If you're looking for a great place to buy your next book, you should probably consider shopping at one of these 12 woman-owned bookstores, all featured in Bibliophile, a new book out from My Ideal Bookshelf creator Jane Mount. Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany is out now from Chronicle Books, and you can get a sneak peek at its contents by checking out the 12 bookstore blurbs and 23 illustrations below.
Maui-based author-illustrator Jane Mount is the creator of My Ideal Bookshelf, which was published in 2012 by Little, Brown. That book catalogued a list of influential texts from 100 celebrities and literary figures, with Mount's illustrations accompanying interview snippets with editor Thessaly La Force. Now, Mount is back with Bibliophile, a miscellany that includes, according to the press release from Chronicle Books:
- Dozens of illustrated and annotated book stacks organized by theme, including 19th century literary classics, favorite fantasy novels, great adventure stories, feminist must-reads, essential cookbooks, poetry, memoirs, travelogues, graphic novels, and many more
- Profiles of 49 beloved independent bookstores in 14 countries
- Memorable fictional meals
- An illustrated look at 10 notable editions of Pride and Prejudice
- Well-known animal protagonists from literature
- Songs about books, from pop hits to obscure deep cuts
- The formative faves that influenced today's greatest writers
- The world’s most unusual libraries
- Challenging literary quizzes on everything from five-word plot summaries of classic literature to fictional planets from best-loved sci-fi novels
- “You’ve got to read this” recommendations from writers, editors, booksellers, librarians, teachers, poets, designers, and more
Bustle has an exclusive look at 12 of the 49 bookstores featured in Bibliophile for you to check out below:
Strand Bookstore in New York City
Located in the East Village of Manhattan, Strand Bookstore has the slogan “18 Miles of Books,” which equates to over 2.5 million of them organized on three floors. All the newest titles are there at great prices, of course, and it buys and sells used and rare books, too. But the art book section on the second floor might be the best part.
If you want to work at Strand, no matter what the job, you have to take a quiz to prove your book knowledge. It’s only 10 questions but makes applicants very nervous.
Nancy Bass Wyden owns Strand and ran it with her father, Fred Bass, until his death in 2018. It was founded in 1927 by Fred’s father, Benjamin Bass. At that time Fourth Avenue was called Book Row and there were 47 other bookstores nearby. Strand is the only one left.
Type Books in Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Comfortable, modern, pretty, and bright is just the type of bookstore Joanne Saul and Samara Walbohm daydreamed about opening while completing their dissertations on Canadian literature. A decade later, Type Books was born.
Type Books is known for both local and viral marketing efforts. The front shop window regularly features incredibly crafted, finely detailed cut-paper displays by Kalpna Patel that show off a smartly edited collection of books.
Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon
For booklovers, Powell’s is almost synonymous with Portland, but the store got its start in 1970 in Chicago. A graduate student, Michael Powell, was encouraged by friends, including Saul Bellow, to open a store. He borrowed $3,000 to do so and was so successful he paid back the loan in two months. Michael’s father, Walter, a retiring painting contractor, worked in the store over the summer and loved it so much, he decided to open his own store in Oregon, in 1971. Third-generation Powell’s owner Emily now presides over five Powell’s storefronts around the Portland area.
Powell’s flagship store, City of Books, is the largest independent used and new bookstore in the world. Occupying an entire city block, in a former car dealership (look closely and you can see clues to the building’s past), the store carries about a million books.
Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville, Tennessee, USA
Author Ann Patchett watched two chain bookstores open and close in her hometown (one of which had taken over a cherished indie bookstore, Davis-Kidd). The profitable-but-apparently-not-profitable-enough sellers left Nashville without a bookstore to call its own. Instead of a loss, Patchett saw an opportunity to give the city once known as the Athens of the South the bookstore it deserved. She joined forces with her friends Karen Hayes and Mary Grey James, both publishing industry veterans, to open Parnassus Books in November 2011.
Parnassus has also spawned a “laid-back literary journal” called “Musing,” edited by essayist Mary Laura Philpott and full of behind-the-scenes looks at bookish life.
Parnassus has a rotating cast of shop dogs, but Patchett’s dog, Sparky, is the king.
Birchbark Books in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Birchbark Books is owned by Louise Erdrich, author and enrolled Turtle Mountain Chippewa. It’s a haven in the Twin Cities for Native Americans near and far, neighbors, and everyone else who’s lucky enough to loiter for a while. In addition to discovering a carefully curated collection specializing in great Native authors and subjects, you’ll also find quillwork, basketry, silverwork, dreamcatchers, and paintings.
If you’re seeking absolution instead of acquisition, Birchbark Books has something for you, too: a confessional dedicated to cleanliness and godliness, decorated by Erdrich with images of her own sins.
The King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, Utah
The King’s English Bookshop started the way many bookstores do. Two Salt Lake City booklovers, Betsy Burton and Ann Berman, thought they’d support their writing aspirations with a store. Not long after opening in 1977, they realized taking care of their customers was actually a full-time job that left little room for writing, but they’ve been a community treasure ever since.
As the store has grown, the owners have taken advantage of space in unusual ways. They used a grant from James Patterson to raise the roof and add windows to their children’s room, which now includes an elevated “tree house” for reading and play.
Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Ariell Johnson is the East Coast’s first black female comic bookstore owner. She works to make her Philly shop, Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse, inclusive, a space where everyone sees themselves. She credits the character Storm, from the X-Men series—the daughter of a tribal princess from Kenya who was raised in Harlem and Cairo—with getting her excited about the genre. Johnson has since appeared on a comic book herself. A variant cover of Invincible Iron Man #1 shows Johnson drinking coffee with the character Riri Williams, alias Ironheart, a 15-year-old, MIT-educated genius who built her own Iron Man armor.
Shakespeare and Company in Paris, France
The Shakespeare and Company that lives on Paris’s Left Bank today is a tribute to Sylvia Beach’s bookstore that came and went before. Beach was a champion of modernism, and Shakespeare and Company was famous for publishing Ulysses (and smuggling copies into the US), and for hosting writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Djuna Barnes, and, of course, James Joyce. The store also lent out books for a small fee. As the story’s told, Beach shut down the store and stashed all her books in an upstairs apartment during World War II. An American, she was forced to spend six months in an internment camp in Vittel. Hemingway is said to have “liberated” the bookstore himself two years later, but it didn’t reopen.
George Whitman opened the current incarnation of Shakespeare and Company in 1951 under the name Le Mistral. He eventually changed the name, in homage to Beach and on the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth, and elevated the store’s status to utopia. Writers Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Anaïs Nin, Julio Cortázar, Henry Miller, William Saroyan, Lawrence Durrell, and James Baldwin were all early visitors. At least 30,000 writers and artists, including Ethan Hawke, Jeet Thayil, Darren Aronofsky, Geoffrey Rush, and David Rakoff, have slept on benches-cum-beds tucked into the store’s aisles. Whitman called these visitors Tumbleweeds and let them come and go so long as they read a book a day, helped out at the shop, and wrote a one-page autobiography.
As Whitman aged, he transferred the store over to his daughter Sylvia, who brought it up to date with credit card readers, computers, a literary prize, and a tamed version of the Tumbleweeds. George died in 2011, but it’s rumored he haunts the store, occasionally tossing books off high shelves.
McNally Jackson in New York City
When it first opened in Lower Manhattan in 2004, McNally Jackson was called McNally Robinson, after the bookstores in Manitoba, Canada, founded by the parents of owner Sarah McNally. In 2008, McNally made the store her own, subbing in her husband’s last name instead of Robinson. Other details are strictly hers, too—from the decision to organize the store’s literature geographically to the wallpaper that decorates its café. The wallpaper is made from book pages scanned from her personal collection. She intended for her notes and marginalia to be included on the wallpaper, too, only to have them mistakenly, painstakingly edited out by the paper’s makers.
McNally Jackson has grown across Lower Manhattan and now includes Goods for the Study, which offers furniture, stationery, light fixtures, and art prints, and Picture Room, which sells artist prints and multiples.
Supplementing an incredible (but carefully edited) selection of everything from lit mags and art books to travel and cookbooks, McNally Jackson has a print-on-demand bookmaker, the Espresso Book Machine. Readers can request perfect-bound copies of rare, out-of-print, or public domain titles. And writers can self-publish their own works with or without the help of a McNally Jackson consultant.
Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia
A cheeky sign above Avid Bookshop’s Prince Avenue location declares “Anti-Established 2011.” Janet Geddis’s shop is anti-established in two Athens, Georgia, locations. As she’s met success, Geddis has been frank about the struggles of opening and owning a bookstore and cites other indie stores—WORD Brooklyn; Greenlight Bookstore, also in Brooklyn; Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, Georgia; Over the Moon Bookstore & Artisan Gallery in Crozet, Virginia; Books & Books in Miami; and many more—as sources of insight and inspiration.
Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City, Iowa
Prairie Lights is nestled in the same town as the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. The proximity makes Prairie Lights glitter, helping to attract many celebrated writers for readings.
The bookstore opened in an intimate space in 1978 and grew over time, eventually overtaking the former home of a literary society that hosted Carl Sandburg, Robert Frost, Sherwood Anderson, Langston Hughes, e e cummings, and more.
Prairie Lights’ owners, Jan Weissmiller and Jane Mead, are both poets. While Mead manages her family ranch in Northern California, Weissmiller, formerly a store employee, runs the day-to-day business, and wishes she still had the time to shelve the books of poetry.
Part of Prairie Lights’ success over the years has been in diversifying the business. In 2010, the bookstore took over a café that was leasing space inside it, and which now accounts for 10% of revenue. And in 2013, the bookstore partnered with the University of Iowa Press to start publishing its own books.
Excerpted from Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount, published by Chronicle Books 2018