10 Bookstores in 10 Literary Cities That You Don't Want to Miss

Instead of lamenting your loses as the chain bookstores are shutting down, divert your path to the independent bookstores across the country that are able to fill all your literary needs. These 10 bookstores have made the list by becoming an important part of their communities, having a particular charm, and, in short, being more than a place where you can buy a lot of books. 

Image: Sameer Vasta

Instead of lamenting your loses as the chain bookstores are shutting down, divert your path to the independent bookstores across the country that are able to fill all your literary needs. These 10 bookstores have made the list by becoming an important part of their communities, having a particular charm, and, in short, being more than a place where you can buy a lot of books. 

Image: Sameer Vasta

Denver: Tattered Cover

Writers, readers, coffee drinkers, studiers, the hippest of book lovers and their grandparents all feel at home in Tattered Cover. Nooks abound, WiFi is free, and the café offers top-notch coffee and vegan and gluten-free desserts. Patrons can even print their own book on site, which Tattered Cover may then potentially sell in house. Really, if it weren't for closing time, there would never be a reason to leave.

Image: Bookchen 

Washington D.C.: Politics & Prose

Politics & Prose uses the backdrop of books to create a space where ideas are shared and discussed, connections formed, and afternoons meandering the isles well spent. They accomplish this by more than their impressive array of speakers, from Joan Didion to Rachel Maddow. They also support more than 80 book clubs, host more than 400 events in-house, offer myriad classes including poetry writing workshops and "American Women as Agents of Change", and sponsor additional events held outside the store, including think tank gatherings. In a politically-charged city, Politics & Prose has created an impressive nonpartisan space for dialogue.

Austin: Book People

Although a large bookstore, Bookpeople maintains a unique local charm. They stock most everything on a wish list, but also include handwritten recommendations from staff should you feel without direction. Recent author readings include How Should a Person Be author Sheila Heti and The Glass Castle's Jeanette Walls. From geeky and Texan-themed gifts to themed book release parties, Bookpeople has become a staple in the Austin literary scene.

Image: Annette Q Pederson

New York City: Three Lives & Co.

While many bookstores around New York City have closed down in the last decade, 3 Lives & Co has kept the doors to their timeless and charming brick bookstore open since 1968, and haven't changed much since. 3 Lives & Co offers a consistently excellent and slightly quirky selection, a helpful and highly literate staff, and an enduringly cozy shop to browse. Although relatively small, 3 Lives still hosts an impressive assortment of authors. 

Image: Lee Kottner    

Nashville: Parnassus Books

Bestselling author and Nashville native Ann Patchett opened Parnassus Books in 2011, right when many independent bookstores where closing their doors. Parnassus is the type of bookstore where loitering is encouraged, and if you hang out long enough, someone famous or interesting will probably walk in for a signing. It’s full of local flavor, featuring a Nashville section near the door, and the selection of books throughout the store is curated carefully. Of course, we would expect nothing less from Patchett.

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Portland: Annie Bloom's Books

The perfect neighborhood bookstore includes several things: Friendly, knowledgable staff, author readings, an excellent and thoughtful selection of books, a warm, cozy atmosphere, and a bookstore cat. Annie Bloom’s Books has it all, including its very own shop cat, Molly Bloom. Annie Bloom's walks the line between sporting an excellent selection of unusual and popular books without being overwhelming. But should you get lost in the stacks, the bibliophilic staff is always on hand to offer recommendations and chat about their favorite reads as of late. The shop's welcoming charm makes everyone from first time visitors to neighbors feel at home.  

San Francisco: City Lights Bookstore

City Lights is much more than the past gathering place of the beat generation poets. The building itself is historic and the views out many of the upper floor windows beautiful, but the contemporary charm of the store remains its main draw. You may not be greeted by a bookstore cat when you walk in the door, but rather a sign saying, Turn your cell phone off. Be here now and a replica of a revolutionary mural destroyed in Chiapas, Mexico. City Lights is peppered with reading nooks including comfy chairs with lights and signs encouraging you to take a break right in the store. I'll go for a mid-browsing read with or without a sign, but it's always nice to have their blessing. 

Image: Lillian Dignan

Boston: Brookline Booksmith

Brookline Booksmith steals away hours of its visitors' time with its creaky floors, perfectly bookish scent, excellent selection, cozy reading spots, and a bargain basement full of surprisingly inexpensive used books. Booksmith also hosts frequent author events and are known for their late hours — open until 10 most weeknights and 11 weekends.

Image: Lydia Chow

Minneapolis: Magers & Quinn Booksellers

Magers & Quinn has become a staple stop for many author tours and one of the top literary landmarks in the Twin Cities. They offer new and used books, including an impressive art and history selection. It's common to see dogs roaming the aisles with (or without) their owners, and should you wish a recommendation for your own pooch, the owner’s dog’s favorite books are conveniently listed on their blog. The tobacco shop next door also provides Magers & Quinn an extra-intellectual scent, perfect for while browsing the rare and unusual reads section. 

Image: Brianne 

Seattle: Elliot Bay Book Company

The high wood ceilings, thoughtful and thorough staff recommendations, locally-crafted journals, and cozy café make Elliot Bay Book Company a Capitol Hill favorite for a rainy afternoon. From literary fiction to cookbooks to religion to sex (the placement of the latter two next to each other seems entirely intentional), Elliot Bay has curated an incredible selection that probably includes the lesser-known book for which you've been searching. 

Image: Alyson Hurt