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Our Favorite Indie Bookstores

Apr/07/2024 / by Jordana Weiss

Havens for bibliophiles across the U.S.

A sign with white text and red background saying "Bestsellers" in a bookstore
Photo via Shutterstock

There’s something undeniably charming about stepping into an independent bookstore. These beautiful havens of literature offer more than just books: they provide personalized recommendations, new avenues of thought and opinion to explore, and, most importantly, a sense of community. From large, sprawling bookstores in metropolises like New York City to quaint, small-town book emporiums, here’s a curated list of some of our favorites throughout the United States.  

The Strand Book Store (New York City, NY)

Nestled in the heart of Manhattan, The Strand is a legendary institution that has been captivating readers since 1927. Its catchphrase “18 miles of books” is fortunately still true to this day. Within the iconic building lurks an extensive collection ranging from rare editions to contemporary bestsellers. Its narrow, winding aisles invite exploration, and the knowledgeable staff are always on hand to offer insightful recommendations. The Strand also hosts regular author events and book signings, making it a vibrant cultural hub within the city.

Greenlight Bookstore (Brooklyn, NY)

Not too far from The Strand is Greenlight Bookstore, a beloved fixture of Brooklyn’s literary scene. This cozy yet bustling store features a thoughtfully curated selection of titles across various genres, with a particular emphasis on works by local authors and underrepresented voices. We adore Greenlight’s welcoming ambience, with comfortable reading nooks and engaging community events, making it a cherished gathering place for book lovers of all ages.

Elliott Bay Book Company (Seattle, WA)

Deep in the heart of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, Elliott Bay Book Company has been a beloved fixture of the city’s literary landscape since 1973. Housed in a historic building with towering bookshelves and cozy reading spaces, this indie bookstore is a hallowed institution for locals. Within the shelves, you’ll find an eclectic mix of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, as well as a lovely children’s book section and an in-house cafe. 

City Lights Bookstore (San Francisco, CA)

City Lights Bookstore has been a beacon for countercultural thinkers and avant-garde writers since its foundation in 1953. Located in San Francisco’s iconic North Beach neighborhood, this independent bookstore is renowned for its revolutionary spirit and commitment to freedom of expression. Alongside its extensive collection of progressive titles, including poetry, fiction, and political essays, City Lights also houses its own publishing arm that champions emerging voices and marginalized perspectives.

Books & Books (Various Locations, FL)

With locations in Coral Gables, Miami Beach, and Bal Harbour, Books & Books is a literary oasis in the heart of South Florida. Founded by Mitchell Kaplan in 1982, this indie bookstore has become a cultural hub for locals and tourists alike. Books & Books prides itself on catering to the eclectic tastes of its diverse clientele. Beyond its shelves, the store hosts an array of literary events, including author readings, book signings, and workshops, fostering a deep sense of intellectual curiosity and community engagement.

The Last Bookstore (Los Angeles, CA)

Tucked away in the bustling streets of downtown Los Angeles, The Last Bookstore is a bibliophile’s paradise. Housed in a sprawling former bank building, this labyrinthine store is renowned for its eclectic collection of new, used, and rare books, as well as its whimsical art installations crafted from recycled books. Visitors can lose themselves among towering book sculptures or browse the store’s diverse sections, each offering a treasure trove of literary gems.

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