America’s Best Indie Book Stores
Sure, the rise and fall of Barnes and Noble has been well documented, but even with the somewhat precarious position of the paperback world in general, indie shops are still out there not just running businesses, but cultivating community. Here, the best places to still pick up a good book.
Powell’s City Of Books, Portland OR
There’s something for everyone at Powell’s City of Books, which covers a full city block in the heart of Portland, Oregon. Since 1971, this sprawling space is organized by color-coded rooms based on your reading interests along with plenty of author readings and special events. To tote home, there’s also a hearty selection of Portland souvenirs.
Square Books, Oxford MS
The bookshelves overfloweth at this storied Mississippi town square building housing regional literature, a range of niche books from gardening to history along with an ample, dedicated children’s section, Square Books, Jr. Get lost among the rows of shelves— onetime resident Tennessee Williams would be proud.
City Lights, San Francisco
Founded by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, this 3-story indie San Francisco institution started as a shrine to the beat literature of Kerouac, Ginsberg and Allen. Still a literary sanctuary, stroll past the can’t-miss-shelves of every genre, especially progressive politics. Check out the upstairs Poetry Room that also hosts most of the landmark’s rotating events.
Prairie Lights, Iowa City, IA
Situated in the same town as the esteemed University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop, this brick and mortar bookstore, founded in 1978, is known for its collection of over 40,000 books spread over four floors. For the caffeinated set, a café serves Stumptown coffee and for the kids, there are a plenty of age-appropriate titles to stay occupied.
Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle
Nestled on a corner in Seattle’s Capitol Hill, find over 150,000 titles in a high-ceiling, wood-beamed space with cedar shelves, creaky fir floors and plenty of comfy seats to plop down. In the back, find a cute white-on-white café with baked goods, coffee and long, communal tables (and free Wi-Fi) to work.
McNally Jackson Books, NYC
In New York’s bustling NoLita, this small, manageable neighborhood fixture caters to a hip crowd looking for a diverse range of magazines and literary journals, emerging writers and classic books. Browse the staff picks or opt for a cold brew and fresh pastries in the café with your new stack of reads.
BookPeople, Austin, TX
The largest indie bookstore in Texas resides in Austin (est. 1970) and unites readers of all ages with local authors and staff recommendations. There’s a cute on-site coffee shop (with free Wi-Fi) and if you’re shopping, plenty of quirky miscellanies including the “Keep Austin Weird” motto printed on tees and mugs.
Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN
Mount Parnassus, in Greek mythology, is the home of literature, learning and music. As the only independent bookstore in Nashville from the best-selling author Ann Patchett (Bel Canto, The Magician's Assistant) and a publishing vet Karen Hayes, it’s easy to find inspiration from the latest bestsellers to local authors and well-curated displays, book signings and special events.
Politics and Prose, Washington D.C.
A perfect milieu for its namesake, this award-winning bookstore is part of D.C., lore with famous, speakers like Bill Clinton and shoppers like Barack Obama. Want to self publish your own title? Check out the on-site, on-demand “Opus” book machine to print, bind and trim.