Proof positive that print is anything but dead, we present a baker’s dozen of our favorite small bookshops across Corcoran markets nationwide.
These stores are remarkable for their amazing selections, passionate staff, welcoming atmosphere, and most importantly, a sense of wonder in each—the sensation that there’s something new and unexpected waiting to be discovered on the shelves. Housed in everything from a 1920s pharmacy to a former bank vault, these bookstores are owned by well-known authors, a high school dropout, a former surfer, and quite a few husband-and-wife pairs, all dedicated to the printed page.
Photo courtesy of The Corner Bookstore.
Manhattan | The Corner Bookstore
This is the ultimate neighborhood bookstore, with all the flourishes that make it a Carnegie Hill mainstay, ever since its opening in 1978. Customers, including children, can open a house account, allowing regulars to simply say, “Put it on my account.” Free delivery for doorman buildings on the Upper East Side.
1313 Madison Ave, New York, NY
Brooklyn | Books Are Magic
After Cobble Hill lost its independent bookstore in 2016, novelist Emma Straub and her husband decided to open their own shop the following year, just a few blocks away. Their mural proclaiming “Books Are Magic” is a popular Instagram backdrop, beckoning shoppers from near and far.
225 Smith Street, Brooklyn, NY
East End | Black Cat Books
Founded in 1996 in Sag Harbor, this eclectic shop relocated to Shelter Island in 2006. With its particularly well-curated cache of used books, Black Cat Books’ wares range from $2 paperbacks to $2,000 vintage collectibles, and it’s known for its strong selection of fine art and photography titles.
54 N. Ferry Road, Shelter Island, NY
Hudson Valley | Rough Draft Bar & Books
As its punny name might indicate, Rough Draft Books sells craft beer alongside its books. Opened in 2017 by a couple of former Brooklynites, this bright shop at Kingston’s Four Corners has plenty of seating inside and out—perfect for sipping an IPA with your newest read.
82 John Street, Kingston, NY
Photo courtesy of Books & Books.
South Florida | Books & Books
This local chain started in 1982 and its flagship store in Coral Gables is set in a historic 1927 building centered around a large courtyard café. The affiliated branch in Key West is co-owned by beloved author Judy Blume and her husband, George Cooper.
265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables, FL
Charlotte | Park Road Books
The queen of Charlotte’s independent bookstore scene, opened in 1977, is owned by two longtime booksellers with deep publishing ties. The store has a wide-ranging and well-curated selection, as well as a full slate of author events. Plus, the bookstore is canine friendly, with a store dog, Yola.
4139 Park Road, Charlotte NC
Greater Columbus | The Book Loft of German Village
This labyrinth of 32 rooms of books, opened in 1977, stretches the length of a city block and is housed in a set of pre-Civil War buildings in Columbus’s German Village. Maps of the store are available to help guide you or instead, choose to get lost in the book maze for a true treasure hunt.
631 South Third Street, Columbus, OH
Chicago | Quinby’s Bookstore
Self-described as specialists of “unusual publications, aberrant periodicals, saucy comic booklets, and assorted fancies,” Quimby’s has been selling weird, independently published stuff, including a whole lot of ‘zines, in Wicker Park, since 1991.
1854 W. North Ave., Chicago, IL
Denver Metro | Tattered Cover Book Store
This Denver chain of independent bookstores has changed owners and locations several times since its founding in 1971, but one thing has remained constant—it’s always been a haven for the city’s bibliophiles. The Tattered Cover recently launched a curatorial service in partnership with the Hue-Man Experience, which was Denver’s first Black-owned bookstore.
1991 Wazee, Suite 100, Denver, CO
Phoenix/Scottsdale | Changing Hands
Started in Tempe in 1974, Changing Hands opened a Phoenix branch in 2014. At the time, Phoenix had no full-service bookstore (one that sold new, not just used, books), as its chain and independent shops had all closed. More have joined the scene since, but Changing Hands remains a favorite.
300 West Camelback Road, Phoenix, AZ
Photo courtesy of Green Apple Books.
San Francisco | Green Apple Books
A Richmond District institution, having opened in 1967, Green Apple has one of the best (and unionized) staff anywhere. It has an immense selection of used and new books—large enough to be comprehensive, but also chosen with discernment. Staff picks here are legendary.
520 Clement Street, San Francisco, CA
Photo by Lex Voight.
Southern California | The Last Bookstore
This super photogenic bookstore opened in its spectacular Los Angeles bank vault location in 2011. The owner predicted a three-year run—hence the ironic name—but it survived and thrived. With installation art made of books throughout, including the oft-photographed book tunnel, this is also the largest new-and-used bookstore in California.
453 Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA
Hawaii | Talk Story Bookstore
Billed as the westernmost bookstore in the United States, Talk Story Bookstore is named for a Hawaiian phrase meaning “to chat.” It’s a friendly place, but don’t bother the boss—a cat named Celeste. Started in 2002, Talk Story was the only bookstore on Kauai from 2011 to 2020.
3785 Hanapepe Road, Hanapepe, HI