By Kristan Schiller
Hooray for independent bookstores! According to a survey by the American Booksellers Association, sales at these stores rose about 8 percent in 2012 over 2011, despite the growth of E-book readers and tablets. There’s even a movement afloat called Indies First, an annual event that began in 2010 when close to 300 authors, including Sherman Alexie and James Patterson, gathered together in support of small bookstores and manned the registers to sell books at their local bookstore on Small Business Saturday. But book browsing at these literary treasure troves in the company of other in-the-flesh humans is a rewarding activity any day of the year.
Here are some independent bookstores across the country that are well worth a drive in your independent spirit of a car: the Sonic Hatchback. With available dealer-installed body graphics, you can think like an artist and make your own mark. Or transform your ride into a concert hall with an available Kicker Amplifier/Subwoofer. You’ll find plenty of music to play at these cultural hotspots.
Chapter One, Ketchum, ID
Stocking everything from Idaho authors to Shakespeare classics, this store has been in business for more than 40 years, and also serves as a ticket outlet for nearby shows, concerts and events. There’s a sizeable used book section, too, and a large collection of rare and out-of-print works by Ernest Hemingway, who’s buried in the local cemetery.
Book People, Austin, TX
This icon in the middle of downtown Austin—which doubles as a coffee shop and a jewelry store—is a local hangout and a favored stop for authors (everyone from Bill Clinton to David Sedaris). The shop has also been known to host birthday parties for neighborhood families and sell items to benefit the local homeless population.
Strand Books, New York, NY
When the first Strand Books opened in 1927, it was one of 48 bookstores that made up what was once known as New York’s Book Row, which extended from Union Square to Astor Place. Today, the Strand is the lonesome wolf, with all the others having closed shop. It moved to its current location on Broadway from Fourth Avenue in the 1950s and has since expanded its space from 4,000 square feet to 55,000 square feet.
Proudly family-owned, The Strand houses more than 2.5 million used, new and rare books.
City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco, CA
Co-founded in 1953 by Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, City Lights is a funky outpost in San Francisco’s North Beach specializing in the arts, politics and world literature. The store is also home to the City Lights Foundation, which publishes a handful of titles and became well-known in the 1950s for publishing Allen Ginsberg’s famous Howl and Other Poems. In 2001, City Lights was made an official historic landmark.
The Tattered Cover, Denver, CO
Visitors to the Tattered Cover will find plenty of cushy couches and comfy chairs for lounging around and reading your favorite titles. There’s a coffee shop, free Wi-Fi and a newsstand with international titles, as well as an excellent selection of used books and bargain editions. This Denver institution has become a popular gathering place among locals and the literary set.
Check out some of these other notable indies, too!
Prairie Lights, Iowa City, IA
Square Books, Oxford, MS
Faulkner House Books, New Orleans, LA
Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN
Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL
The Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, WA
Politics and Prose, Washington, D.C.
Kramerbooks and Afterwords Café, Washington, D.C.
The Spotty Dog Books & Ale, Hudson, NY
Skylight Books, Los Angeles, CA
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Kristan Schiller, a Travel Editor at Fodor’s, is also a blogger and writer whose articles have appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Town & Country, Organic Spa Magazine and Entrepreneur, as well as on the Huffington Post and Salon.com.