As if coveting the next Ann Patchett novel wasn’t enticing enough, imagine perusing the aisles of the very shop that she owns. Bookstores owned and operated by authors celebrate reading in a way that is precious to fellow bibliophiles. Here is a sampling of indie bookstores that will bring you one step closer to your favorite wordsmith. (Bonus points if you happen to spot the writers-in-residence themselves.)
Books Are Magic
225 Smith Street, Brooklyn, NY
Tucked in the Cobble Hill section, this five-year-old bookstore is the brainchild of contemporary novelist Emma Straub who co-owns the shop with her husband Michael Fusco-Straub. The NYC venue draws plenty of foot traffic from locals and visitors alike, at a corner location that attracts passersby (check out the mural beckoning book lovers inside). Not only is the store full of great reads and Books Are Magic merch, but the event calendar teems with weekly readings from established and up-and-coming writers, including one from the proprietor herself. Straub also makes a point of stocking titles that tie into author visits to Brooklyn schools, making her shop a true community resource.
3900 Hillsboro Pike, Suite 14, Nashville, TN
Nashville may be known as Music City, but it’s also the home of great books, all thanks to long-time fiction and nonfiction writer Ann Patchett. She and business partner Karen Hayes opened the shop in 2011 following the closure of the city’s last two bookstores. Rather than replicate the mall-sized venues of their predecessors, Patchett made it her mission to create an environment more aligned with independent retailing: One that celebrates the larger-than-life love of reading with a small-town vibe. The store’s moniker is a salute to Greek mythology, providing a modern-day oasis where literature and learning reigns supreme. Patchett also expanded the store’s brand with a Parnassus Books/Hudson Booksellers in the Nashville airport (due to re-open with a new look in 2023) and an online magazine called Musing that highlights staff picks, book clubs, and the latest goings on in the book world.
Books & Books @ The Studios of Key West
533 Eaton Street, Key West, FL
If you grew up reading Blubber and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, then you already have a soft spot in your heart for Judy Blume. Factor in the laidback Key West vibe, and your decision to visit the independent bookstore she and her husband created is a no-brainer. Opened in 2016, the neighborhood bookstore partnered with a local nonprofit dedicated to furthering the arts. The island’s rich literary history is brought to life on the shop’s walls, where the words of dozens of local writers have been immortalized, from Ernest Hemingway to Tennessee Williams. In addition to showcasing writers with author readings and other events, the store honors emerging artists by stocking a full line of art supplies that may inspire you to create your own masterpiece.
2115 West 21st Street, Minneapolis, MN
Fans of The Sentence, now nominated for the 2022 Women’s Prize for fiction and written by Louise Erdrich, will enjoy visiting the very place that inspired her latest book. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author gets bonus points for creating a retail space dedicated to honoring Native people with a special emphasis on Indigenous American titles. Upon entering the shop, a handmade wooden canoe suspended from the ceiling is impossible to miss. Books aren’t the only star attraction at this burgeoning shop; handcrafted jewelry, woven baskets, wooden birdhouses, apparel and other gifts fashioned from reclaimed materials are available for purchase and complement the extensive inventory. When perusing the shelves, be sure to check out staff picks as well as the notable selections from their pets, including Erdrich’s own pooch Ryoga.
418 Montezuma Avenue, Santa Fe, NM
If you are patiently waiting for George M.M. Martin to finish cranking out The Winds of Winter, you can satisfy your GOT fix at this destination store. In addition to carrying autographed and collectible sci-fi and fantasy titles, the shop boasts fun gift ideas, including calendars, coloring books, games, and other memorabilia. Grab a cup of locally brewed coffee at the indoor café as you page through your treasured tomes or, if time permits, head next door to the Jean Cocteau Cinema (also owner by Martin) and take in a select film or special event in a busy space that plays host to the vibrant Santa Fe arts community.