South's Best Bookstores
Alabama Booksmith (Birmingham, Alabama)
Every book purchased at the Alabama Booksmith is truly unique. Just ask Jake Reiss, whose entire inventory is composed of signed titles. If you're hunting for a good read or looking for a great suggestion (just ask one of the knowledgable team members), this bookstore is one of Birmingham's hidden gems.
2626 19th Place South; alabamabooksmith.com
Bienville Books (Mobile, Alabama)
Bienville Books is a "mad scientist" of a shop, chock-full of interesting reads that will send your imagination in all sorts of directions. Among the new and used hardcovers and paperbacks carried by owner Russ Adams are rare and first editions, regional authors, history, and books on Mardi Gras. (Mobile is home to the oldest Carnival celebration in the United States.) The Haunted Book Loft upstairs pays homage to a downtown bookstore that served Mobile for 50 years and features an impressive sci-fi, fantasy, and horror collection.
109 Dauphin St.; bienvillebooks.com
Page & Palette (Fairhope, Alabama)
A third-generation, family-owned store, Page & Palette is tucked into a corner of downtown Fairhope's French Quarter. The bookstore sells a terrific selection of new and used books, art supplies, and greeting cards, as well as local coffee, pastries, and ice cream at Latte Da, the shop's inviting coffeehouse.
32 S. Section St.; pageandpalette.com
Sundog Books (Seaside, Florida)
This place feels like a beach house—one with a serious library. Open since 1986, Sundog is an ideal spot to pick up a last-minute beach read, and also stocks a large selection of Southern fiction. Given the store's location off popular State Road 30A, which is known for beautifully designed communities, you won't be surprised to discover a well-stocked architecture section.
89 Central Square; 850/231-5481; sundogbooks.com
E. Shaver, Bookseller (Savannah, Georgia)
Savannah's E. Shaver, Bookseller, occupies a historic building on Madison Square, where a tea room anchors the front of the store. Seven—that's right, seven—rooms of books feature new fiction and nonfiction, children's literature, Civil War titles that are hard to come by, and books on such local interests as history, decorating, architecture, food, and gardening. You can probably guess the store's most popular book—Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil; at least one copy is sold most days.
326 Bull St.; eshaverbooks.com
Little Shop of Stories (Decatur, Georgia)
Perched along Decatur's historic town square, Little Shop of Stories stocks most of its shelves with terrific children's books. That said, there's a thoughtful selection for adults too. Adorned with brightly painted murals and comfy reading nooks, the store is an ideal space for birthday parties, hosted summer camps, and weekly reading events—pajamas encouraged.
133A East Court Square; littleshopofstories.com
Faulkner House Books (New Orleans, Louisiana)
No writer can resist the charms of New Orleans—including literary great William Faulkner. In 1925, Faulkner lived with artist William Spratling in a bright yellow, four-story home on Pirate's Alley, where he penned his first novel, Soldiers' Pay. Since then, this spot has become home to one of the city's favorite bookstores. Owner Joe DeSalvo restored the property into a charming shop, with a residence above. Soaring ceilings and chandeliers frame a vast collection of Southern titles.
624 Pirate's Alley; faulknerhousebooks.com
Octavia Books (New Orleans, Louisiana)
This gem is tucked into an old shop and former grocery store on a pretty block in Uptown New Orleans. Today, the building is airy and organized, with a cascading waterfall in the outdoor atrium. Husband-and-wife owners Tom Lowenburg and Judith Lafitte enthusiastically support their authors. Rick Bragg once lived down the street, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him at one of Octavia's many hosted author readings.
513 Octavia Street; octaviabooks.com
Lemuria Books (Jackson, Mississippi)
Named for a mythical continent, which the owners describe as home to an advanced society of knowledgeable, powerful people who could communicate telepathically, this Jackson retailer has been serving book lovers since 1975 and prides itself on encouraging customers to experience new authors. The handsome space is a treasure trove of first and limited editions. It has an entire section, Oz, devoted to children's books.
202 Banner Hall, 4465 1-55 North; lemuriabooks.com
Square Books (Oxford, Mississippi)
If ever there were a reader's bookstore, Square Books is it, billing itself as a "bookstore-in-three-buildings," with Square Books, Jr., and Off Square Books just a stone's throw from the two-story main store on Courthouse Square. You'd need hours to really delve into Square's collection of Southern authors, including a section dedicated solely to native son William Faulkner. Besides the Thacker Mountain radio show, the store hosts more than 150 author events annually.
160 Courthouse Square; squarebooks.com
TurnRow Book Co. (Greenwood, Mississippi)
TurnRow is worth visiting just to ogle the architecture—the place is drop-dead gorgeous. Step inside the light-filled space and you'll find a selection of books that's equally impressive. There's a solid selection of signed volumes and a section dedicated solely to the Mississippi Delta. Head upstairs to TurnRow Gallery for a collection of Southern folk art and fine art.
304 Howard St.; turnrowbooks.com
Malaprop's Bookstore/Café (Asheville, North Carolina)
This shop is named after Mrs. Malaprop, the Richard Brinsley Sheridan character known for her comically unfortunate misuse of words. The bookstore, located in Asheville's thriving arts community, aims to be "a place where the best reads, the best company, and the best coffee complete the picture."
55 Haywood St.; malaprops.com
The Regulator Bookshop (Durham, North Carolina)
This community favorite was started by a couple of Duke alums who didn't know a thing about the publishing industry but believed that Durham needed a great independent bookstore. Nearly 40 years later, the Regulator thrives (along with a handful of new businesses in the neighborhood) with its well-curated collection of new and used inventory and stellar magazine section.
720 Ninth St.; regulatorbookshop.com
Scuppernong Books (Greensboro, North Carolina)
Greensboro's burgeoning downtown community didn't feel complete without an independent bookstore. Opened in 2013, Scuppernong Books features a large children's section and a heavy dose of poetry and general interest titles. Within the store, a book-themed café offers everything from coffee and sandwiches to wine and beer.
304 S. Elm St.; scuppernongbooks.com
Blue Bicycle Books (Charleston, South Carolina)
Blue Bicycle Books is named for the often-Instagrammed bike that owner Jonathan Sanchez rode to work in the early days, piling it high with books to attract business. Today, he and his wife, Lauren, manage an inventory of over 50,000 used volumes, including classic fiction, poetry, literary fiction, and books on science, architecture, the Civil War, military history, gardening, and more. Blue Bicycle also has an extensive collection of all-things-Charleston books (used, rare, and new). Everything is neatly organized in a long, narrow space that was once an ophthalmologist's office.
420 King St.; bluebicyclebooks.com
Hub City Bookshop (Spartanburg, South Carolina)
With a name that nods to Spartanburg's past as a 19th-century rail center, Hub City was the brainchild of three writers hoping to create a sense of literary identity in their town. Operated by the nonprofit Hub City Writers Project, the bookshop carries new releases, a hefty assortment of regional authors, children's books, literary fiction, history, and releases from the nonprofit's own Hub City Press. The bookshop shares the ground floor of a renovated historic Masonic Temple with a coffee bar and bakery. All proceeds from book sales support the nonprofit's creative writing education programs and independent book publishing efforts.
186 W. Main St.; hubcity.org
Parnassus Books (Nashville, Tennessee)
Award-winning novelist Ann Patchett became a hometown hero when she and her business partners opened Parnassus Books in Nashville. Weary of mammoth chains, Patchett set out to re-create the bookstore of her childhood, one that valued personal relationships with customers—and with authors and their books. She used her connections to open a jewel box of a shop with floor-to-ceiling shelves, warm woods, and pale blue ceilings. Fittingly, the store is named for the mountain of limestone that served as a gathering place for literature lovers in Greek mythology.
3900 Hillsboro Pike Suite 14; parnassusbooks.net
Marfa Book Company (Marfa, Texas)
Marfa Book Company takes the independent bookstore experience and completely one-ups it. Located in the impossibly hip West Texas town of the same name, Marfa Book Company is also a venue for film, music, art, and live performance.
213 S. Dean St.; marfabookco.com
Politics and Prose (Washington, D.C.)
When the original owners named Politics and Prose, they were going for something "Washington-sounding" but not overly pretentious. It worked. Over 35 years later, the shop is bustling under the ownership of Washington journalist Bradley Graham and his wife, Lissa Muscatine, Hillary Clinton's former speechwriter. Politics and Prose is frequented by an interesting mix of locals, writers, and bookworms (including the Obamas). The store hosts many book groups, as well as regular author events. A lower-level coffeehouse serves up fresh brew, rotating art exhibits, and open mic performances.
5015 Connecticut Ave. NW.; politics-prose.com