The Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA
Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, Odyssey grew out of Romeo Grenier’s student-crowded Glesmann’s Pharmacy. This integral part of the community at Mount Holyoke College wasn’t born like most other bookstores.
Lucky Dog Books, Dallas, TX
The Oak Cliff branch of Lucky Dog Books (pictured above) is just one of three in the Dallas area. They carry VHS, cassettes, and vinyl records if you need something to accompany your book (or if you’re one of the few who has decided to hold on to their VHS players).
Bank Square Books, Mystic, CT
Whether you’re in Mystic to grab a bite of its famous pizza or to spend a few hours with the fishes, this “locally owned, fiercely independent” shop is a must-stop.
Grolier Poetry Book Shop, Cambridge, MA
If you haven’t been to the Grolier, you’re doing yourself a great disservice. Harvard Square’s small (very small, at only 404 square feet) “oldest continuous bookshop” dedicated to poetry is a literary mecca. Frank O’Hara and John Ashbery were regulars when they were Harvard undergrads, and T.S. Eliot, Marianne Moore, and Allen Ginsberg have all visited. Join the ranks.
Logos Books & Records, Santa Cruz, CA
Ever since it opened on California’s Central Coast in 1969, Logos has been growing. From a one-room shop to a two-floor, 11,000-square-foot storehouse of used books, records, CDs and DVDs, you’re sure to find something you like.
Strand Book Store, New York, NY
The Strand doesn’t need much of an introduction, as its bright red awning does all the talking. But on the off chance you’ve never heard of New York’s legendary bookstore, its 18 miles of books are all the proof you need.
R.J. Julia Bookseller, Madison, CT
Independent is an understatement at R.J. Julia. From the books to the food in its café, everything at this warm and inviting bookstore is local, fresh, and ready for your to enjoy.
Vroman’s Bookstore, Pasadena, CA
Southern California’s oldest and largest independent bookstore is a labor of love. Founder Adam Clark Vroman moved to the West Coast from Illinois, hoping the weather would cure his wife of her ailments. Unfortunately she didn’t make it and Vroman, heartbroken, decided to sell his book collection to raise money to open a store. Since then Vroman’s has played host to not only some of the book world’s biggest names like Joan Didion and Salman Rushdie but to presidents and Supreme Court justices alike.
Midtown Scholar Bookstore, Harrisburg, PA
Midtown Scholar is the type of shop around which a community revolves. Not only is it the largest academic used book store in Pennsylvania, but it also offers a “full-service coffeehouse and upstairs lounge, art-gallery and meeting spaces, and two performance stages with full-scale sound and lighting systems.” This is much more than a bookstore.
Octavia Books, New Orleans, LA
When you’re not too busy eating beignets and letting the good times roll, grab a book at this bright neighborhood spot. Lucky for you, Laurel Street Bakery is right around the corner. No need to ever choose between your mind and your stomach.
Malaprop’s Bookstore Cafe, Asheville, NC
Emoke B’Racz, the founder and owner of Malaprop’s, writes, “I wanted Malaprop’s to be a place where poetry matters, where women’s words are as important as men’s, where one is surprised by excellence, where good writing has a home…” With a maxim like that, how could one go wrong?
Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA
Sometimes the best part about reading is the anticipation of finding a new title, stumbling onto something you never even intended to find. This shop, “dedicated to the fine art of browsing,” has been encouraging those serendipitous discoveries since it first opened in 1961.
The Raven Book Store, Lawrence, KS
If you name your cat Dashiell and call your bookstore The Raven, chances are you run a pretty cool store. Our suspicions are proven true at this shop with a penchant for literary fiction and mysteries.
Moe’s, Berkeley, CA
Moe’s has been around since the days when Berkeley hosted one of the brightest literary scenes in the country and was witness to the political and social upheavals that characterize the university town. If you absolutely can’t leave home, don’t worry; Moe’s was one of the first bookstores to go online, establishing their Internet presence in the hinterlands of the early ’90s.
Book Revue, Huntington, NY
This Long Island bookstore has been experiencing growth spurts ever since it opened in 1977. Five expansions later there’s 17,500 square feet of books, making this one of the largest independent bookstores in the country. The store’s dizzying list of past author readings includes everyone from Madeleine Albright to Snooki. Oh yeah, and both Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Alias Books East, Los Angeles, CA
There are two Alias Books in L.A.: East and West. No need to choose a side, though. The Atwater Village outpost’s carefully curated collection, with its emphasis on film, literature, and the arts, combines with the store’s minimal design to create the sort of place you want to linger in long after you’ve found the perfect book.
Kayo Books, San Francisco, CA
Uh, can you resist a shop whose tagline is: “Is that a paperback book in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?” We definitely can’t (and why would you even try?). Kayo specializes in “dimestore novels, sleazy 1960s exploitation, and 1970s pop culture.” The perfect reading material for your newfound San Fran self.
St. Mark’s Bookshop, New York, NY
The neighborhood around which St. Mark’s Bookshop grew has changed a lot since 1977. Found back in the days when the East Village was the locus of progressive thought, St. Mark’s has catered to those seeking out the sort of culturally revolutionary writing that once ignited the surrounding blocks.
Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe, AZ
The original Changing Hands location was bought for $500. Since then, the bookstore started by three volunteers at an alternative school has grown and flourished, always holding on to their vision of creating not only a socially responsible store but one that responded to and interacted with its community. Buying a book at Changing Hands benefits you and the local schools and teachers that receive support from the store. Two birds, one book.
Watchung Booksellers, Montclair, NJ
Brick-and-mortar bookstores are special, and needed, for the curated quality of their contents. While our contemporary thirst for convenience has led us to believe that every place we visit has to have everything we need, shops like Watchung provide the rare opportunity to sift through someone’s mind, gaining personal insights from a collection of carefully chosen books. Learn something about someone else (and if you’re lucky, yourself) at this Montclair bookstore.
Unabridged Bookstore, Chicago, IL
Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood is lucky. This is the type of bookstore you show off to out-of-town friends. When they go back to their Unabridged-less city they’ll imagine you there paging lazily through books in golden light. We guarantee they’ll be jealous of the hand-written recommendations that this shop dispenses. Book envy, we’ve realized, is an all-too-real thing.
Brazos Bookstore, Houston, TX
Flourishing book communities aren’t miraculously conceived. These things take time and a strong bookstore on which to anchor their development. Karl Kilian gave Houston its version in 1974 with Brazos. Illustrious past customers include Larry McMurtry, Edward Albee, and Donald Barthelme. Next: you?
Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI
Before you could read 23 reviews of a book before you bought it, you could just ask whoever worked at the shop you were at for a good recommendation. They were more concise and had the added benefit of human contact. Harken back to those simpler times at a young but thriving voice in Milwaukee’s literary scene.
Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe, Washington, DC
This Capital City bookstore and coffee shop is a veritable DC institution. Loved for both its gastronomic and literary highlights, Kramerbooks is a Dupont Circle staple — and that might have something to do with the fact that it’s open from 7:30 AM to 1 AM. Books and coffee on demand (almost) all day.
Charis, Atlanta, GA
Charis is Greek for thankfulness, gift, and grace. All quantities abound in the oldest and largest feminist bookstore in America. Enough said.