 Broadway St, New York, NY 10003
Hours: Daily 10 AM-8 PM

Address:450 Columbus Ave, New York, NY 10024
Hours: Mon-Thurs 11 AM-7 PM, Fri-Satur 10 AM-8 PM, Sun 9 AM-6 PM

Address: LaGuardia Airport, Terminal B, Queens, NY 11371
Hours: Daily 3:30 AM-7 PM

2. Powell’s Books, Portland, OR
facade of Powell's Books, an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon

Photo: ARTYOORAN/Shutterstock

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 with multiple storefronts to thumb through, Powell’s also hosts author events, as well as writing workshops and book clubs.

Address: 1005 W Burnside St, Portland, OR 97209
Hours: Daily 10 AM-9 PM

Address: 3415 SW Cedar Hills Blvd, Beaverton, OR 97005
Hours: Mon-Sat 10 AM-9 PM, Sun 11 AM-7 PM

Address: 3723 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214
Hours: Daily 10 AM-9 PM

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 still maintains an intimate and casual vibe.

Address: 261 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133
Hours: Daily noon-8 PM

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, and children’s book activities. Other events include book groups and children’s storytime.

Address: 5233 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60640
Hours: Tues-Sat 11 AM-7 PM, Sun 11 AM-6 PM

5. Book Soup, West Hollywood, CA

The top independent bookstores in the US and why you must visit them

Photo: Book Soup/Facebook

Located on the Sunset Strip, Book Soup hosts high-profile author readings and stocks limited edition books, vinyl record reissues, and autographed books.

Address: 8818 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069
Hours: Daily 10 AM-7 PM

6. Books & Books, Miami, FL

The top independent bookstores in the US and why you must visit them

Photo: Books & Books/Facebook

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. The original location sits in a historic building where you can enjoy a cup of coffee in the cafe or attend one of the community events. Several other locations have also opened up in Florida.

Address: 265 Aragon Ave, Coral Gables, FL 33134
Hours: Mon-Thurs 10 AM-8 PM, Fri-Sat 10 AM-9 PM, Sun 11 AM-7 PM

Address: 9700 Collins Av, Bal Harbour, FL 33154
Hours: Mon-Sat 11 AM-7 PM, Sun noon-6 PM

Address: 11297 South Dixie Hwy, Pinecrest, FL 33156
Hours: Daily 11 AM-6 PM

Address: 3409 Main Hwy, Coconut Grove, FL 33133
Hours: Mon-Thurs 11 AM-7 PM, Fri-Sat 10 AM-9 PM, Sun 10 AM-7 PM

Address: Miami International Airport, Gate D25, Miami, FL 33126
Hours: Daily 5:30 AM-11 PM

Address: 533 Eaton St, Key West, FL 33040
Hours: Daily 10 AM-6 PM

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.

Address: 901 W Lafayette Blvd, Detroit, MI 48226
Hours: Tues-Sat 9:30 AM-5:30 PM

8. Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI

The top independent bookstores in the US and why you must visit them

Photo: Literati Bookstore/Facebook

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.

Address: 124 E Washington St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Hours: Mon-Sat 11 AM-8 PM, Sun noon-5 PM

9. Left Bank Books, St Louis, MO

The top independent bookstores in the US and why you must visit them

Photo: Left Bank Books/Facebook

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.

Address: 399 N Euclid Ave, St. Louis, MO 63108
Hours: Mon-Thurs 10 AM-6 PM, Fri-Sat 10 AM-8 PM, Sun 11 AM-6 PM

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.

Address: 15 S Dubuque St, Iowa City, IA 52240
Hours: Mon-Sat 10 AM-6 PM

11. The Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, WA

The top independent bookstores in the US and why you must visit them

Photo: Elliott Bay Book Company/Facebook

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.

Address: 1521 10th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122
Hours: Sun-Thurs 10 AM-8 PM, Fri-Sat 10 AM-9 PM

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.

Address: 411 N 4th Ave, Tucson, AZ 85705
Hours: Tues-Sat 10 AM-5 PM, Sun 11 AM-4 PM

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.

Address: 506-520 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118
Hours: Daily 10 AM-9 PM

Address: 1231 9th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94122
Hours: Daily 10 AM-9 PM

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 here. It also houses a large children’s section with books, games, and toys.

Address: 536 W 12th St, New York, NY 10025
Hours: Mon-Fri 9 AM-9 PM, Sat-Sun 9 AM-8 PM

Address: 2915 Broadway St, New York, NY 10025
Hours: Mon-Fri 9 AM-9 PM, Sat-Sun 9 AM-8 PM

Address: 26-09 Jackson Ave, Long Island City, NY 11101
Hours: Daily 10 AM-8 PM

Address: 28 S Main St, Pittsford, NY 14534
Hours: Mon-Sat 10 AM-8 PM, Sun 10 AM-6 PM

15. McNally Jackson Independent Booksellers, NYC, NY

The top independent bookstores in the US and why you must visit them

McNally Jackson Books

With the flagship location situated 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.

Address: 52 Prince St, New York, NY 10012
Hours: Daily 10 AM-8 PM

Address: 4 Fulton St, New York, NY 10038
Hours: Daily 11:30 AM-7 PM

Address: 445 Albee Square, New York, NY 11201
Hours: Daily 10 AM-8 PM

Address: 76 N 4th St, New York, NY 11249
Hours: Daily 11:30 AM-7 PM

16. Skylight Books, Los Angeles, CA

The top independent bookstores in the US and why you must visit them

Skylight Books

Skylight Books serves an eclectic clientele that includes artists, musicians, writers, and scholars who come from hip Silver Lake and Echo Park or edgy Hollywood and downtown. The bookstore hosts regular author readings, and the staff is happy to recommend their favorite reads.

Address: 1818 N Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027
Hours: Daily 10 AM-10 PM

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.

Address: 624 Pirates Alley, New Orleans, LA 70116
Hours: Daily 10 AM-5 PM

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 its kids’ book nook. A meeting place for “good books, good coffee and good friends,” the on-site cafe is the perfect place to grab a cuppa, pint, or glass of wine.

Address: 68 9th St, Steamboat Springs, CO 80487
Hours: Daily 8 AM-6 PM

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.

Address: 126 Crosby St, New York, NY 10012
Hours: Mon-Fri noon-7 PM, Sat noon-3 PM, Sun noon-5 PM

20. Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN

The top independent bookstores in the US and why you must visit them

Photo: Parnassus Books/Facebook

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.

Address: 3900 Hillsboro Pike #14, Nashville, TN 37215
Hours: Mon-Sat 10 AM-6 PM, Sun noon-6 PM

21. Politics & Prose Bookstore, Washington, DC

The top independent bookstores in the US and why you must visit them

Photo : Cassidy DuHon Photography via Politics and Prose Bookstore/Facebook

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.

Address: 5015 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC, 20008
Hours: Mon-Sat 9 AM-8 PM, Sun 10 AM-8 PM

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. It also hosts readings, writing workshops, and community events that are beloved by the community.

Address: 6428 South McClintock Dr, Tempe, AZ 85283
Hours: Daily 10 AM-7 PM

Address: 300 W Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85013
Hours: Daily 10 AM-7 PM

23. Next Chapter Booksellers, Saint Paul, MN

Next Chapter Booksellers, formerly Common Good Books, was originally housed below a coffee shop before it grew and moved into a larger, sunnier space where it hosts author readings and offers a large collection of books.

Address: 38 Snelling Ave S, St. Paul, MN 55105
Hours: Mon-Sat 11 AM-5 PM

24. Title Wave Books, Anchorage, AK

The top independent bookstores in the US and why you must visit them

Photo : Title Wave Books/Facebook

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.

Address: 1360 W Northern Lights Blvd, Anchorage, AK 99503
Hours: Daily 10 AM-7 PM

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 include author readings, book swaps, and even a calligraphy class.

Address: 338 Newbury St, Boston, MA 02115
Hours: Daily 8 AM-9 PM

26. Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn, NY

The top independent bookstores in the US and why you must visit them

Photo : Greenlight Bookstore/Facebook

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) and 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.

Address: 686 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217
Hours: Daily 10 AM-7 PM

Address: 632 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11225
Hours: Daily 10 AM-7 PM

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.

Address: 1 Monument Sq, Portland, ME 04101
Hours: Mon-Fri 9 AM-7 PM, Sat 9 AM-6 PM, Sun 9:30 AM-5 PM

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. There’s comics, music, children’s books, and even t-shirts. Wooden Shoe Books is run by a collective made up entirely of volunteers. Befitting its anarchism, it has no leaders, and decisions are made by consensus. Wooden Shoe also hosts events (Occupy Philadelphia kicked off here) and lectures. It’s an inspiring and electrifying place, and it’s absolutely worth dropping by if you find yourself in Philly.

Address: 704 South St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Hours: Daily noon-10 PM

A version of this article was previously published on September 25, 2017, and was updated on September 16, 2021, with more information.

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