Local Bookstores Inspire Community
American author and activist Anne Lamott once wrote, “Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul.” From literature we gain not only knowledge and insight, but we become less isolated and learn to see the world from perspectives that differ from our own. Books can heal what is broken in humanity. They can also heal the hurts and internal wounds that fester in our souls.
If literature is healing balm, then bookstores can only be described as sanctuaries, or sacred places. In the age of Kindles and one-click Amazon purchases though, these brick-and-mortar havens are slowly vanishing. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find independent bookstores that aren’t struggling to keep the doors open and, for literature lovers around the world, shopping small and supporting local is more essential than ever.
We love this list of independent and (mostly) tiny bookstores scattered across North America and the UK. Most are women and minority-owned; all are sacred spaces dedicated to fostering community, promoting forgotten writers, and stocking diverse titles.
Whether you’re searching for your next literary gem, seeking a safe place for reading groups, or solely want to learn more about happenings in the local community, drop by one of these independent bookstores (many also sell books online).
1. Title Wave Books
Where To Find It | Anchorage, AK
Address | 1360 W. Northern Lights Blvd
The largest bookstore in Alaska (and one of the largest used bookstores in the USA), Title Waves Books is passionate about giving back to the Anchorage community, specifically to children, as well as people who do not have access to reading materials. Founded in 1991, the independent bookstore has been fostering community and promoting literacy by way of donating books and gift certificates to local organizations.
2. Greenlight Bookstore
Where To Find It | Brooklyn, NY
Address | 686 Fulton St (Fort Greene); 632 Flatbush Ave (Prospect Lefferts Gardens)
Greenlight Bookstore was founded in 2009 by two women who were inspired to give their neighborhood a local literary haven. Today, the independent store has expanded to two locations, both serving the lively Brooklyn borough of New York City. Hosting diverse events and exciting gatherings, including Drag Queen Story Hour and the Unbound Book Launch Series, this small business is passionate about supporting its community. You can also support Greenlight Bookstore by visiting one of the branches while in NYC or by shopping online.
3. Café Books
Where To Find It | Canmore, Alberta, Canada
Address | 826 Main St # 100 T1W 2B7
A dreamy and eclectic space with a tea room, Café Books is situated in the heart of the Canadian Rockies and offers readers an extensive collection of new, used, and antique books. The independent bookstore is also passionate about practicing sustainability and supporting local artisans. Refurnished shelves, tables, and doors have been used to decorate the cozy space, and artwork from Canadian makers is displayed and available for purchase.
4. Women & Children First
Where To Find It | Chicago, IL
Address | 5233 N. Clark St
Women & Children First—one of the largest and most well-known feminist and independent bookstores in the USA—carries over 30,000 titles written by women and about women. The Chicago-based store also sells an impressive collection of LGBTQ books and hosts Drag Queen Story Hour.
5. Gay’s The Word
Where To Find It | London, UK
Address | 66 Marchmont St WC1N 1AB
The last surviving lesbian and gay bookshop in the UK, Gay’s The Word was founded in 1979 and has been at the forefront of the LGBTQ literature movement in the United Kingdom. Alongside its beautiful collection of reading materials, the shop regularly hosts safe and supportive groups for gender identity discussions.
6. Persephone Books
Where To Find It | London, UK
Address | 59 Lamb’s Conduit St WC1N 3NB
Housed in a small and airy space originating back to the eighteenth century, Persephone Books is giving forgotten titles new lives, complete with signature grey book jackets and fabric endpaper. Publishing both fiction and non-fiction women writers from the twentieth century, London’s woman-owned bookstore is dedicated to reviving and reprinting lost titles. Shop online or visit while in London—just pop in before or after 4 o’clock; rumor has it the staff stops for tea and cake at that time.
7. Sisters Uptown Bookstore
Where To Find It | Manhattan, NY
Address | 1942 Amsterdam Ave
Sisters Uptown Bookstore in the Washington Heights neighborhood is a family and women-owned bookstore that has been serving the community and supporting African American authors for 15 years. Believing knowledge is the key to understanding, the bookstore is proud to be a diverse and local space for the exchange of information and ideas.
8. Birchbark Books
Where To Find It | Minneapolis, MN
Address | 2115 W. 21st St
Founded by author Louise Erdrich—an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa tribe—Birchbark Books is a locus for literate Indigenous people and Native intellectual life. A tiny haven located in one of the most concentrated urban areas of Native people in the United States, the independent bookstore hosts readings by Native writers and supports local artisans by selling traditional handmade products. Equally admirable, Birchbark is also committed to keeping a nontoxic store and practices sustainability.
9. Left Bank Books
Where To Find It | St. Louis, MO
Address | 399 N. Euclid Ave
Founded by a group of graduate students in 1969, Left Bank Books has been fostering community, selling diverse literature, and sparking intellectual conversation for almost 50 years. A start-up bookstore turned cultural institution, this beloved St. Louis business hosts more than 300 events a year and hosts numerous book clubs, including lesbian and gay reading groups.
10. Antigone Books
Where To Find It | Tucson, AZ
Address | 411 N. 4th Ave
This zany, women-owned bookstore was founded in 1973 and has been gifting the Tucson community with fabulous literature ever since. Not only does Antigone Books offer space for local writers to promote their work, but the store hosts an array of reading groups, including an in-person gathering for members of Emma Watson’s Shared Shelf feminist book club. If all of that isn’t inspiring enough, Antigone is also the country’s first 100% solar-powered bookstore.
11. Massy Books
Where To Find It | Vancouver, Canada
Address | 229 E. Georgia St V6A 1Z6
Massy Books is one part literary haven, one part community space. A 100% Indigenous-owned and operated business, the Vancouver-based bookstore is passionate about selling enriching titles that promote connection and conversation between readers. Massy Books is also committed to practicing environmental sustainability by using recycled shipping materials (if you’re not local, you can shop online) and donating book overflow to local charities.
Kayti Christian, a staff writer for The Good Trade, is a storyteller, creator, activist, and avid traveler hailing from Colorado, now living in London. With 30+ stamps in her passport, she is passionate about responsible tourism and is always looking for new ways to be a more conscious traveler. She is currently pursuing her MA in Creative Nonfiction Writing at City, University of London.