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Apr 28, 2022

Our Favorite Indie Bookstores in the US

Meander through small towns and big cities across the country, and you may come across a beloved independent bookstore or two. Each one has its own personality, offering a taste of local culture, curated books, and—if you’re really lucky—coffee, tea, or wine to sip while you shop.

At BookClub, we’re big fans of indie bookshops and booksellers. Aside from being lovely spaces to explore, find new reads, and relax, many of them also offer outreach programs and host events like book clubs and seminars. These cozy community hubs provide opportunities for people to connect (indie bookstore employees have the best recommendations!) and celebrate books, together. Which is what we’re all about.

There’s even a day dedicated to independent bookstores: Held on the last Saturday of April, Independent Bookstore Day (IBD) invites communities to celebrate indie bookstores and booksellers around the country. This year, it’s April 30th—right around the corner. We’ll share some ways you can celebrate, including a few of the BookClub team’s favorite indie spots. First, here’s the story behind one of our favorite days of the year.

by L'odyssée Belle on Unsplash

Independent Bookstore Day

Championed and produced by writer/editor Samantha Schoech and the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, Independent Bookstore Day kicked off in California in 2015. IBD became a national event the following year. Hundreds of bookstores around the country celebrate with author events, giveaways, and special offers, both online and in-store. (Check this map to see if there’s a participating bookstore near you.)

This year’s ambassador is Angie Thomas, #1 New York Times bestselling author of several novels, including The Hate U Give featured in our banned books post.

"Indie bookstores are the heart of our industry, and we must continue to support them in the same way that they support and champion books. With the immense impact that indie stores have made on my career, I couldn't be more honored to be the ambassador for this year's Independent Bookstore Day." -Angie Thomas on indiebound.org

Audiobook fans: Make sure you check out Libro.fm for a limited-time sale on audiobooks that support local bookstores. Our pick: We Should All Be Millionaires by BookClub author Rachel Rodgers, featured in Arlan Hamilton's book club. (Okay, maybe we’re biased, but it’s such a good read!)

Aside from perusing online shops and virtual events, the best way to celebrate Indie Bookstore Day is, of course, by visiting your local bookstore. We asked BookClub team members to share their favorites in the U.S. Here’s our readerly roundup.

Our Favorite Indie Bookstores

Even though we’re tethered to technology—and nearly everything is on a screen—people crave the kind of respite only a bookstore can provide. We’re grateful for this, because we want these shops, especially independent booksellers, to stay in business!

According to the American Booksellers Association, there were nearly 2,500 indie bookstores as of May 2021. We’d love to feature all of them in this list, but then you’d be so busy reading, you’d never have enough time to actually visit them. So, we’ve narrowed it down to our top favorites in the US (next, the world!), recommended by some of our team’s bookstore enthusiasts.

BookBar in Denver, CO

Denver’s woman-owned BookBar is a cozy, brick-walled indie bookshop and wine bar (yes, wine bar!) where patrons can peruse books, sip their beverage of choice, and even snack on tasty hors d'oeuvres.

“This place feels like going to your very bookish best friend's house,” BookClub Content Experience Manager Bree Martinez said. “It's very cozy, has a great selection, comfy couches, plus you can have a glass of wine while you browse. What's better than that?”

BookBar is also committed to supporting literacy, freedom of expression, diversity, equity, and inclusion (check out their nonprofit organization, BookGive), and they offer author services that help amplify all voices.

Powell’s Books in Portland, OR

@powellsbooks

Since 1971, Powell’s has been selling new, used, and rare books to Portland’s booklovers (and plenty of out-of-towners, too). Their headquarters, Powell’s City of Books, claims to be the largest new and used independent bookstore in the world. Check out their website for author events, staff picks, and so (so) many books.

“Growing up in Southwest Washington, Powell’s was the place to go,” BookClub Marketing Manager Melissa Boles said. “From the children's section in the Rose room to the overflowing fiction shelves in the Blue room, Powell's is where I've found some of my favorite books. Here's my favorite tip: If you're looking for a book, start by looking at the bottom of the stack or the back of the shelf. You just might find a $2 copy in great condition!"

WORD in Jersey City, NJ

With locations in Brooklyn, NY and Jersey City, NJ, WORD Bookstores has been serving local readers since 2007. They regularly share staff picks, host author talks, champion causes that promote literacy, and celebrate book releases both in-person and online.

“This is my local store!” Martinez said. “Apart from being incredibly convenient, the booksellers at WORD are some of my favorite people. They’re always so friendly and have book recommendations that match whatever vibe you’re looking for. WORD also recently moved to a new location [in Jersey City], so their selection is even better.”

Loganberry Books in Shaker Heights, OH

Independently owned and operated since 1994, Loganberry Books features a curated selection of more than 100k new, used, and rare books in all genres for both readers and book collectors. Why “Loganberry”? It’s owner Harrit Logan’s nickname from college (and the reason behind one of their most frequently used colors, purple!).

“This place is expansive, yet cozy,” BookClub Senior Video Editor Robby Barnett said. “There are so many rooms with creaky floors and a big selection of old and new books. Walking through the shop feels like going on an adventure, or a treasure hunt. I always find something new.”

The Strand Bookstore in New York, NY

by @marissareidreads

The Strand Bookstore is a family-owned, independent bookstore located in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan. First opened in 1927, it's the largest indie bookstore in NYC.

"When I first moved to New York after college, there were a few iconic landmarks that were burned in my brain," BookClub Creative Producer Britt Brewer said. "The Strand was one of them. I love that it has that old, musty feel from a time gone-by, but it's always filled with people. I grew up watching movies like When Harry Met Sally and Crossing Delancey and thinking that New York was where smart, bookish adults thrived. Whenever I walked into The Strand, I secretly felt like I was living in one of those movies. Even though technically this When Harry Met Sally line happened in Shakespeare & Company, I could hear Carrie Fisher whispering, 'Someone is staring at you from Personal Growth' as I'd walk through the aisles."

Shakespeare & Co in New York, NY

This iconic Manhattan bookstore was founded in 1983. Its Lexington Avenue location includes “Espresso Book Machine” technology, which can produce bookstore-quality books in minutes from a catalog of more than 7 million in-copyright and public domain titles. That’s right, they can print books on site. How cool is that? And what do we have to do to get one of those machines for ourselves?

“When I lived on the upper west side, Shakespeare & Co. was my go-to spot,” BookClub Producer Shira Daniels said. “It combines my favorite things—good coffee, great scones, charming neighborhood vibes, and, of course, books! There’s also something special about smaller, cozy stores that creates a real sense of intimacy. Although I’ve moved to a different neighborhood, Shakespeare & Co. still reigns as my number-one favorite bookstore to sit with a coffee and pastry while getting lost in a story.”

Dolly’s Bookstore in Park City, UT

Dolly’s has been an independent staple in Park City’s Historic Park City Main Street community since 1972. They host book launch parties, author events, and more. They’re also conveniently located right next to Rocky Mountain Chocolate, in case you’d like to snack on something sweet while you browse their books and gifts.

“I love the warm, inviting atmosphere and individual attention you get at Dolly’s,” BookClub Advisor Shadee Barkan said. “On my last visit, I shared my current reading list with the staff, which was a bit heavy. They recommended a few ‘palate cleansers’ for fun escapism. I also love the smell of chocolate that lingers throughout the store, the hilarious, creative cards, and the creaky wooden floors and cozy furniture. Makes you want to curl up with a good book and never leave, especially on a snowy day.”

The Bookmark in Puerto Rico

@thebookmarkpr

Located in San Patricio Plaza, Santurce, and Plaza del Norte Mall in Puerto Rico, The Bookmark offers a wide selection of books and graphic novels in both Spanish and English. Visitors can also enjoy light meals, pastries, and local beer, making it the perfect place to linger for an afternoon.

“I love the atmosphere at The Bookmark,” BookClub Project Manager (and Puerto Rico local) Lincy Ayala said. “Their displays have wonderful book selections, including staff recommendations. The employees are always so helpful and welcoming. They also have a great selection of snacks and literary drinks!”

More Indie Bookstore Faves

The list goes on! Here are a few more bookshops and sellers recommended by BookClub team members. Which ones have you visited? What’s at the top of your list?

Semicolon in Chicago, IL
This Black-woman owned bookstore and gallery space is vibrant, bustling, and full of literary and artistic inspiration. Semicolon also promotes literacy through their nonprofit, Parenthesis.

Loyalty Books in DC
BookClub host and award-winning journalist Nicole Ellis interviewed owner Hannah Oliver Depp for her Critical Conversations book club.

Malaprop's in Asheville, NC 
Nestled in beautiful downtown Asheville, Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe offers curated books, gifts, locally roasted coffee, and local baked goods.

Magic City Books in Tulsa, OK
Magic City is owned by the nonprofit Tulsa Literary Coalition and features a section dedicated to local authors.

Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn, NY
Greenlight partners with local schools to host book fairs, coordinate author visits, provide fundraising, and fulfill library wish lists to promote literacy.

Books Inc. in Northern California
Books Inc. is the oldest independent bookstore in the West, with origins dating back to the Gold Rush of 1851.

Medu Bookstore in Atlanta, GA
Medu is the second largest African-American owned bookstore in Atlanta and specializes in culturally significant, hard-to-find books.

Dog-Eared Books in Ames, IA
Check out our Belletrist + BookClub interview with the co-owners here.

Celebrate Independent Bookstore Day with Us

by Seven Shooter on Unsplash

Follow us on Instagram for more of our favorite indie bookstores for #indiebookstoreday. We’ll also be sharing special offers, including an audiobook sale from Libro.fm. Is there an indie bookstore or seller we missed? Tag @bookclubdotcom on social and let us know! We’d love to spread the word.