Are you interested in doing more than the average sightseer on your next vacation? Are you like the rest of us at Texas Book Festival and want to test just how many new books you can fit in your luggage? Then check out some of the best independent bookstores in popular vacation spots for your next get-away (and try to survive this bookshelf envy).
Haight-Ashbury, the notorious spot for the conglomeration of hippie culture in the 1960’s, is still frequented by tourists and native San Franciscans alike. However, this bookstore sets itself apart from the record stores and small boutiques with its blending of both popular and uncommon literary finds. With an open, comfortable layout, The Booksmith seamlessly fuses the best sellers with genres like photography and science fiction. The Booksmith also sells various unique (and affordable) editions of classics such as Jane Austen or Charles Dickens (you can never own enough copies of Pride and Prejudice).
One of the staples of a good independent bookstore is a bookstore cat; Small World Books has this part covered. Tucked inside a restaurant front on the Venice Beach boardwalk, Small World Books is easy to walk past. But, you would miss out on the company of the bookstore cat, aptly named Conan the Librarian. Additionally, the staff is wonderful and motivated to help you find the perfect book. There are also hundreds of staff recommendation cards around the store, so you can find what you’re looking for even if a staff member isn’t present. You know you’ll need a book in your hands when you’re confronted with Muscle Beach a little further down the boardwalk.
If you stop in to this 1,000 square feet location, you’ll inevitably notice one thing: WORD is small but mighty. The size of WORD only betters the bookstore, as it ensures each book will pack a punch. Also located in Jersey City, New Jersey, WORD is your ideal neighborhood bookstore. The staff are utterly devoted to their customers, with reasonable prices and a frequent buyer reward program. They love their customers so much, they even have an entire blog devoted to pictures of customers’ dogs. Stop by for one of their free events, and get lost checking out their in-home book clubs (there’s even a Gilmore Girls one!).
Before you wander over to Politics and Prose, Washington D.C.’s most widely known independent bookstore, give Upshur Street Books a try. Barack Obama surely did on Small Business Saturday in 2015! Upshur Street Books is a fairly recent opening in the D.C. area, but customers have been loyal to this business since 2014 for all the right reasons. The store offers a generous variety of books on various topics, but the staff is also selective over orders to ensure you leave with a quality read. Hop on over during the weekend, and you can pair your book shopping with a fresh pastry and a cup of coffee. Maybe you can even buy the same books as the Commander in Chief!
One of America’s most well-known feminist bookstores, Women and Children First holds true to its slogan, “Shop as independently as you think”. Women and Children First creates a safe atmosphere for not only women and members of the LGBTQ community, but anyone and everyone. This store is a place for people to gather and share stories and ideas while searching for their next great read. The store carries more than 30,000 books by women, and the staff is more than willing to find whatever you’re looking for, even if it’s not in the store. Stop by Women and Children First on your way to see the Cloud Gate, and you won’t regret it.
If you ever find yourself in downtown Asheville, make sure to give Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe a try. Malaprop’s manages to bring the focus back to the books in its spacious area that feels both exciting and familiar. The owner’s goal is to own a place “where the books are the stars”, and they succeed by bringing a little spice to book buying. If you’re unsure of what to buy on your own, you can head over to the “Blind Date with a Bookseller” section, where books are hand-wrapped with paper to conceal their identity, leaving only a few words of description by the selector. If all of these reasons aren’t enough to give Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe a visit, the fun name in itself should be the final push you need.
Another observer of the indie bookstore cat (Spike is always available for a pat), Left Bank Books is the oldest and largest independent bookseller in St. Louis. Left Bank Books is known in the community for their impeccable customer service. They even have a personal rule, to never point to a book, and to instead walk each customer to the actual location. Left Bank Books also has a fantastic selection of used books in the basement, along with recent publications on the ground floor. Finally, they house over 300 events PER YEAR, so chances are you will wander in on either a poetry reading, author signing, or a book club meeting during your stop.
Ever dreamed of perusing through THREE STORIES of an independent bookstore? Well, wake up and get on over to Boulder Bookstore in Colorado. This bookstore is simply gorgeous, with large aisles that invite you to sit down on a comfy rug and get lost in a book. Despite the size, Boulder Bookstore manages to be surprisingly intimate, with a strong emphasis on community. The only downside of Boulder Bookstore is the amount of time you will inevitably need to wander, and is that really even a downside? Just be sure not to throw your entire vacation out the window in order to visit each of the 100,000 titles in stock.
As if you really needed another reason to immerse yourself in New Orleans, Garden District Book Shop is just one more excuse for the road trip. Located in a building that used to be an ice skating rink, Garden District Book Shop is packed to the brim with books. Books are nearly overflowing off of the shelves, giving you the feeling of browsing through a friend’s bookshelf for your latest read. This bookstore also has a wide variety of regional books, satisfying your curiosity for the rich New Orleans culture. You can even find a signed edition of your favorite book leftover from the author signings that are often held in-house.
If you’re in Tampa, Inkwood Books will inevitably draw your attention due to the fact that it’s the sole full-service independent bookseller in the city. Despite this, Inkwood Books is a treasure in itself, remodeled out of an old house and given the breath of life it has today. The store is remarkably quaint, and truly lives up to the idea of “shop local”. The store also has a fantastic children’s section, with plenty of seats and interesting displays that will keep your children happy while you browse. Stop by Inkwood Books for your latest beach read before heading over to the shore.