Budget, Destinations, Kids

Book Your Flight Now: 4 Great American Bookstores

August 8, 2012 by

Photo from Powell's Books in Portland Oregon

It goes without saying that many common threads exist among travel enthusiasts. Chief among them: an active imagination and thirst for new experiences.

Although we haven’t seen any polls on the matter, we’re willing to bet there’s a correlation between the amount of stamps on one’s passport and the level of voracity they displayed for the written word when they were young.

Reading feeds our hungry imaginations, provides both knowledge and escape, and helps us build an unconscious list in the backs of our brains about all the adventures we want to have — all the places we want to discover. So, as adults, many of us carry on the tradition and continue to satiate our love of reading with as many books as we can find.

Even with the emergence — and convenience — of the ability to order anything, anytime, anywhere via a simple Internet connections, there’s still something magical about a bookstore — particularly an independent one run by self-proclaimed bookworms.

Here, we present a short roundup of four of the nation’s best.

City Lights in San Francisco, CA

City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco

City Lights is perhaps the perfect microcosm of the city in which it stands; with entire sections dedicated to beat literature, anarchism, muckraking and class wars, the “literary meeting place” has been in existence since 1953, well before the hippie heyday of the city by the bay.

It enforces a strict no-cell-phone policy, probably as much for the safety of its patrons navigating its tiny staircases as for a reader-friendly noise level. “Stash your sell-phone [sic] and be here now,” a sign reads. How very fitting indeed, man. (visit the website)


Powell’s Books in Portland, OR

The Rare Book Room at Powell's CIty of Books

The pride of Portland’s literary world first opened its doors in 1971 in a space that once served as a used car lot, and now encompasses four separate locations and one of the most successful websites in the book-sellers’ realm.

With its original location taking up three floors encompassing an entire city block, Powell’s Books has been called “a bibliophile’s motherlode” by the Washington Post, “probably the world’s greatest bookstore” by the Seattle Times and “Amazon with a soul” by Details magazine. We’ll add to that list of honors by calling it this: “a book lover’s dream come true.”  (visit the website)


The Strand in New York, NY

The Strand in NYC

With what it calls “18 miles of books” in store, The Strand is perhaps the most well-known bookstore in the United States. Nestled at the corner of Broadway and 12th, the store has been in place since 1927, when there were nearly 50 separate bookstores on “Book Row.”

It’s the only surviving store to date, and has expanded to include kiosks throughout Manhattan as well as an online presence. It offers more than 2.5 million new, used and rare books — enough to make an avid reader burst into 2.5 million pieces from sheer, unbridled joy. (visit the website)


BookPeople in Austin, TX

BookPeople in Austin Texas

Widely known as the largest independent bookstore in Texas, not to mention one of the most beloved in the entire southern U.S., BookPeople stands in the heart of the Lone Star State’s capital.

Just a stone’s throw across from Waterloo Records, a nationally-known record shop that boasts an extensive array of vinyl, the bookseller does its part to “keep Austin weird” — and literate — with its unending roster of book signings, local writers’ events, children’s programming and more. A dizzying array of signed books left over from book tours are available throughout the store, making each visit a scavenger hunt of sorts. (visit the website)


Photo credits: author’s archive, Powell’s Books, The Strand and BookPeople

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