As an avid book collector, I try to stop at bookstores on every trip I take. I am not talking about the chain bookstores, but the tiny independent bookstores. These little bookstores are a treasure trove of information and personality. The staff is always knowledgeable and usually great book enthusiasts as well! You never know what you will find when you walk into one of these shops! Take The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, AL. Before you even walk in the shop you are hit by their wonderfully old school window display. There is a new one for each season which is done by different local artists and decorators. They always have a great selection of local history books as well as local authors. This bookstore is located right on the square in the historic district of Mobile in a shop that is well over 100 years old!
Another favorite bookstore of mine is the Old Bookstore on Front Street in Wilmington, North Carolina. As I have mentioned in past articles this store not only has a great collection of books and a super friendly staff. It also boasts of a hotel room above the store many authors have rented while in the Wilmington area. Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver, Colorado is the reason I started going to independent bookshops. Although it is massive compared to some of the other places, I have mentioned it still has the same warmth and persona as the smaller shops. Arcadian Books and Prints in New Orleans is maybe the single craziest bookshop I have been to in the US, but it is full of used book treasures! Every collector has a bucket list they are looking for, this is one of those places you may just find some of those books or even some you did not know you needed. Although the store is stacked from floor to ceiling in a somewhat European style bookstore be assured the proprietor will know just where to point you for any given book.
Barber Bookstore in downtown Ft Worth has changed names a few times, but their collection of used and rare books remains to be of the same great quality. According to the owners this shop has been around since the 1920s. Full Circle Bookstore in Oklahoma City is said to be the largest independent bookstore in the state. Full Circle is a good place to catch book signings if you are into meeting the authors! The store website has a calendar of upcoming events. Malvern in Austin is another great indie bookstore full of local authors. I suggest one of their “magical poetry bundles” if you are a poetry collector. The Poison Pen Bookshop in Scottsdale Arizona is a great shop to find autographed copies of new books. Diana Gabaldon author of the Outlander series who calls Scottsdale home can be seen frequently in this shop signing books as well as several other authors.
If used books are your jam, then these bookstores are for you! Capitol Hill Books in Washington DC is tiny yet packed with a great selection of books. Any good collector knows that used bookstores are always the best place to find first edition books for next to nothing! Another great used bookstore is McKay Used Books in Manassas, Virginia. This bookstore on any given day has more customers than the Barnes & Nobles down the street. McKay’s has a huge selection of not only books but vinyl records, games, and movies. South Congress Books in Austin is a great used bookshop with a vinyl collection as well.
A used bookstore near and dear to my heart is Booked Up in Archer City just outside of Wichita Falls. This bookstore was created and operated by famous author Larry McMurtry. He hand-picked all the books on these shelves over the years. His dream was to bring the book culture to his hometown of Archer City. At one point he had four buildings full of books around the town square! A few years back there was a huge auction of this collection, but the original store is still open! Archer City was also the setting for his book-turned-movie The Last Picture Show starring Jeff Bridges and Cybill Shepherd. Booked Up has unusual hours these days, currently, they are operating from 1 – 5 pm Friday, Saturday, and Thursday, but you can always call to make an appointment to walk these hallowed stacks if you are in the area.