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The best independent bookstores in the US

No matter if you're into graphic novels, romantic fiction, or the latest best seller, the best independent bookstores in the US have you covered.

Written by Aleenah Ansari
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Independent bookstores are the heart of every city and there's no end to what you can do and find at some of the best indie bookstores in the country. Want to meet-and-greet with local artists and authors? Check out your local book nook. Want to sip coffee and listen to records? Bookstores are known to have both. Want to get married under a tunnel of novels (yes, really)? There's an Instagram-famous bookstore for that too. 

Which leads us to our next favorite thing about bookstores (besides the thousands of paperbacks to peruse, of course): many of these bookstores boast stunning locations (like inside an old bank vault) and gorgeous interiors with everything from hand-painted ceilings to book sculptures. 

So come for the beautiful visuals and art, and stay for the chance to discover your next favorite book in these independent bookstores in the US. 

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The best independent bookstores in the US

Powell’s might as well have its own zip code. The largest independent bookstore in the world, Powell’s City of Books is home to more than 1 million new, used and rare tomes. Bookworms can find plenty to do in this labyrinthine store – check out the Espresso Book Machine, which you can use to publish your own book in the time it takes to make a cup of coffee. A total of 1.6-acres of retail space means that there’s a section, postcard, or gift for every book lover in your life.

Located in downtown Los Angeles, The Last Bookstore is the largest new and used bookstore in California. Check out the book tunnel, selection of records, art studios, yarn shop, and selection of novels that are perfect for any book lover. You can also explore a room full of first-edition rare books and collectibles in the Arts and Rare Books Anex and buy, sell, and trade books and contribute to the 250,000 used and new books in the store. 

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No bookstore list would be complete without The Strand, which boasts 18 miles(!) of books, not to mention souvenirs, mugs, cards, and their signature tote bags (you’ll probably spot a few while you’re out and about). Peruse paperbacks and more across four floors, including a special section of the store dedicated to rare books. You can also pick up literary-themed goods like stickers and notebooks. If you’re looking for a deal, check out the dollar section outside and see if you can find a book on your list.

Looking for an independent bookstore, cafe, and full-service bar all wrapped up in one? Look no further than Kramers. There’s a large selection of books, cards, and Washington DC postcards if you’re looking for souvenirs to send to your loved ones. It even has a covered patio with additional seating where you can enjoy breakfast all day. 

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Since its first location opened in Miami’s Coral Gables neighborhood, Books & Books has expanded to several locations across the city. The store is well-stocked with bestsellers but also lots of small publishers. Its wooden-floored rooms include one devoted to antiquarian rarities and another to kids’ books. The on-site cafe serve up Cuban sandwiches and local draft beers while you nestle into your recent purchase. 

Elliott Bay boasts 150,000 books, magazines and zines displayed prettily on cedar shelves, as well as cards and giftable products from small, local businesses. Feeling overwhelmed? Helpful reviews from bookstore staff will lead you to your next bedtime read. The shop also hosts virtual and in-person conversations with authors, as well as book groups where you can join virtual discussions on the book of the month. 

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Though this Andersonville shop has a definite feminist slant (and is one of the largest feminist bookstores in the country), any and all can find something here. The store stocks more than 30,000 books by and about women, plus children's titles, and it's considered one of the city's best sources for lesbian and gay fiction and nonfiction. It's also an active location for author readings and community events, and it's the endearing inspiration for Portlandia's Women and Women First bookstore sketch.

Located in the NoMad neighborhood of New York, Rizzoli is a publisher of high-end art, photography and architecture books, and this classy bookstore is full of the company's visually stimulating work. Ypu'll find stunning painted ceilings, cast iron chandeliers, and large illustrated books on design, fashion, cooking, and more. Don't miss the section dedicated to the long and storied history of New York.

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Verbatim Books is a secondhand bookstore full of gently used novels, curated classics and new releases. Check out the zine corner to find issues from small presses and micro-distributors, and don't miss the book sculpture spelling out the name of the store and the rainbow of books lined with dinosaur figurines. Verbatim also has a beautiful 90-foot bookshelf mural on the side of the building, which was created by Tijuana-based artist Armando Elizarraras. 

This store sells new and gently used LGBTQIA+ books as well as clothing, housewares, art, and more. This bookstore originally opened as Giovanni’s Room in 1973 and has since been purchased by Philadelphia Aids Thrift, which has kept the legacy going. It continues to be a cultural center and hub for the LGBTQIA+ community, and you can even order books online and have them shipped out.

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This bookstore-and-bar hybrid space was born out of a friendship between two Spanish civil engineers who wanted to create a community gathering spot for people to get drinks, open up, and have conversations that would change their worldview. The books in the space are curated by local publishers and booksellers in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas and beyond. 

Albertine is devoted solely to books in French and English with more than 14,000 contemporary and classic titles from 30 French-speaking countries, and it’s even a part of the Cultural Services of the French embassy. Venture upstairs to see the reading room, where you’ll find a hand-painted mural of constellations, stars, and planets, a design inspired by the ceiling of the music room at the Villa Stuck in Munich, Germany.

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