When I first arrived in LA, I was thrilled to discover the existence of a place called Library Bar. A book-themed bar? What more could a girl ask for? Unfortunately, the reality of the establishment was somewhat less charming: the books were purely decorative and the atmosphere was mostly just loud, although the Moscow Mule wasn’t bad.
After that minor misfortune, I realized what I really wanted wasn't a book-themed bar but a bookstore that also served booze — a place where I could simultaneously indulge my great loves for books and beer. In my travels, I’ve encountered a few such magical places (including one or two that appear on this list), but Los Angeles tragically doesn’t yet have one yet, as far as I can tell. My favorite local bookstore is currently campaigning for a liquor license, however, so hopefully it won’t be long before I’m sipping away at a reading.
In the meantime, for those of you in other corners of the country, I've collected some must-visit bookstores where you can drink a beer while perusing the latest releases.
Books & Brews — Indianapolis, Indiana
We’re all book lovers here, but maybe you’re just a little more excited about the beer side of this combo? Well, then, Books & Brews is the place for you! This establishment brews fantastic-sounding, book-themed beers like “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Brew Fish” and “A Midsummer Night’s Shandy,” as well as selling books and hosting weekly game nights.
Housing Works Bookstore — New York, New York
One of New York’s best bookstores, Housing Works boasts not only a great selection of used books, but also an altruistic mission: the store’s profits support its parent organization’s HIV/AIDS advocacy. The store hosts awesome readings and events, including literary speed dating – where, let’s face it, you’re going to need that beer.
Prairie Lights Books — Iowa City, Iowa
Thanks in part to its proximity to the country’s most prestigious MFA program, Prairie Lights has a long tradition of hosting and nurturing great writers. Even better, the cafe is located in the former home of the city’s literary society, so you can have a glass of wine in the same place where authors like Robert Frost and e.e. cummings spoke to the local literati.
Molasses Books — Brooklyn, New York
This tiny shop in the trendiest part of Brooklyn offers an eclectic selection of used books, a friendly owner, and unusually late hours (it’s open until midnight). The bar in the back is just a bonus.
Spotty Dog Books & Ale — Hudson, New York
Located in a 19th century firehouse, Spotty Dog has some serious history: the bar even serves the same ale the firemen used to drink. Moreover, the space itself is gorgeous, and a perfect fit for the eclectic musical acts who perform there.
The Book Cellar — Chicago, Illinois
This punnily-named bookstore and wine bar in Chicago’s adorable Lincoln Square has an excellent, carefully curated selection of books (including graphic novels and titles by local authors). It also hosts a wide-range of events including author readings and stand-up comedy.
Trident Booksellers and Cafe — Boston, Massachusetts
If you’re looking for some mimosas with your Murakami, Trident has got you covered. In addition to their wide selection of remaindered (read: super cheap) books, the 32-year-old establishment has a full cafe that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Elements: Books Coffee Beer — Biddeford, Maine
As the name suggests, Elements specializes in new and used books, pour-over coffee, and local craft beer — so, basically, all of my favorite things.
Book Bar — Denver, Colorado
Owner Nicole Sullivan created Book Bar as "a community gathering space where it is not just accepted, but encouraged, to lounge and read or meet and discuss." Add in a fabulous book-themed menu and a beautifully designed location and you've got a recipe for the perfect Friday night.
Books & Books — Coral Gables, Florida
The award-winning Books & Books is located in a huge, historic Mediterranean-style building, where it hosts a top-notch reading series. It may, in fact, be the perfect bookstore.