All the New (and Old) Indie Bookstores I Visited in 2023

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.

This post contains affiliate links to, an online bookstore that financially supports independent bookstores. If you buy from my links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you have a local indie bookstore, consider supporting them instead!

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.

London, England

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!

Provincetown Bookshop

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).

Two Indie Bookstores that Focus on Speculative Fiction

Happy Independent Bookstore Day! I’m celebrating by supporting two stores that focus on speculative fiction: Sistah SciFi and Mysterious Galaxy.

In recent years, my local stores have grown their SFF sections, but there’s nothing quite like the depth and breadth of a store that focuses only on spec fic. Unfortunately for me, both of these shops are located on the west coast (I’m on the east). But fortunately for all of us, both offer many virtual events and ways to be involved from both near and far.

Sistah SciFi

Sistah SciFi is an online bookstore that promotes speculative fiction by Black and Indigenous women authors. I found their fantastic Instagram account while bopping around one day, and was impressed by their selection. Both their Instagram account and website are great resources for discovering new and classic books by Black and Indigenous women. Watch out, because your TBR pile might topple over with all the added books you’re going to stack on top!

The store also hosts a number of events and virtual book clubs, including one for comics and graphic novels! And did I mention they also have a book vending machine?! Located in the Oaklandia Cafe x Bakery in Oakland, California, the book vending machine carries a rotating selection of titles for children and adults.

Support Sistah SciFi on Indie Bookstore Day by making a purchase, following them on social media, and/or telling your friends about them!

Mysterious Galaxy

While I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting Mysterious Galaxy in person at their San Diego shop, I have been to their booth in at least one convention (Star Wars Celebration Anaheim 2022, to be precise). I’ve also attended a few of their virtual events and purchased signed books from them.

Each month, they offer a book subscription box for SFF and cozy mystery books that includes titles, bookmarks, and other goodies curated by or made by their booksellers! I think including art from their booksellers in the form of bookmarks is a really nice touch.

But if you, like me, have an ever-growing pile of books to read and the thought of a new mystery book each month triggers your existential dread over the fact that you will never be able to read all the books—and what if you miss a really, really good one?—be sure to peruse the store’s robust staff picks page. It might still contain more books than you can read in a year, but at least you can more purposefully prioritize your next read that way.

Support Mysterious Galaxy on Indie Bookstore Day by making a purchase, following them on social media, and/or telling your friends about them!

Do you have a favorite independent bookstore that focuses on speculative fiction? I’d love to hear about it! Send me a tweet (and tag the bookstore!) or Instagram comment or DM so I can feature your fave in a future post.

Indie Bookstore Highlight: Wellington Square Bookshop in Exton, PA

One of my favorite things about traveling to new places is visiting new-to-me independent bookstores! Two weekends ago I stopped at Wellington Square Bookshop in Exton, PA while visiting my family in Coatesville.

Wellington Square Bookshop opened in 2005 as a primarily used and rare bookstore, but expanded in 2009 to new books and gift items. They occupy a beautiful, expansive space in Eagleview Town Center, a somewhat hidden development surrounded by apartments and condos.

The store’s simple facade makes it look much smaller than it actually is, and belies the fact that this hidden gem is bursting with personality (although the stone lions guarding the door are your first clue). The first thing you see upon entering the store is a large fountain with goldfish spouting water from their mouths. I’ve certainly never seen any other book shops with fountains!

To the left is a nook with baby books and items like stuffed animals and specialty blocks, and beyond that is a nook full of unique cards and more gift items. I am an adult woman in my thirties, but I very nearly purchased a set of constellation blocks. As I’m writing this, I’m regretting that I didn’t.

New fiction and nonfiction are spread out on tables to the right of the entrance, and a glass case displays rare and valuable books. The small cafe is front and center, with a nice selection of pastries and candies in addition to drinks.

One thing I loved about this store was how each section felt like a room, and each room felt like a new discovery. There are plentiful nooks and crannies with cozy vintage chairs, couches, and tables. The furniture is well-worn, clearly used, but not shabby; it’s all perfect for curling up with a good book.

The mix of new and carefully curated used books lends the store an air of mystery, and the models of hot air balloons hanging from the ceiling lend an air of whimsy. I am a sucker for tin ceilings, and this store has a beautiful one.

Since this is a blog about speculative fiction, I’d be remiss not to mention the science fiction and fantasy section. While small, there was a surprisingly good variety and I found several authors I’d never heard of before. If discovering new authors isn’t the best thing about visiting an indie bookstore, I don’t know what is.

Wellington Square also has a small but mighty children’s section and a fairly robust young adult section, along with an impressive array of signed first editions for sale.

Although the best part of any indie bookstore is its unique selection of books, I also love seeing what gift items indie stores carry. If I didn’t have a large dog (and therefore a very dusty house), I would have absolutely brought home the book-shaped light I found. In short, I could have spent a lot more money than I did.

As it stands, I’m quite thrilled with my purchase of a new book and a handsome little etched glass globe, and I’m excited to stop in the next time I visit my family!

Wellington Square Bookshop also has an online store, so if you’re interested in checking them out virtually, you can do so here! Also be sure to follow them on Twitter and Instagram!

An Ode to My Favorite Bookstore for Indie Bookstore Day

This Saturday, April 24, is Independent Bookstore Day.

Indie Bookstores across the United States will be celebrating with special events, giveaways, unique merchandise only available on Saturday, and the same great customer service and care you always find from your local bookstore.

The Independent Bookstore Day logo, featuring a small stack of books floating thanks to 3 balloons.

As a bookish kid, I loved bookstores. Any kind of bookstore. Mall bookstores, Christian bookstores, the big Barnes & Noble an hour away I only got to visit on special occasions. But most of all, I loved our local independent bookstore, which unfortunately closed in 2016.

When I wasn’t reading, I was likely begging my parents to take me to the Chester County Book and Music Company, a huge (28,000 square feet!) independent book and music store in West Chester, Pennsylvania, about a half hour’s drive from my home in nearby Coatesville.

While CCBMC wasn’t as large as, say, The Strand in New York City or Powell’s in Portland, it was bigger than your average Barnes & Noble. To give you a sense of just how large it was, there’s an LA Fitness in the shopping plaza where the bookstore used to be—and the bookstore took up that entire space.

The only other nearby bookstore was a Walden Books in the mall about twenty minutes away, but its small, corporate layout paled in comparison to the massive rooms stacked with books, magazines, and CDs at the CCBMC.

It even had a restaurant, called the Magnolia Grill, so that shoppers could take a break from the work of browsing the huge store and get a bite to eat or a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. 

The outside of the Chester County Book & Music Company. Photo copyright Shelf Awareness.

I don’t remember how often my parents consented to drive me into West Chester to lose me in the stacks for hours and hours, only to have to track me down and drag me out kicking and screaming, but it was never often enough for my insatiable desire for more books.

If my mom drove me, I knew I’d have an hour or two max, and I’d be lucky to come out with one or two new books. But if my dad took me, well, that was a good day, because it meant I had up to three hours and could probably convince him to buy me three or four new books.

I had a system for browsing the Chester County Bookstore. First stop: the adult science fiction section, where I’d check for any new Star Wars novels and read the back of non-Star Wars books to see if anything caught my eye (I was looking for military sci-fi with female main characters). Then I’d head to the back room, which housed the massive children’s and young adult sections to see if there was a new book in the Young Jedi Knights series out yet. 

Then I’d spend some time wandering through the rest of the store, looking at whatever caught my interest. I’d pick books up, smell them, page through them, check the price, check my wallet, sigh, and put them back on the shelf. 

I’m not sure what my mom did while I browsed, but my dad spent most of his time in the music section of the store. While the rise of Wal-Mart, Target, and the internet eventually forced the Chester County Bookstore to drastically downsize its music section, in its heyday it had a larger selection than Sam Goody and FYE combined. I’d always take a pass through the music section, but $15 or $20 for a CD could buy me two or three mass market paperbacks.

I dreamed of working in that bookstore when I grew up, but it wasn’t to be. A Barnes & Noble opened in nearby Exton when I was in high school, and the rise of Amazon shortly thereafter eventually forced the CCBMC into a much smaller space, and then eventually out of business.

Me with sci-fi author David Weber at a signing for Mission of Honor at the Chester County Book and Music Company in 2010.

Thankfully, communities and readers have recognized the value of small (and large) indie bookstores, and they are popping up again all over the country. They offer what Amazon can’t: events and book signings with your favorite authors, personalized customer service, a sense of community and connection, local jobs, and a comfortable place to hang out surrounded by books and people who love them.

My favorite bookstore may no longer be in operation, but the spirit of the Chester County Book and Music Company lives on in the hundreds of indie bookstores across the country. Join me in celebrating these vital elements of our communities this Saturday.

Here’s how you can participate:

  • Shout out your favorite indie bookstores on social media by tagging them and using the hashtags #BookstoreShoutOut and #IndieBookstoreDay.
  • Sign up for a virtual Indie Bookstore Day event over at! With seven different events across topics and genres, you’re sure to find something that interests you.
  • Visit your favorite indie bookstore on Saturday, April 24! Indulge in a shiny new book (or two or three), pick up some exclusive Indie Bookstore Day merch, and have fun! Check out this website to find an indie bookstore near you.

If you love audiobooks and are looking for more ways to support indie bookstores, check out, which is offering free audiobooks for those who make a purchase of at least $15 at their local bookstore between April 24 and 26. financially supports indie bookstores and costs the same as Audible; what’s not to love?

What’s your favorite indie bookstore? (I’m asking for a friend. Who is me. So I can visit.) Let me know in the comments, or on Twitter @bookwitchblog!