I love Amazon, and even Barnes & Noble, but there is truly nothing like a great independent bookstore. I have to go out of my way to get to one, but I am always glad I did. Here is a (growing) list of my favorites.
Boise, ID: The Rediscovered Bookshop – I stumbled into this place looking for a Moleskine, and I walked in on an event and would up staying the day. I have rarely felt more welcome in any retail establishment, and I haven’t felt this comfortable in a bookstore since my days going to A Change of Hobbit in Westwood. If I ever wind up – part-time or full-time – in Boise, this place will be one of the top three reasons for that move.
Pasadena, CA: Vroman’s Bookstore – Thought it is 70 miles from my front door, this amazing institution feels local. My pilgrimages here are annual, though I wish they could be more frequent.
San Francisco, CA: City Lights Books – While it retains its soul as a progressive bookstore, I am living proof that you do not need to share proprietor Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s politics to love the selection, the ambiance, and the vibe of City Lights. I go to San Francisco fairly regularly on business, driving the six hours up the coast rather than flying, in part, so that I can bring an armload of books home each time.
Santa Barbara, CA: The Book Den – There is no direct relationship between size and quality, and The Book Den proves it. It’s starting to feel like Eric Kelley, the proprietor, is my personal book-buyer. Every time I walk in, I wind up discovering some amazing book that I’d never even known existed, and I carry it out like Golum with his Precious, parking at French Press with a macchiato to absorb it greedily as the family shops.
Seattle, WA: Elliott Bay Book Company – You would expect Seattle to have a great bookstore, and this is it. Wide aisles suited to browsing, wood floors that feel good underfoot, incredibly knowledgable staff, and a neighborhood that begs you to just hang out.
Phoenix, AZ: Changing Hands Bookstore – Whaat? A great bookstore in Phoenix and I HAVEN’T been there? Next trip.
Portland, OR: Powell’s Books – Legendary. I may have to make a special trip, but I’ve wanted to visit for a decade.
Santa Barbara, CA: Chaucer’s Bookstore – Half as far as Vroman’s from my house, and I’ve never been there. Will rectify anon.