From their resident cats to that old book smell, there’s something about wandering up and down the aisles of a brick-and-mortar bookstore that online merchants could never replicate. In honor of Independent Bookstore Day (April 27, 2019), Mental Floss has picked the best bookshop in every state—plus a few others we loved, too.
- THE BEST BOOKSTORE IN ALABAMA: ALABAMA BOOKSMITH // HOMEWOOD, ALABAMA
One of the Birmingham area’s hidden gems, the Alabama Booksmith is a unique delight for book-lovers and collectors alike. Since a remodel in 2012, the shop has featured an inventory consisting exclusively of signed book copies. The store has another special touch, too: Every book is displayed face-out so that customers can more easily discern whether or not something is right for them.
- THE BEST BOOKSTORE IN ALASKA: TITLE WAVE BOOKS // ANCHORAGE, ALASKA
The cleverly named Title Wave Books is not only the largest bookstore in Alaska, but also one of the biggest used bookstores in the entire country. In addition to its massive catalog of over 500,000 books, the store houses many vinyl records, audiobooks, and DVDs. And if for some reason you aren’t interested in checking out the books, the store also has a host of events including Scrabble and chess nights. Amazon.com Gift Card i... Buy New $25.00 (as of 12:30 EST - Details)
- THE BEST BOOKSTORE IN ARIZONA: CHANGING HANDS BOOKSTORE // PHOENIX & TEMPE, ARIZONA
With locations in both Phoenix and Tempe, Changing Hands Bookstoreencompasses the best of Arizona literature. The Tempe location has been in business since 1974, and its success allowed them to open their second store in a repurposed restaurant in central Phoenix. The Phoenix location is home to the must-visit First Draft Book Bar—after all, how often you can be served booze at a bookstore?
Other Arizona Bookstores We Love: Antigone Books (Tucson)
- THE BEST BOOKSTORE IN ARKANSAS: DICKSON ST. BOOKSHOP // FAYETTEVILLE, ARKANSAS
A community favorite located only a short distance away from the University of Arkansas campus, Dickson St. Bookshop features a plethora of literary classics and much more. With thousands of books onsite, it’s frequently named not just one of the best bookstores in Arkansas, but also one of the best in the nation. Owners Donald Choffel and Charles O’Donnell have been in charge from the very beginning in 1978.
- THE BEST BOOKSTORE IN CALIFORNIA: GREEN APPLE BOOKS // SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
Competition for San Francisco’s book lovers is fierce—the city is also home to famous independent bookstores like City Lights—but Green Apple Books remains a beloved local luminary. The store, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017, has grown over the decades to occupy a two-story, sprawling space in the city’s Richmond District. Filled with books both new and used, the store sells not just hardback literature, but e-books and audiobooks, magazines, LPs, and more. In 2014, it expanded its wares to a second location, Green Apple Books on the Park, located near Golden Gate Park. Online, it offers services like the Apple-a-Month Club, which sends subscribers a new fiction paperback each month, while its two stores host readings by local writers and literary legends alike. (It’s also a popular haunt for literature-loving celebrities—it has previously been frequented by the likes of Robin Williams, Oliver Sacks, and more.)
Other California Bookstores We Love: City Lights Bookstore (San Francisco), The Last Bookstore (Los Angeles), Book Soup (Los Angeles), Time Tested Books (Sacramento), Chaucer’s Bookstore (Santa Barbara)
- THE BEST BOOKSTORE IN COLORADO: TATTERED COVER // DENVER, COLORADO
Denver’s storied Tattered Cover has been around since 1971 and has been through numerous transformations: moving locations, opening satellites, adding cafes and, at one point, having a (since closed) restaurant and bar. Considered one of the most successful independent bookstores in the country, it now sells new and used books at four different outposts in Denver and Littleton, Colorado as well as operating several stores at the Denver International Airport. You can find international bestsellers alongside indie literature and a wide range of used volumes. It hosts writing workshops, book clubs, literary readings, film screenings, and storytime for kids, and in 2019, launched the one-day Colorado Book and Arts Festival.
- THE BEST BOOKSTORE IN CONNECTICUT: R.J. JULIA BOOKSELLERS // MADISON, CONNECTICUT
R.J. Julia has been one of Connecticut’s premier book destinations for decades, and for good reason. Named one of New England magazine’s “Best Bookstores to Spend the Day” in 2018, the Madison-based bookstore features a large selection of books and gifts, knowledgeable staff, and a great cafe. It’s more than just a place to stop by and grab a new paperback, though. The store hosts more than 300 events every year, and owner Roxanne J. Coady is dedicated to finding every reader their perfect book. In 2009, she launched Just the Right Book, a personalized book-of-the-month subscription service, and recently expanded it to include a Just the Right Book podcast that features interviews between Coady and bestselling authors. If you can’t stop by the store in person, we recommend using R.J. Julia’s “What’s Your Perfect Next Read” online quiz to find your new favorite book.
- THE BEST BOOKSTORE IN DELAWARE: BROWSEABOUT BOOKS // REHOBOTH BEACH, DELAWARE
Founded in 1975, Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware is a local legend—so much so that the company’s 40th anniversary party was attended by Delaware’s governor and multiple state senators. In 1992, Browseabout took over a former open-air mall that once housed seven stores and evolved to sell gifts, toys, and stationery alongside books and a coffee bar. lists it as one of its favorite poetry-friendly bookstores, while writer Anna March extolled its virtues in the literary journal Tin House in 2013, calling it “a thing to behold—best sellers and beach books, yes, but also a strong kids section; travel books and literary fiction with an extensive back catalog; books by local authors; and a selection of essays, poetry, plays.” Amazon.com Gift Card i... Buy New $15.00 (as of 09:30 EST - Details)
- THE BEST BOOKSTORE IN FLORIDA: BOOKS & BOOKS AT THE STUDIOS OF KEY WEST // KEY WEST, FLORIDA
There are several locations of Books & Books, which has stores around South Florida (and one in the Cayman Islands), but the Key West affiliate of the chain has a special place in book lovers’ hearts for one reason: It’s the only store that was founded by Judy Blume and her husband, George Cooper. Located in a former Masonic Temple that now serves as a nonprofit arts space, it’s just what you would expect from a bookstore owned by a literary luminary. The store is designed with readers in mind, with reading lights and a curated selection of literary fiction, poetry, art books, magazines, and new bestsellers, plus an entire room devoted to professional-grade art supplies. Oh, and it’s perhaps the only bookstore where you can get book recommendations straight from the mouth of Judy Blume.
- THE BEST BOOKSTORE IN GEORGIA: CHARIS BOOKS // ATLANTA, GEORGIA
Charis Books And More has been an Atlanta institution since 1974, making it the oldest independent feminist bookstore in the southern United States. Charis’s inventory is stocked with books that fall into diverse categories, like LGBTQ fiction and non-fiction, food issues and body image, anti-ableism, race, and reproductive rights. As part of its mission to support local, independent authors, Charis encourages writers of all backgrounds to request to have their books sold in the store. The shop also hosts about 270 literary, social justice, and educational events a year.