Our Guide to Local Bookstores

by Anne Caywood

Hello, Readers!

My name is Anne Caywood, I am a recently brought-on Books Editor for Inklette. What really drove me to present this as my first piece is the fact that I was raised on books. My mom would read to me every night until I turned about 6, and I had a flashlight I hid in my room for when I thought my parents wouldn’t notice me staying up late for just “one more chapter.” I was also the kid my parents had to literally drag out of the library. Locally owned businesses are a passion project of mine, as I have worked for locally owned coffee shops for the past year, and made it a point to source most if not all of my books from local stores. Especially in light of the pandemic, I really wanted to give a voice to the stores that may have been negatively affected by COVID-19, as well as a spotlight to queer-owned or BIPOC-owned stores. It is so, so important to me that these stores stay afloat and continue to give back to the community through books, and thrive for a long time before closing their doors.

With that being said, me as well as the other members of the Inklette team wish you happy reading, and happy book shopping!

Anne Caywood — Books Editor

Location: Tempe, AZ, USA

Northshire Bookstore

Saratoga Springs, NY & Manchester Center, VT

Founded in 1976 by a married couple in Manchester Center, VT, Northshire has expanded from a small community bookstore to a wide array of 300,000 titles among 2 locations in the Northeast United States. Both locations have their uniqueness, Manchester in its historical location and Saratoga in its selection. My parents live about 20 miles from the Saratoga location, and I cannot take a trip to visit them without driving along the 89 North to the quaint bookstore tucked into the chaotic beauty of Saratoga Springs. The highlight of the location is that the upstairs is dedicated to a children’s center, which would’ve been a haven to child-me, who grabbed any book she could get her hands on. Every staff member is incredibly friendly and is a tight-knit group who fuel my passion for literature every time I visit!

Changing Hands Bookstore

Tempe, AZ & Phoenix, AZ

Opened by a group of people with a vision for working at a local bookstore with a small community, Changing Hands has been Arizona’s leading independent bookstore since 1974. It is a favorite among Arizona residents, especially students. The Tempe location is small and near Arizona State University’s campus, and there are always author signings, conversations, and events you don’t want to miss. Phoenix’s location has a First Draft Book Bar, serving both coffee and alcoholic beverages (which I think any book reader can take advantage of!). Changing Hands is the winner of several awards, including Business in the Arts Small Business Award, Governor’s Arts Award for Small Business, New Times Best Bookstore and Phoenix Magazine reader’s choice best bookstore.

Hobart Book Village

Hobart, NY

Located in the small, hidden village of Hobart, this village is home to 7 bookstores and is known as upstate New York’s only book village. Each bookshop has a different theme and are owned by members of the community. The children’s bookstore even has a little dog that greets you at the door! I went in the summer of 2021 and as I was talking to the owners of the bookstores, there was an undeniable sense of community among the staff of the village. The area is beautiful and the books have unbeatable prices, and the owners of all of the stores are very friendly and welcoming. They have sales on Memorial Day and Thanksgiving weekends, and they host the Festival of Women Writers, several art shows, author readings and signings as well as the very popular Winter Respite Lecture Series. The tight-knit community also has a weekly farmer’s market and occasional town-wide movie nights.

Devanshi Khetarpal — Editor-in-Chief

Location: Manhattan, NY, USA

Three Lives & Co

New York, NY

Three Lives & Co. is one of the most welcoming spaces in New York. Their old location was round the corner from my favorite coffee shop, ad hoc, and was like a cozy living room filled with books. It’s just as cozy in their new location though (but they’re returning to their old location soon!) and the bookstore is home to a generous collection of books from small, independent presses as well as translated titles. But it’s really the staff that make this space what it is. I highly recommend signing up for their newsletter (trust me, that’s one of the few emails I look forward to) and asking them for recommendations when you go there. Some of my best conversations on books have taken place at Three Lives. They also have signed copies of some titles and since it’s a short walk away from my apartment, I order books through them and pick them up at the bookstore.

McNally Jackson Books

New York, New York

But when I am not at Three Lives, find me at McNally Jackson Books. Nobody asked, but I am going to rank their locations anyway: Seaport, Williamsburg, SoHo (you’re welcome!). What I like about McNally Jackson, especially as a Comparative Literature student, is that they categorize their books according to the region or language the titles are originally from. You can find a shelf dedicated to Bulgarian literature, for instance, or Scandinavian literature and books from the African continent in translation. I try to make sure that a majority of the books I read are books in translation or books from non-white authors, and it is bookstores like McNally Jackson and Three Lives that help me achieve that goal as a reader, a writer and a scholar. You should also stop by McNally Jackson’s stationery store and treat yourself to the most expensive pen you will ever own (it’s worth it, writers). And do please go to one of their events, especially at their Seaport location. I’ve had the opportunity to meet or run into writers like Zadie Smith, Andrew Solomon, Cole Swensen, and translators like Ann Goldstein, Jenny McPhee, and Inea Bushnaq there. I also recommend checking out McNally Editions, their new paperback line dedicated to “hidden gems.” It’s not just their marketing term, the books really are beautiful, hidden gems. So far I’ve read Winter Love by Han Suyin, Daddy’s Gone A-Hunting by Penelope Mortimer, Something To Do With Paying Attention by David Foster Wallace, and am eagerly waiting for the next trio of books to arrive: They by Kay Dick, Troy Chimneys by Margaret Kennedy and The Murderer by Roy Heath.

Stephanie Gemmell — Books Editor

Location: Washington, D.C., USA

Bridge Street Books

Washington, D.C.

As a college student in Washington, DC, I came to love three different locally-owned bookstores in northwest DC. Bridge Street Books, located at the southeast edge of Georgetown on Pennsylvania Avenue, draws students, tourists, and locals alike into a quaint two-story townhouse offering a wide selection of titles. Bridge Street has a reputation among students for being the best place to find poetry collections and philosophy books, and its welcoming ambiance makes it the perfect place to warm up and decompress during autumn and winter errands.

Kramers Bookstore

Washington, D.C.

Kramers, on Connecticut Avenue along Dupont Circle, offers a spacious bookstore with a broad range of genres, along with a popular restaurant and bar. Kramers often provides a broad array of nonfiction books, larger collections and compilations, and gift items like adult coloring books.

Second Story Books

Washington, D.C.

Another wonderful bookstore in the Dupont neighborhood, Second Story Books, sells used books and can be a great place to stumble on something wonderful and unexpected. While Second Story sells rare and antique books as well, it’s known among college students for its unbeatable prices on used titles including poetry collections, memoirs, nonfiction texts, and even comic books.

Areeb Ahmad, Books Editor

Location: Hyderabad, Telangana, India.

May Day Bookstore

New Delhi, India

Launched on 1st May, celebrated as International Workers’ Day, in 2012, May Day Bookstore is an offspring of LeftWord Books, a Delhi-based Leftist indie press. 

Lisa Stice, Poetry Editor

Location: Hampstead, NC

Pomegranate Books

Hampstead, North Carolina

I live in Hampstead, NC, and the locally-owned bookstore I like to frequent is Pomegranate Books in Wilmington, NC (4418 Park Ave). Besides having a lovely selection of books and gifts, it’s a cozy atmosphere where you can sip a yummy drink or snack on a yummy treat from their Zola Café. Pomegranate Books supports local authors through readings and through its monthly poetry open-mic night.

Other Recommendations

WORD Bookstore

Brooklyn, NY & Jersey City, NJ

A queer-friendly bookstore focused in the heart of both Jersey City and Brooklyn, WORD is a locals favorite in the area. They offer subscription and mystery boxes, and host several events and signings from authors both local and from afar. There are also all-inclusive virtual book clubs with a variety of subjects, including Show Me The Women, Well-Read Black Girl, Gilmore Girls, and more!

Glad Day Bookshop

Toronto, Ontario

While being one of the more well-known bookstores among the community of book lovers, Glad Day is celebrated for being the oldest queer-owned bookstore worldwide. Opened in the 1970s and surviving through history, Glad Day emerged victorious and proudly supports members of all communities. They also serve coffee and cocktails! There is a Gay and Lesbian Book Club offered on site as well!

Reparations Club

Los Angeles, CA

A Black-owned, women-owned hidden gem in Los Angeles, Reparations Club prides itself on valuing literature that focuses on diversity and inclusivity. They host signings and promotions for books published by BIPOC authors, as well as women and LGBTQ+ writers. There are a variety of events available on their website!

Queer Lit

Manchester, UK

Manchester’s most well-known queer-owned bookstore, Queer Lit focuses on literature published by queer, diverse authors. They seek to find themselves in literature that they may not have been able to as adolescents, as well as give back to the community by promoting these titles. On top of that, they give back to the community by donating over 100 LGBTQ+ books a year to schools across the United Kingdom, allowing young queer students to see themselves as the heroes of the story.

The Portal Bookshop

York, UK

Portal Bookshop is unique in the sense that they specifically focus on selling sci-fi and fantasy books, particularly that of the LGBTQ+ community. They have a donation page where they provide free handbooks to gender nonconforming and transgender teens that may come from unsupportive homes, to remind them that there is always someone on their side! UK residents can either visit in person or order online.

Category is Books

Glasgow, UK

Home to Glasgow’s most-known locally-owned, queer bookstore, Category is Books is a favorite among residents and students of Glasgow. Founded by a genderqueer married couple, Category is Books has been open since 2018 and focuses on literature, comics and zines that features queer people. They also have a pay-it-forward program, for those who may not be in a position to buy books but still have a passion for finding themselves in literature.

Gay’s The Word

London, UK

Gay’s the Word in London is most known as the UK’s oldest queer owned bookshop, opened in 1979. The staff is small, but driven and passionate about books, and the spot is a favorite among anyone who visits London. It is also conveniently located next to The British Museum, University of London and King’s Cross Station!

More Resources

Black-Owned Bookshops in the UK

Black-Owned Bookshops by State in the US

Search Engine for Locally-Owned Bookstores for US and Canadian Residents

Indie Bookstores in India with Online Ordering Options

Independent Bookstores Worldwide

List of Many, Many More Indie Bookstores

ANNE CAYWOOD is a junior at Arizona State University, pursuing a career in English. She is also a full-time barista at a locally owned coffee shop, and in turn, is a bit of a coffee snob and loves promoting local businesses. When she is not working or writing, you can find her reading every dark academic novel she can get her hands on, watching cat videos on YouTube, and playing video games. She is also a volunteer intern for the literary magazine Sepia Quarterly.