These eight bookshops are the some of the best places to get your nerd on.

Haslam's Book Store, St. Petersburg, Florida. (City Of St. Pete/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0)

Haslam's Book Store, St. Petersburg, Florida

Founded in 1933 by John and Mary Haslam, this bookstore grew from its Depression-era roots into Florida’s largest independent bookstore and a St. Petersburg landmark. After moving four times to accommodate its expanding business, Haslam’s, which is still run by members of the family, now takes up about three-quarters of a city block and offers upwards of 300,000 new and used titles. Rumor has it that in the 1950s, Jack Kerouac would visit when he was tipsy and surreptitiously place his books in more prominent positions on the shelves.

The Henry Miller Memorial Library, Big Sur, California. (Kent Kanouse/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0)

The Henry Miller Memorial Library, Big Sur, California

Called the “cultural heart and soul of Big Sur,” the Henry Miller Memorial Library was designated as such by Miller’s close friend Emil White a year after Miller’s death, in 1981. (Miller called Big Sur home between 1944 and 1962.) It encompasses a small coastal cabin, which White himself built in 1961, and the surrounding property.

Miller disapproved of memorials, saying that they “defeated the purpose of a man’s life. Only by living your own life to the full can you honor the memory of someone.” Nevertheless, this bookstore/art gallery/event space has been a countercultural hub in Big Sur, regularly hosting musical performances, films, readings, and other events that honor Miller’s literary and artistic legacy.

City Lights Books, San Francisco. (Curtis Cronn/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

City Lights Books, San Francisco

The legendary City Lights Books, founded in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin, originally made a name for itself after Ferlinghetti published Allen Ginsburg’s Howl and Other Poems in 1956, prompting an obscenity trial the following year. (Ferlinghetti won.) Located at an intersection of the city’s North Beach and Chinatown neighborhoods, the store offers visiting book lovers three floors of bliss. City Lights was a hub of 1960s counterculture in San Francisco, and in 2001, the city made it an official historic landmark—the first time this designation was granted to a business, rather than a building. It’s a must-see for any bibliophile visiting the Bay Area.

The Tattered Cover, Denver. (Bookchen/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Tattered Cover, Denver

The Tattered Cover itself has been an institution in the Denver area since 1971 and has expanded to four locations, but its flagship store has inhabited the 1896 Morey Mercantile building on the corner of downtown Denver’s 16th and Wynkoop Streets since 1994. Visitors can find an expansive selection of titles in a cozy setting that encourages lingering and browsing.

Longtime Tattered Cover owner Joyce Meskis, who purchased the first store in 1974, is transitioning to a consulting role this year after passing the torch to new owners, but her impact on independent bookselling in the United States can’t be underestimated: she’s won multiple awards, including the Author’s Guild of America Award for Distinguished Service to the Literary Community.

Magers and Quinn, Minneapolis. (Magers and Quinn)

Magers and Quinn, Minneapolis

After opening in 1994 in the front section of the Bryant Building, a 1922 former Chevrolet dealership in Minneapolis’s Uptown neighborhood, Magers and Quinn eventually expanded to occupy the entire first floor. It has since taken over all three stories of the structure, securing its title as one of the largest independent booksellers in the Midwest.

Aside from carrying a plethora of new titles, Magers and Quinn prides itself on specializing in unusual and hard-to-find editions. Don’t miss the “rare and collectible” section—you never know what you might find.

Baldwin's Book Barn, West Chester, Pennsylvania. (Andrew Houser/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Baldwin’s Book Barn, West Chester, Pennsylvania

Built in 1822, this five-story former milking house is the perfect spot to peruse shelves upon shelves of used books, cozy up to a wood stove, or make friends with one of the resident cats. William and Lilla Baldwin established a used book and collectible business in nearby Wilmington, Delaware, in 1934, eventually moving their operation to “The Barn” in 1946, where it has resided ever since. Today, it boasts over 300,000 used and rare books, and well as items like vintage maps and art prints. Located in the idyllic Brandywine River Valley, this is a necessary stop on any book lover’s pilgrimage through the U.S.

Brattle Book Shop, Boston. (Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0)

Brattle Book Shop, Boston

Founded in 1825, the Brattle Book Shop has been owned and operated by the Gloss clan since 1949. Current proprietor Ken Gloss is an expert in the fields of antiquarian books and book appraisal, and if you’re on the hunt for collectibles or first editions, Brattle Book Shop has you covered. Located in a three-story building in downtown Boston, there's no better place to spend an afternoon—or a whole day.

Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi. (Ken Lund/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi

Oxford, Mississippi, perhaps best known as the hometown of novelist William Faulkner, has a literary pedigree than runs deep. For proof of this, look no further than Square Books, located in a historic building on the city's town square. Founded in 1979, the shop houses over 10,000 books in two stories, and its two adjacent stores, Off Square Books and Square Books Jr., focus on quirky gifts and children's books, respectively.

What’s your favorite used bookstore in your city? Tell us in the comments.

This post originally appeared on the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Coronavirus

    Why Asian Countries Have Succeeded in Flattening the Curve

    To help flatten the curve in the Covid-19 outbreak, officials at all levels of government are asking people to stay home. Here's what’s worked, and what hasn't.

  2. Equity

    The Problem With a Coronavirus Rent Strike

    Because of coronavirus, millions of tenants won’t be able to write rent checks. But calls for a rent holiday often ignore the longer-term economic effects.

  3. Equity

    We'll Need To Reopen Our Cities. But Not Without Making Changes First.

    We must prepare for a protracted battle with coronavirus. But there are changes we can make now to prepare locked-down cities for what’s next.

  4. photo: a For Rent sign in a window in San Francisco.

    Do Landlords Deserve a Coronavirus Bailout, Too?

    Some renters and homeowners are getting financial assistance during the economic disruption from the coronavirus pandemic. What about landlords?

  5. photo: South Korean soldiers attempt to disinfect the sidewalks of Seoul's Gagnam district in response to the spread of COVID-19.

    Pandemics Are Also an Urban Planning Problem

    Will COVID-19 change how cities are designed? Michele Acuto of the Connected Cities Lab talks about density, urbanization and pandemic preparation.