When last I left you, we were bookstore-tripping through cosmopolitan Washington, D.C., and having a grand, nonpartisan time of it. Perhaps you thought my previous post a bit too Mid-Atlantic-centric for your browsing sensibilities.
But here’s the truth: The original blog post scrolled endlessly, and I didn’t want your eyeballs to wander elsewhere. I decided the best thing to do would be to use the Mason-Dixon Line as my approximate cut-off point for Part 2 of our literary road trip. I suspect the bookish meccas I’m about to entice you with offer just as many amenities as their northern kin.
Before you hit the road (or your nearest airport), soak up some independent-bookstore good karma, southern style. And if by chance you’re using an automobile to journey down south, be sure to take a water/refreshment break at South of the Border (between Rowland, North Carolina, and Dillon, South Carolina). Tell Pedro I sent you, and that I’m a big fan of his billboards on I-95…
Do Some Bookstore Browsing in Artsy Asheville, North Carolina: Sorry to disappoint you if you were expecting an overview of the Raleigh-Duram/Research Triangle area. Asheville ricochets between references as both the “Paris of the South” and the “San Francisco of the East,” which is good enough for me. Here is your bookstore-hopping itinerary when visiting Asheville:
How can you resist a bookstore named Malaprops (55 Haywood Street)? The owners’ sense of humor is revealed by a sign displayed in their spacious general bookstore: “Unattended children will be given espresso and a free kitten.” Anyone want to take a road trip with me to Asheville? Readers wanted…
Browse the well-cared selection of used and rare books at The Captain’s Bookshelf (31 Page Avenue). The bookstore’s inventory includes many signed books, first editions, and even leather-bound tomes. Perhaps it would be best to occupy your children elsewhere while visiting this venue.
The Battery Park Book Exchange (& Champagne Bar) had me at Champagne (à votre santé)! If you’re looking for a refined and cushy used-bookstore experience, add this one not just to your vacation plans but to your bucket list. And get this–the address is 1 Page Avenue (I kid you not). Even more enticing, dogs are allowed to browse the aisles.
The sister bookstore of Malaprops, Downtown Books and News (67 N. Lexington Avenue) is a rare-and-used bookstore with an expansive collection of micro-published magazines and literary journals. True to its sibling’s sense of humor, Downtown Books and News is known as “the grumbliest used bookstore in downtown Asheville.”
Pick Up a Friendly Book in Charleston, South Carolina: The oldest city in South Carolina was deemed “most friendly” by high-profile travel magazines such as Travel + Leisure (in 2011) and Conde Nast Traveler (in 2013). When visiting the town named for a British monarch, steer clear of Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million, and allow these independent gems to charm your credit card from its wallet:
If blue is your color, Blue Bicycle Books (420 King Street) is the bookstore for you. Voted as Charleston’s best used bookstore five consecutive years, Blue Bicycle Books carries 50,000 volumes, including rare and local books. If you’re into military history or the Civil War, literary treasures await you here.
Here Be Books & Games (4650 Ladson Road in Summerville, slightly north of historic Charleston) is a great destination for book lovers and old-school gamers. We’re talking boards and cards, not PlayStations and Xboxes.
If you or your children want to play a game, the good folks at this store will set up a card table for you. The majority of their book inventory consists of used and out-of-print books, so great deals are available for purchase.
For serious cookbook collectors and amateur chefs, the Heirloom Bookshop (54 1/2 Broad Street) is a must-visit stop while walking the cobblestone streets and alleys of Charleston. Right next to the the store’s rare, out-of-print and new cookbooks, you’ll find heirloom plants and seeds. Foodies are welcome to browse, y’all!
Atlanta’s Independent Bookstores Are Not Gone With the Wind: It’s no surprise that a city as meandering as Atlanta, Georgia, would have a thriving independent bookstore scene. According to CBS Atlanta, here are the bookstores to visit while you’re toddling around the town that caused a whole heap of trouble for Scarlett O’Hara and her reputation:
When visiting the “funky-cool” East Atlanta Village, a très hip part of town, stop by Bound To Be Read Books (481-B Flat Shoals Ave. SE). The owners do right by their community by making donations to local schools and youth clubs.
Charis Books & More is the country’s oldest independent feminist bookstore (1189 Euclid Ave. NE). It carries children’s books, feminist & cultural studies, and LGBT fiction & nonfiction. In Greek mythology, Charis comes from the Charites, minor goddesses who personified Grace and Beauty.
Situated in downtown Decatur Square, Little Shop of Stories (133A E. Court Square) is a children’s bookstore. It offers respite from your touristy walking-around via comfy couches for the kids, story time, author appearances, and more. FYI, Decatur is ever-so-slightly northeast of downtown Atlanta…
South Florida, a Year-Round Tourist Mecca, Blazes with Bookstore Heat: Miami and other nearby cities in southern Florida continue to mix pleasure with pleasure all year long. But there are notable independent bookstores still going strong, despite competition from the “big boxes.”
Whether you seek relief from the swelter or a good book to read, add these stops to your journey through sunny southern Florida:
Books & Books is a prolific independent-bookstore chain with locations in Bal Harbour, Coral Gables, Ft. Lauderdale, Grand Cayman (um, technically, not in Florida), Miami Beach, Miami International Airport, and Westhampton Beach.
The Books & Books in Coral Gables (265 Aragon Avenue) is an old, historic building from the 1920s and a cultural mecca of free workshops and lectures. What are you waiting for? Go now!
When immersed in the South Florida experience of Miami’s Coconut Grove neighborhood, don’t walk on by The Bookstore in the Grove (3390 Mary Street). Story time for the kids is every Friday afternoon at 4pm. They also host local-author nights and contests for young writers!
According to my online sources, Key West Island Books (513 1/2 Fleming Street) “is one of the last surviving bookstores in Key West.” Obviously, this venue isn’t a quick drive from the mainland. But how can you resist a bookstore that associates itself with literary icons such as Ernest Hemingway, Robert Frost, and Tennessee Williams? Plan this visit as a Key West excursion…
If you’re looking for a good deal on books of all genres and barely used children’s books while traipsing around the Ft. Lauderdale area, you’ll adore the Big Apple Bookstore (5461 N. Federal Highway). This bookseller also carries CDs, DVDs, “and once in a while, something else.” At Big Apple Bookstore, buying and trading of books keeps its shelves replenished and interesting.
This concludes my “East Coast” virtual tour of independent bookstores. Summer is a great time for road-tripping, but honestly, you can plan a fun excursion almost any time of the year. That said, what part of the U.S. would y’all like me to tackle next for a future blog post? With unlimited access to the Internets, I’m happy to be of service. Enjoy your (literary) travels this summer!
Lori Shapiro is the owner of By All Writes LLC, a business-to-business (B2B) writing, editing, and research company in Marlton, New Jersey. She revels in shielding her clients from the pain of writing their own print and web marketing or educational copy. Please call Lori Shapiro at 856-810-9764 or email By All Writes LLC at firstname.lastname@example.org for a no-obligation project quote today!