Monday, September 13, 2010

Best US Bookstores Still Alive and Kickin'

As we know, every year, more and more bookstores are forced to close their doors--and it's no longer just the little indie sellers that are being kicked to the curb. Big chain stores like Borders and Barnes & Noble have also joined the ranks of those honorably discharged.

Yet, there are still some fantastic stores that are alive and kicking, as Flavorwire pointed out last week with it's round-up of the Top 10 Bookstores in the U.S.:
Bookstores are dying. They’re dying because of jerks who are too cheap to buy a hardcover, or even a paperback, and too lazy to get a library card. Guys like the one from Julie Bosman's NY Times article, and this guy, and this guy. Even before we break into the eBooks discussion, think about everything else that reading is supposed to contend with these days — movies, video games, television, and the internet. And now that there’s competition even within the “book” medium, it’s no wonder that Barnes and Noble is closing a four-level shop (for those of you in New York, the Union Square Megastore is safe) and Borders agonizes through round after round of layoffs and store closings.

After the jump, please shed a tear, observe a moment of silence, then head to one of the top bookstores in the United States, and buy something fer chrissakes.

First, a memorial of sorts. The Gotham Book Mart closed in 2007, ending a storied role in literary culture. You can read more about it here, but please support your local bookstore (and our favorites below) so smart, creative people don’t run out of places to hang out and find dates.

Powell’s in Portland, OR opened in 1971. Since then, they’ve managed to open several locations city-wide (including two specialty shops) and, more importantly, build an independent online marketplace to rival Amazon’s book selection. The building itself is built like a casino — a complicated web of rooms that trap you in front of merchandise. It’s not that bad though; their color-coded map makes it easy to find what you want.

With arguably the best website name (, Partners & Crime Mystery in New York City pays homage to every mystery novel. Ever. They have an astounding collection of rare, out-of-print, and first edition books to choose from, as well as the most popular mysteries of today. Because they occupy such a niche market (niche in the sense that it’s one subject, not so in that mysteries are an huge part of book sales) P&C’s services are tailored to each customer. Said awesome website boasts that more than 85 percent of their sales are to repeat or referral customers.

Secret Headquarters in Los Angeles, CA holds the widest selection of comics you’re likely to find in a bookstore — from weekly superhero rags to rare graphic novels. But this is not your Jeff Albertson comic store. The staff is known for being some of the friendliest comics nerdz around. SHQ is such a great place that it was the only US location allowed on The Guardian‘s list of the Top Ten Bookshop(pe?)s in the world. With all the writers & artists, inkers and colorists making appearances, it’s little wonder.

[Other stores featured? Politics and Prose in Washington, DC; The Strand in NYC; City Lights Booksellers in San Francisco; The Tattered Cover in Denver, CO; Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City, IA; and The Elliot Bay Book Company in Seattle, WA.]

See the entire post HERE
I haven't been to most of these stores (The Strand, however, I was at just this past weekend selling some books ), but they all seem to warrant a visit for various reasons. Particularly the legendary Powell's bookstore in Portland, Oregon. A color-coded map of the store? Count me in!

I think I'm going to have to start building vacations around famed bookstores. Especially since my fave bookstore, Commonwealth Books, in Boston, MA closed a couple years ago. I found some amazing rare books there--it was such a gem *sigh* I guess I now must explore other options!

What's YOUR favorite bookstore? Any recommendations to add to the list?


  1. I've been a Tattered Cover girl since my misspent youth in Denver. I've followed the store from their early (tiny) incarnations to their present-day fabulosity. Getting to read from my own work at TC was like being seven all over again!

  2. I just rediscovered my love for Strand last week, oddly enough. I've decided that I need to stop in there at least twice a month, despite it being nowhere near the office.

    A bookstore vacation sounds awesome. And why shouldn't we focus vacations around bookstores? It's what most important, after all ;)

  3. I have been to Powell's bookstore in Portland and it is indeed amazing! While the color-coding makes it easy to find what you're looking for, the layout of the store also allows you to simply wander and lose yourself in the stacks if that's what you choose to do. Since it is also located in a great city, i definitely recommend building a vacation around Powell's!