Tag Archives: Independent bookstores



A friend of mine and I were discussing my blog post from last Friday – Four THINGS I LOVE AND THINGS I HATE ABOUT BARNES & NOBLE – and we bantered around some thoughts about what makes a bookstore, a good bookstore, and what necessities must an ideal bookstore have.  So I present to you my dream bookstore and the necessities to make it such.


It seems silly but a good bookstore needs to have books, lots of them!  I want a variety of books both in depth and breadth.  There is no way to have every book, but there should be enough variety that readers can find both the latest new release and books that sometimes fly under the radar.  I love to discover the newest book by a favorite author, but I also get excited to discover a new, hidden gem.  It might be a new or new-to-me mystery series or something outside my usual reading parameters.  There is something magical about finding a hidden treasure of a new book while perusing the store shelves.

One definite requirement though would be if a new release is sold and it is part of a series, the first book in the series must be available.  I know that there are other anal retentive readers like myself who must read books in order.

Places to read, relax, and revel in books
This is one thing that independent bookstores do so much better than the big chain stores.  They are full of nooks and corners to curl up and read in.  My dream bookstore would be full of couches and chairs, window seats and benches, stools and ladders.  Readers want places to sit and enjoy books.  As my friend noted, books are expensive.  Readers need places to read first chapters to see if they want to purchase the book, and places to spread out potential purchases so the reader can weigh options and negotiate what to take home and what to return to the shelves.

The quirky bookstores that are cramped and crowded are perfect for discovering a hidden gem or secret treasure, but those aren’t my every day bookstores.  I want a store with space to read, to think, and to dream.

A café . . . or bar
To me books and a cup of tea with a sweet treat go hand in hand.   I love to curl up on the couch at home with a cup of tea and a good book.  There is something soothing and relaxing about the combination and I think it reminds us to slow down and enjoy the moment.  You can’t slam down a cup of a hot beverage, just as you can’t race through a book.  Both need to be savored and enjoyed.

I recently read an article about a bookstore-bar combination.  I would also enjoy that but since alcohol tends to put me to sleep, I might not make it through my books as quickly.  My husband however thought this was a great idea!

A community feel
I think bookstores should be a place where people can gather and learn new things.  I love to attend author signings; it is wonderful to meet an admired author but I find their discussions and reading interpretations add so much more to my appreciation of the book.  Bookstores should provide book clubs and discussion groups, children’s enrichment programs, and story times for all ages.  Bookstores can do even more.  Game nights, writers’ workshops, and even study groups can all find a home in a bookstore; it is a place that can be a gathering spot for those who love the written word and have a passion for what it says.

I think there is a very real dearth in our society for people of all ages to come together and learn, have intelligent and lively discussions, and share a love and appreciation for literature.


So let’s get rid of the toys, the fluorescent lighting, the hard wooden chairs, and the extraneous space fillers.  Bring back the bookstores.



I’ve spent every afternoon this past week wandering, reading, and writing in the wonderful BookPeople Independent Bookstore in Austin, Texas.  I consider myself a bit of a connoisseur of bookstores and I know what I like, and don’t like, in a bookstore.  Here are four things that I love about independent bookstores.


Lots of books but specific specialties
A bookstore needs to have books, obviously, but too often the larger chain books stores have a huge variety of different genres but little depth within the genre.  BookPeople has an amazing children’s section; Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville, Illinois, highlights new fiction; and Murder by the Book in Houston . . . well, that is self-explanatory.  What I love is that these bookstores realize that they can’t be everything to everyone so they embrace one or a few genres and really provide great depth and understanding to that genre.

I have also found the even if a certain genre isn’t their genre, independent bookstores can provide books that a bit off the beaten path.  I find the mystery section at BookPeople to focus less on cozy and mainstream mysteries, but instead I have found more international authors or less known series.  It was at BookPeople that I discovered Mark Pryor, Brad Parks, and M. L. Longworth.

Employees are true book lovers
I think there is a box on the application for independent bookstores that states employees MUST love books.  I find that employees that I have spoken with are well-read and happy to share advice or suggestions, but they also understand that sometimes customers just want to peruse.  Some employees of the larger chain bookstores are knowledgeable, but I often find that they aren’t as passionate about what they selling as I am about what I am reading.

I love to talk to a bookseller and state a few of my favorite authors.  A good bookseller can understand the interests of a reader based on favorites and provide ideas for new authors.

Not extraneous “junk”
Independent bookstores sell books . . . not covers for Nooks, not Harry Potter Legos, not action figures or educational games . . . books.  Precious floorspace is filled with books.  Now, you will find the occasional writing journal, books themed t-shirts, and quirky tchotchkes that compliment a book purchase or book gift, but the real reason anyone enters the door is to look at books!

Welcoming places to read, enjoy, and get lost in the books
Chairs and couches stuck in odd corners, quiet nooks to settle in, stools to ascend tall shelves or sit on as you investigate the lower shelves.  The environment has soothing classic music playing and the atmosphere is one of relaxation and enjoyment.  Not as quiet as a library, but still soothing and inviting.

Independent bookstores also seem to have the best cafes!  Tasty treats and delectable drinks to enjoy while reading.  Books, chocolate, and tea . . .  ah, perfection!

How about you?  What are your favorite independent bookstores?