Author Caitlin Mullen Raves About Her 7 Favorite Independent Bookstores
Independent Bookstore Day may have been postponed until August 29, but it was supposed to be held this Saturday. So why not celebrate our love for indies twice! We asked former bookseller Caitlin Mullen—who is also debut thriller author of Please See Us—to share her favorite independent bookstores, and we can feel her love for these shops in every word. You can further support independent bookstores by shopping at bookshop.org or libro.fm.
As a former bookseller, obsessive reader, and also, recently, debut author, indie bookstores are near and dear to my heart. I cherish the sense of discovery that comes from picking up a book, settling into its first few pages, getting to know the texture of an author’s sentences, and being transported to the world they’ve created. I love the sense of community that comes from attending readings and listening to my favorite writers read from their new works. It feels a little bit magical: when you listen to a writer speak or read, all of a sudden you have something in common with everyone in the room. Indie stores give us spaces for discovery, grant us the opportunity for chance and serendipity, and allow us to meet our literary heroes up close. They are a crucial part of the identities of our cities while helping us find books that change us and define our own stories, too.
With the recent lockdowns across the country in response to Covid-19, investing in our indies is more important now than ever. All the stores on this list are currently doing everything they can to keep up the good work of connecting books and readers via online orders—and they’re vital keepers of literary culture in their respective cities and towns. Celebrate indies this year by purchasing a gift card, sending a loved one a copy of your favorite book, or treating yourself to some new quarantine reads until we can all browse safely in person again.
McNally Jackson in New York City, New York
McNally Jackson has been a Manhattan institution for over 15 years, and in the past few years they’ve expanded their imprint in NYC’s indie bookstore scene with a second Manhattan outpost and two stores in Brooklyn. Each location has its charms, but my favorite might be the South Street Seaport one, which features plenty of cozy armchairs, intimate reading nooks, and stunning exposed brick walls, which make it feel like a bookstore from, well, a storybook. McNally’s shelves are notably organized by geography, a wonderful way to discover the work of writers from around the world.
The Bookstore at Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida
If you are looking for a transportive book-shopping experience, replete with elegant touches like parquet tiles, wood-paneled walls, and access to a champagne bar (!), the Bookstore at Oxford Exchange is a must-visit. This Tampa bookstore is a two-for-one: the beautiful building that houses it is also home to a top-notch restaurant. Walk off your brunch by browsing the latest and greatest new fiction and nonfiction in a dreamy, distinctive setting.
Berry & Co in Sag Harbor, New York
The owner of Berry & Co, Taylor Rose Berry, brings her singular design sensibility and love of literature to this sweet bookshop on the East End of Long Island. The result: a peaceful, sunlit spot that’s a haven for readers of all stripes. Formerly known as Harbor Books, the shop has everything from beach reads to the latest literary fiction, short story collections, poetry, and small press favorites, all lovingly curated by the store’s staff.
The Spotty Dog Books & Ale in Hudson, New York
A bookstore AND bar? Need I say more? If you’re ready to enjoy a glass of wine and some snacks while browsing, The Spotty Dog is the place for you. Their stock is well-edited, with a reliably great staff picks section. Each staff member curates a collection of favorite books, which is a super useful way to find new-to-you books based on other titles and authors you love.
Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks in New York City, New York
So this isn’t exactly a traditional indie, but it’s a total gem of a store and deserves a place in the heart of every reader who finds solace in the kitchen, as well as between the pages. Bonnie Slotnick recently moved her cookbook store from Manhattan’s West Village to the East Village, and this incredible retailer specializes in out of print and vintage cookbooks—perfect for those quarantine baking projects.
Books & Books in Miami Beach, Florida
Books & Books is a long-running Miami indie that is thoughtfully organized and home to a wonderful collection, replete with new releases, treasured classics, and a gorgeous and exhaustive collection of art books—especially useful in a time when most of us can’t access our favorite museums and need a dose of color to brighten our days.
WORD in Brooklyn, New York
Last but not least, WORD’s Brooklyn outpost is a cherished favorite of mine. Before I spent two years working there, I would visit this sweet corner shop in the ultra-hip Greenpoint neighborhood, which boasts all the best indie bookstore quirks: creaky wood floors, floor-to-ceiling shelves, big windows that let in lots of light. And of course, shelves and shelves of the best new fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, and more, and a friendly staff, who will be happy to help you find your next favorite read. Call them, email them, or reach out to them on social media for a recommendation!