While it’s hard to say I’ve never met a bookstore I didn’t like, it’s also hard to name a bookstore I’ve actually ever found egregious fault with — which means coming up with a list of the best bookstores in every major U.S. city was downright near impossible. After all, what really makes a bookstore the best? The volume and diversity of its inventory? It’s inviting couch space and cannot-miss lattes? Whether or not it has a four-legged mascot casually lounging near the register? (Bookstore cats are my spirit animal.) The way they organize their shelves and the helpfulness of the staff? What kind of book-buying vibes I, the customer, am feeling on any given day? All of the above, and more?
Major cities like New York, Chicago, Seattle, and San Francisco are buzzing with booksellers — and I’ve made myself a familiar face in more than a few of their stores. So while narrowing down this list of my absolute favorite bookstores was challenging, I was also totally up to the task.
Here are 13 of the best bookstores in the United States. Check ‘em out — and send a little book-buying love their way if you’re in the area. You’ll be glad you did.
Left Bank Books Collective, Seattle, Washington
This committee-run and activist-frequented bookstore, Left Bank Books Collective, has been a staple of Seattle’s Pike Place Market for years. They offer thousands of new and used books, specializing in independent and small-press titles with ultra-leftist and anti-authoritarian vibes. Something we could all use more of these days.
Powell’s Books, Portland, Oregon
Find them at: 1005 West Burnside Street, Portland, Oregon
Powell's Books is actually chain of independent bookstores in Portland, Oregon, who claim to be — and probably are — the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world. So if they can’t find you what you’re looking for, chances are nobody can.
Dog Eared Books, San Francisco, California
Find them at: 900 Valencia Street, San Francisco, California
San Francisco's Dog Eared Books sells new, used, and remaindered books; and while they offer book-lovers a little bit of everything, their specialty is definitely Beat, off-beat, small press, and local literature (I mean, it is San Francisco — homeland of the Beat writers.) They also double as an informal art gallery for local artists, and most of the work featured on their walls is for sale.
The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles, California
Find them at: 453 South Spring Street, Los Angeles, California
As California’s largest independent bookstore, you’ll be able to spend days in The Last Bookstore’s 22,000 square feet of literature and more. Be sure to stop by their Art & Rare Book Annex, and if you’re a graphic novel aficionado, nobody stocks more than these folks.
Tattered Cover Bookstore, Denver, Colorado
Find them at: 2526 East Colfax Avenue, Denver, Colorado
As one of the largest independent bookstores in the United States, you know you'll definitely be able to find what you're looking for at this Denver-based locale. Since 1971 Tattered Cover has been selling new and used books, hosting tons of author events (nearly 400 authors, illustrators, and public figures each year), and maintaining an awesomely cozy atmosphere for anyone who wants to wile the day away reading.
South Congress Books, Austin, Texas
Find them at: 1608 South Congress Avenue, Austin, Texas
This uniquely artsy Austin, Texas-based bookstore will have you restocking both your bookshelves and your wall space. South Congress Books specializes in art, photography, literature, music, vintage children’s books, cookbooks, original music posters, and more. Plus, owner Sheri Tornatore has 25 years of experience in the collectible book business, which means if you're looking for something rare, she's your gal.
Myopic Books, Chicago, Illinois
Find them at: 1564 North Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, Illinois
Voted Chicago’s Favorite Used Bookstore by The Chicago Reader, Myopic Books is located in the heart of artsy-neighborhood Wicker Park. Featuring more than 70,000 new and used books spaced across three stories and dozens of different categories, plan to spend most of your day browsing here. You’ll be glad you did.
A Cappella Books, Atlanta, Georgia
Find them at: 208 Haralson Avenue NE, Atlanta, Georgia
The Atlanta-based A Cappella Books features an impressive selection new, used, and antiquarian titles, with a specific nod to books about music and politics. They also schedule tons of book signings, so be sure to check out what signed books they have in stock, or coming up.
Books & Books, Miami, Florida
Find them at: Lincoln Road Mall, Miami Beach, Florida
Books & Books is a locally-owned, independent bookstore with three locations in South Florida: Miami, Coral Gables, and Bal Harbour. According to their website, they host a whopping 60 author events each month, so you know what that means: plenty of signed books.
Politics & Prose, Washington D.C.
Find them at: 5015 Connecticut Avenue. NW, Washington, D.C.
Politics & Prose is exactly the kind of independent bookstore you’d expect to find in Washington D.C. — and former President Barack Obama has been known to visit this particular bookshop himself. They maintain a great community vibe despite being located in a big city, and their selection of books is awesome. They also have a wine and coffee bar.
The Book Trader, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Find them at: 7 North 2nd Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Having been in the book-selling business for 40 years, Philly-based bookstore The Book Trader definitely knows their stuff. (Bonus: you’ll totally be able to imagine Jess Mariano hanging out here, working on his sequel to The Subsect.) They offer used fiction and nonfiction, plus a handful of new titles and an ever-expanding record selection.
Strand Bookstore, New York City, New York
Find them at: 828 Broadway, New York City, New York
As the most literary city in the United States, and one of the most bookish destinations in the world, NYC and it's seemingly endless list of iconic bookstores made this city's list of readerly locales a difficult one to whittle down. But honestly, if you only check out one literary destination in all of NYC, you've got to make it the (legendary) Strand Book Store, which features 18 miles of new, used, and rare books.
Brattle Book Shop, Boston, Massachusetts
Find them at: 9 West Street, Boston, Massachusetts
In addition to being one of the largest and oldest used bookstores in the United States, Brattle Book Shop’s unmatched collection of rare and antiquarian books practically guarantees you’ll leave with something that’ll make you the envy of your book club. Plus, their uniquely awesome outdoor sale lot should not be missed.