Our readers voted this shop the South’s Best Bookstore 2020, and it’s easy to see why.

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Peter Frank Edwards

On a quiet Savannah block next to oak-shaded Madison Square, a blue door opens to a labyrinth of nooks, room after patchwork room of shelves stuffed with books of all persuasions. There are steps leading up and down. Narrow doorways nudge visitors into shelf-lined alleys. It’s a little wobbly, somewhat creaky, and utterly perfect.

E. Shaver, Bookseller makes its home in a building erected in the 1840s by Eliza Jewett, one of the few female builders in the city at the time. In 1975, after a brief period in which it housed an antiques shop, Ed and Esther Shaver turned the space into a bookstore. Forty years later, in 2015, owner Jessica Osborne took the helm.

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Over the years, the building has been enclosed, expanded, and gently shaped into its current form, and it’s now home to many shelves of books, stationery, and gifts; a charming tearoom; and three rather regal shop cats. Bartleby, Skimbleshanks, and Mr. Eliot ("He has a poet's disposition," says Osborne) pad across carpets, disappear around corners, and bask in warm windowsills amid the book displays. If you’re wondering which literary feline you’ve encountered inspecting the children’s books or stretched out on the carpet at the entry, there’s a chalkboard at the check-out counter with a handy illustrated guide.

Left: In 2015, owner Jessica Osborne took the helm at E. Shaver, Bookseller. Peter Frank Edwards
Right: The shop cats share customers' appreciation for fine literature. Peter Frank Edwards

Whether you step into E. Shaver, Bookseller during the bustling holiday season or on a quiet weekday afternoon, you'll find that it is what all the best bookshops are: places filled with possibility. They invite you in to wander awhile, to happen upon something unexpected on a tucked-away shelf, in the pages of a book you slide off its perch and thumb through silently, led by your own curiosity and a touch of luck. When I visited on a particularly busy Saturday in December, I took two turns, was immediately lost, and had no intentions of being found—for several hours, at least.

eshaverbooks.com, 912-234.7257, 326 Bull Street, Savannah, GA 31401