Words draw people together. They formulate how we communicate, exchange ideas, and learn about the different perspectives in the world around us. Because of what books provide us, walking into an independent bookstore can often be breathtaking. Bookstores give us an incredible opportunity to gain knowledge about a plethora of topics, simply by opening the cover of any book jammed into their shelves.
Because Independent bookstores are so incredible at bringing communities together to learn and grow — whether through outreach programs, book clubs, seminars, events or more—they’re easily one of BookClub’s favorite places to buy books. Why settle for buying a book online for delivery when you can have a whole cultural experience in an Indie bookshop while you browse instead?
At BookClub we’re building a home for all authors to connect with their readers, where people can have important conversations about the books they love and create a community centered around books. Independent bookstores and their owners play an important role in building this space. In celebration of Independent Bookstore Day on April 24th, here are some of our favorite Indie Bookstores.
Currently the only Black woman-owned bookstore in Chicago, Semicolon first opened in 2019. According to store owner, Danielle Mullens in an interview with Color Magazine, her inspiration for the shop came from her love of reading books in museums. Mullens wanted to create a community gathering space that would combine art and literature. Unlike other, quiet bookstores, Semicolon bursts with vibrant energy. Loud music, stimulating conversation, and a friendly resident dog make Semicolon the ideal place to scour for books, appreciate art, and make new friends.
Mullens and her team are also passionate about advocating for their community. Throughout 2020, they donated over $150k of books to Chicago Public Schools to promote literacy in the community. Semicolon also devised "Black Literacy Day," which calls for communities all over the country to support local literacy programs. “We are just really trying to expand the minds of all kids, of all ages, of all races, of all backgrounds,” said Mullens in an article for the Chicago Tribune. “It's statistically proven that families that are on the lower end of the financial spectrum don't have many books in the house or don't have any books in the home at all. At the very least, we can provide some books in the home, and that's a start."
Mullens and her team will celebrate Independent Bookstore Day with their first 2021 #CleartheShelves event, a K-12 book giveaway for Chicago Public School students funded by donation money. As part of the program, Semicolon employees will curate a bag of five to six relevant books for kids and young adults.
After working in the publishing industry for over twenty-five combined years, Jessica Stockton Bagnulo and Rebecca Fitting achieved their dream of opening a bookstore with the flagship Greenlight Bookstore in the Fort Green neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY in 2009. Since then, they’ve opened a second location in the Prospect Lefferts Gardens neighborhood, a stationery store, kiosks at various cultural institutions, and participated in pop-up events, making literature available all throughout New York City.
With a resume like that, it’s easy to see that the community has always been at the heart of Greenlight, and they take it a step further by specifically partnering with local schools. The store works with various public, private, and charter schools across the city to host book fairs, coordinate author visits, provide fundraising, and fulfill library wish lists to raise literacy rates and promote a love of reading for kids.
Throughout the lockdown caused by the pandemic, the team coordinated virtual literacy events for kids, namely the "Authors Spill the Beans" program, a video series geared toward middle-grade students. Authors highlighted in the series are interviewed for their favorite writing tips, and they also answer young writers' questions.
Greenlight will be celebrating Independent Bookstore Day by offering exclusive items available for purchase only on April 24th. Included in the list is a special Independent Bookstore Day edition of Stephen King's "In the Tall Grass" or a signed copy of "Sharks in the Time of Saviors" by Kawai Strong Washburn. Every year, Greenlight commemorates the event by creating the "Bad Citizen" stencil, "to highlight the authors and the words that push us to think, read, and be disruptive when necessary."
Books Inc. is the oldest independent bookstore in the West, with origins dating back to the Gold Rush of 1851 in Shasta City, California, where Anton Ronan struck it rich and decided to open the original location. Since then, the small store has been relocated, sold, repurchased, burnt down, rebuilt, and then finally renamed in 1946 to become the current Books Inc.
Now in several locations around the Bay Area, Books Inc. offers a multitude of opportunities for readers to get together and talk about books and writing. Locations offer walk-in book clubs on a wide variety of topics, host author events, and even provide writer support. Their Writeous Classes program provides an array of classes for aspiring authors that offer support and feedback through group collaboration led by experienced writers.
Books Inc. will be celebrating Independent Bookstore Day with virtual and in-person author events hosted at several locations. A complete list can be found here, and includes a virtual event with Rachel Sarah, author of "Girl Warriors: How 25 Young Activists Are Saving the Earth" and Hannah Testa and Selina N. Leem, two young leaders featured in her book.
Other independent bookstores we love
Whether you’re looking for a few other Indie bookstores to support during Independent Bookstore Day, or if you just want more places to buy your next book, check out these exclusive highlights on other Indie bookstores from our team:
Other ways to celebrate Independent Bookstore Day
Dying to get in on the action but don’t live near one of our featured stores? Check this website to see if your local indie bookstore is participating in the activities. Visit their location to join in the fun or go online and purchase books through their website to show your support. The Independent Bookstore Day site is also hosting plenty of free events online, including author talks and Twitter parties.