Throughout 2023, I visited eight new-to-me indie bookstores, one new-to-me chain, and several old favorites. While I always try to visit new bookstores when I’m out and about, last year I happened to travel more than I normally would—which translated to getting to visit more indie bookstores than usual!
I traveled to London, Seattle, Florida (twice), Cape Cod, and to visit family in three different towns in Pennsylvania. On most of these trips, I was able to visit at least one bookstore, usually an indie. One even had a bookstore cat (keep reading for photos). I spent plenty of time in local indies, too, but I think they deserve their own post. Stay tuned for that closer to Independent Bookstore day in April.
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Indie Bookstores in Seattle, Washington
In March, I traveled to Seattle for the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference. The AWP book fair is quite the sight to behold—a book lover’s paradise for sure. Since this was a work trip, I didn’t have too much time to explore the city, but I made a point to visit a few bookstores and a comic shop.
Elliott Bay Book Company
Elliott Bay is one of the largest indie bookstores I’ve visited. Maybe not quite as big as a typical Barnes and Noble, but close! They have a substantive science fiction and fantasy section, and an LGBTQ section in a prominent location. I was there too late to enjoy the cafe, but the space was beautiful.
Left Bank Books
Left Bank Books is a small anarchist bookstore in Pike Place Market. But don’t let the size fool you—there are a lot of books packed into that space! It’s a really charming little bookstore, and they even have a cozy reading nook on the second floor.
Golden Age Collectibles
Another small but mighty shop! Beyond comics, Golden Age has a great selection of collectibles and board games in Pike Place Market. They don’t have a huge selection of back issues, but I was able to find a few variant covers on my wishlist, and the staff was amazingly friendly and helpful.
This year the seminal Star Wars fan event, Star Wars Celebration, was held in London. Yes, I flew to the UK to attend a con celebrating fictional space wizards. Outside the convention, our sightseeing schedule was pretty packed. We did manage to make a brief visit to the British Library (awe-inspiring) and the prevalent UK chain Waterstones. I would have loved to visit Forbidden Planet beyond their convention, but it just wasn’t in the cards—next time!
Despite being a chain (whose parent company also now owns Barnes and Noble), Waterstones is still a pretty charming bookstore. It reminded me a lot of Borders with how cozy it felt and the breadth of selection.
Indie Bookstores in Cape Code, Massachusetts
My mother had been wanting a family vacation for awhile, so she organized this trip to Cape Cod. The Cape is gorgeous, and there are so many bookstores there, I could have spent the entire week bookstore hopping. I would have, if I’d had a car while there!
Although small, I was impressed with Provincetown Bookshop‘s selection of speculative fiction. The store felt highly curated in the best way, making excellent use of the limited space. I imagine it must be difficult in a tourist town to cultivate a selection the appeals to both locals and travelers, but there’s something for everyone here.
Bunch of Grapes Bookstore
My mother dragged me to Martha’s Vineyard, but I ran away to this delightful bookstore and hung out all day with the bookstore cat, Bookmark. It was amazing. Bunch of Grapes is a bright and cheerful shop with two floors of books and bookish gifts. And a cat, in case I didn’t mention that. Bookmark is quite the charmer, and I watched him wander from patron to patron, getting all the scritches he could possible want, and then a nap under a display table.
Indie Bookstores in Eastern Pennsylvania
Although I make my home in Pittsburgh now, I’m originally from Coatesville, a little steel town outside of Philly. My spouse is from an even smaller coal town near Hazelton, so we find ourselves out that way quite a bit to visit our families. And a few of our favorite local bookstores!
Pocket Books (Lancaster)
Located in an old house with an expansive porch, Pocket Books is a welcoming, homey store with a great selection. Once you’re done browsing and have purchased your new paper treasures, you can find a spot on the porch and read as long as you’d like. This store also gets bonus points from me for stocking Always Coming Home by Ursula K. Le Guin, my favorite book of all time. (Yes, I bought another copy, because it’s a new edition!)
Pressed Coffee and Books (Pottsville)
More coffee shop than bookstore, Pressed Coffee and Books is nevertheless a charming space with beautiful decor and a back room full of used books. We visited in November, so it was the perfect weather for a hot chai latte. I’m very picky about my masala chai (make it spicy please), and this one lived up to all my expectations. The shop’s focus on community really comes through in the atmosphere and the staff’s friendliness.
Wellington Square Bookshop (Eagle)
Wellington Square is quickly becoming one of my favorite indies. I wrote about my first visit two years ago in more detail, but I had just as much fun browsing this time. I picked up the 7 Stories Press box set of Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents, and could have easily spent another hundred dollars (oh how I wanted to).