Photo courtesy of Leigh Altshuler, Sweet Pickle Books
You don’t have to be a bibliophile to love the experience of going to a brick-and-mortar bookstore. Downloading a book is convenient and fun, but it will never replace the satisfaction of buying a book you can hold in your hands. In case that alone isn’t reason enough to love a bookshop, these special stores all offer something beyond books.
From a New York City bookstore that sells a variety of pickles to a charming shop in Fort Worth that’s an integral part of its community, these stores mix books with other interests.
Photo courtesy of Lex Voight
The Last Bookstore | Los Angeles, California
Walking into The Last Bookstore is a sensory experience. With a moss ceiling and a living botanical tunnel, this quirky, popular bookshop sells plants in addition to books. The plants are artfully presented – and so are the books.
The Last Bookstore also sells lots of new and used vinyl records. If you’re a serious collector, you may find rarities, and they also buy and trade records if you have some old vinyl you no longer want. Just try not to be too disturbed by the elephant head on the wall. It is an art piece made for film, not taxidermy!
Photo courtesy of Leigh Altshuler
Sweet Pickle Books | New York, New York
Located in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Sweet Pickle Books started as a pandemic pivot. During the lockdown, Leigh Altshuler tackled her huge to-be-read pile, and she was reminded of how much books meant to her.
She shared, “With so many bookstores being forced to close during the pandemic, I felt a sense of urgency to help keep them alive. I decided to follow my dream and open my own bookstore.” Altshuler opened the bookstore in a neighborhood that was well-known for pickle makers and sellers, so she decided to pay homage to local history and sell both books and pickles.
The charming shop is a local favorite that attracts people from all over New York City and beyond.
Photo courtesy of Pyramid Art, Books & Custom Framing
Pyramid Art, Books & Custom Framing | Little Rock, Arkansas
Pyramid Art, Books & Custom Framing is a Black-owned bookstore that was founded in 1988 by Garbo Hearne. It carries over 6,000 books in 11 genres, and it also houses a custom frame shop. Additionally, the bookshop sells cards that are handmade by local artisans and decorative art.
Located in Little Rock, Pyramid Art, Books & Custom Framing started hosting virtual events in March 2020, and its virtual programs have been popular with local and national authors. It also has a special Baobab Storytime program for children.
Photo courtesy of Gods & Monsters
Gods & Monsters | Orlando, Florida
“Wherever your head is at, we’ll meet you there.” That’s the declaration at Gods & Monsters. Located in Orlando, this beloved comic book shop sells so much more than books, and it’s also the home of an apocalypse-themed bar.
Gods & Monsters proudly declares itself as a “nerd hub”, and customers can find pop culture toys and collectibles to go along with the comic books and graphic novels that abound in the store. The shop also hosts tabletop gaming, cosplay parties and VIP book events.
Photo courtesy of Michael Gustafson, Literati Bookstore
Literati Bookstore | Ann Arbor, Michigan
Ann Arbor once had the most bookstores per capita of any city in the United States. These days, Literati Bookstore is one of the most beloved bookshops in Tree Town. The store even has a public typewriter where people can leave notes. It’s now a tradition where thousands of customers have left behind typed messages.
The store also has a cozy, well-appointed space upstairs where book clubs gather in the coffee shop, and there are poetry nights and children’s story times.
Photo courtesy of Night Heron Books & Coffeehouse
Night Heron Books & Coffeehouse | Laramie, Wyoming
Night Heron Books & Coffeehouse is three things at once – a bookstore, a bakery and a coffee shop. Having a really inclusive and safe space that extends beyond books is important to the owner Ken Koschnitzki, and the bakery serves vegan and gluten-free treats.
Koschnitzki told us, “The essence of Night Heron is local and homemade.” That is the through line of all three parts of the shop. From the stained glass in the front windows of the bookstore to the relaxed, welcoming vibe, Night Heron is charming, and it’s a staple of the downtown community in Laramie.
Photo courtesy of The Moravian Book Shop
The Moravian Book Shop | Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
The Moravian Book Shop was founded in 1745, and it lays claim to being the oldest bookstore in the United States. In addition to offering a wide variety of books, it serves a nice selection of craft beers from Lost Tavern Brewing.
It also offers Randevoo, an Asian-fusion dining option with a vegan fried chicken dish that’s very popular. In honor of the city it serves, the Moravian Book Shop has a year-round Christmas department with ornaments galore, decorations and gifts.
Photo courtesy of The Novel Neighbor
The Novel Neighbor | St. Louis, Missouri
The Novel Neighbor was always meant to be more than a bookstore. In addition to carrying a marvelously diverse selection of books, the shop is a local artist space. They showcase the work of 30 local artists. Additionally, the Novel Neighbor features an event space for such fun celebrations as book-themed birthday parties and literary luncheons.
The shop offers carefully curated boxes of books called “Mystery Boxes” that are created based on answers that customers give to a few questions. Also, the owners of the Novel Neighbor started a non-profit to bring authors to underserved schools where students can learn about books, writing, overcoming challenges and more. As a plus, they go home with their own copy of the authors’ books.
Photo courtesy of Robin Raven
Two Dollar Radio Headquarters | Columbus, Ohio
Located on the South Side of Columbus, Ohio, Two Dollar Radio Headquarters has multiple roles in the community. It’s a renowned independent publishing company, in addition to being a bookstore. It also has a vegan cafe that serves savory fare and sweet treats along with delicious coffee and tea. Two Dollar Radio Headquarters even exhibits art and holds writing workshops and special events.
This charming bookshop also welcomes families and has a kids’ corner for reading and other activities.
Photo courtesy of Boulder Book Store
Boulder Book Store | Boulder, Colorado
Picture a bookstore that doubles as a chocolate shop! It doesn’t get better than that for voracious readers with a sweet tooth. The Boulder Book Store has a stellar selection of handcrafted, bean-to-bar chocolates that are curated and matched to books for a full sensory experience.
Founded in 1973, the Boulder Book Store is aptly named after the city it’s in, and it’s Boulder’s biggest independent bookshop, carrying over 100,000 books on three floors.
Photo courtesy of Talk Story Bookstore
Talk Story Bookstore | Hanapepe, Hawaii
As the westernmost bookstore in the United States, Talk Story Bookstore is located on the idyllic Hawaiian island of Kauai. In addition to a wide variety of new, rare, used and vintage books, this bookshop sells vinyl records, unique merchandise made by Hawaiian artists and classic video games.
While browsing, look out for the friendly shop cat named Celeste the Cat Boss who has her own stickers and books available in the store.
Photo courtesy of Midtown Scholar Bookstore
Midtown Scholar Bookstore | Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
The Midtown Scholar Bookstore has been referred to as an “essentially religious experience” in The New York Times, and it’s easy to see why when you browse the books on its shelves. It has over 200,000 new, rare and used books. A book barn and a rare book room offer special experiences for bibliophiles. Beyond books, it also has a vibrant cafe, a bakery and an art and print room.
The main floor of the Midtown Scholar Bookstore often serves as a space for literary events, and it showcases a colorful mural of the Susquehanna River alongside a town hall bell from the 1800s, which hangs in the center of the shop.
Photo courtesy of Birchbark Books
Birchbark Books | Minneapolis, Minnesota
Birchbark Books is a memorable shop that celebrates the strength of Native culture. In addition to a carefully curated, large selection of books, the small, intimate bookshop sells authentic, Native-made jewelry and art. Customers are often awed by the jewelry, fine art prints and repurposed Pendleton blanket bags.
This lovely shop also carries a vast variety of Indigenous language learning tools, with an emphasis on the Dakota/Lakota and Ojibwe languages. This family-friendly shop has a tiny loft and hobbit hole for children to play and enjoy books in.
Photo courtesy of The Dock Bookshop
The Dock Bookshop | Fort Worth, Texas
The Dock Bookshop is one of Fort Worth’s cultural treasures. The boutique-style shop offers a stellar collection of African American-authored books, showcasing them with monthly themed collections.
Additionally, you can find greeting cards, journals, vinyl records, specialty teas, games, personal care items, message wear, African clothing, African artifacts, novelties and more at the welcoming store. With several universities nearby, it also has a strong academic collection.
Photo courtesy of Sankofa Video Books & Café
Sankofa Video Books & Café | Washington, D.C.
Sankofa Video Books & Café in Washington, D.C. is located across from Howard University on Georgia Avenue. Since 1998, it has thrived as a bookshop, cultural center and cafe devoted to people of African descent.
Sankofa also hosts live music programming, family-friendly art events and important educational workshops, among other special events. Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, the shop has also hosted the Books to Families program to help distribute good literature and DVDs to families largely left outside of internet access.
Photo courtesy of FX Schram Photography
The Spotty Dog Books & Ale | Hudson, New York
As its name suggests, the Spotty Dog Books & Ale is a welcoming place to enjoy great books and beer. The bar portion of the bookstore serves carefully curated, hand-crafted ales from mostly local breweries. You’ll find well-known beers among lesser-known ones, and their taps and kegs are rotated often.
The store carries over 10,000 books in a wide variety of categories such as gardening, history and food and wine. It also offers unique toys and books for children.
Photo courtesy of Red Planet Books and Comics
Red Planet Books and Comics | Albuquerque, New Mexico
Red Planet Books and Comics has been delighting Albuquerque visitors and residents since it opened in 2017. It carries books, games, toys, comics and collectibles. The eye-catching front of the Red Planet Books and Comics was painted by muralist Joseph Stacey of Laguna Pueblo, and it aptly includes an image of a red planet.
The Native-owned shop is the headquarters for both the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers and the Indigenous Comic Con. It hosts other special events and sells books you aren’t likely to find anywhere else.
Photo courtesy of Bird Cage Book Store and Mercantile
Bird Cage Book Store and Mercantile | Rapid City, South Dakota
Located in the heart of downtown Rapid City, South Dakota, the Bird Cage Book Store and Mercantile is a renowned shop that specializes in Native American books. It’s owned by Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe citizen Lily Mendoza. She is dedicated to preserving the stories of Indigenous writers by amplifying their voices and making sure that others have access to their books.
In addition to selling a variety of books, the store carries fair trade items and products by local and regional artisans. It hosts author events, music performances, book clubs and author signings. It is also home to the “Free the Bird Poetry Stage.”
Photo courtesy of Zandbroz
Zandbroz Variety | Fargo, North Dakota
Zandbroz Variety was founded by brothers Jeff and Greg Danz three decades ago. They had a great love of books and knew that Fargo, North Dakota needed an independent bookstore. The shop stands out for its vintage book area that focuses on regional history and fiction.
They also decided to offer more than books at their shop, selling fine pens, greeting cards, home decor, jewelry, bath and beauty products and toys.
Photo courtesy of Politics and Prose
Politics and Prose Bookstore | Washington, D.C.
Politics and Prose is a popular independent bookstore with a cafe called The Den. It serves such delicious treats as sweet potato bread and vegan chia pudding with coconut milk and pecans. Of course, you can also order lattes, teas and other specialty drinks. Wine and craft beer is served, too.
The bookshop sells a diverse selection of books, and they frequently hold important community events and author signings.