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8 Unique and Inspiring Author-Owned Bookstores

A cartoon bookstore.

What author owns a bookstore near you? We may think of writers as people who live behind their words, out of reach of society, but many are deeply involved in their local reading scenes, and bookstores are one of the best spaces for them to connect with their audiences. Authors who own and operate these spaces have an opportunity to provide services to readers that reflect their own sensibilities and priorities, and some of the most exciting, community-focused and unique independent bookstores are author-owned. 

So the next time you’re planning a day trip or vacation, check out the list below and plan accordingly! And if you can’t get to one of these stores at the moment but would still love a signed copy of your favorite novel by the likes of Louise Erdrich or Ann Patchett, note that many of them offer online ordering for delivery, along with email lists and other ways to interact with and support them from afar. 

The Lynx in Gainesville, Florida, owned by Lauren Groff

Opened in the spring of 2024, The Lynx was started by Lauren Groff, author of The Vaster Wilds, Matrix and Fates and Furies as well as a short story collection that takes the name of the state she’s long called home: Florida. Concerned by the rise of an atmosphere that facilitates book banning and restrictions on schools teaching subjects like Black history, Groff intends for the store, which displays a large, striking mural of a lynx on its outside wall, to offer “an emphasis in books that are currently challenged or banned in Florida, as well as those by BIPOC authors, LGBTQ+ authors, and Florida authors.” The Lynx features a robust lineup of book club and author events, including an upcoming discussion of Jennine Capó Crucet’s Say Hello to My Little Friend.

Birchbark Books in Minneapolis, Minnesota, owned by Louise Erdrich

Situated in the Kenwood neighborhood of Minneapolis, Birchbark Books was opened in 2001 by prolific novelist Louise Erdrich, whose books include The Round House (voted a BookBrowse Best of the Year book), The Plague of Doves and Future Home of the Living God. The store appears as a location in Erdrich’s 2021 novel The Sentence, with protagonist Tookie working as a bookseller there. The Birchbark Books website stresses its independence, its community focus and its special emphasis on Native books and crafts. Occupying an area that once belonged to a meat market, Birchbark is a unique space decorated with salvaged items. You can read more about the store in the “beyond the book” article published with our review of The Sentence. Birchbark hosts regular author events, some of which can be attended virtually, such as a recent appearance by Tommy Orange for his novel Wandering Stars.

Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee, owned by Ann Patchett

Ann Patchett is the author of several novels that have been voted BookBrowse Best of the Year books by our subscribers: Commonwealth, The Dutch House and, most recently, Tom Lake. Her bookstore in Nashville draws its name from Mount Parnassus, which in Greek mythology was the “home of literature, learning, and music.” “We are Nashville's Parnassus,” reads the store’s website, “providing a refuge for Nashvillians of all ages who share in our love of the written word.” Having opened in 2011, Parnassus currently has two locations, one in the Nashville airport. It is also linked to an online magazine called Musing, which includes Patchett’s blog, author interviews and other book-related content. The store’s calendar is packed with in-store events, featuring recent appearances by Colm Tóibín, Amy Tan and others.

Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee and Books in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, owned by Marc Lamont Hill

Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee and Books is a neighborhood cafe and bookstore in Philadelphia owned by Marc Lamont Hill, a television show host, activist and organizer, doctorate-holding professor of anthropology, and author of many nonfiction books exploring social justice issues, such as We Still Here: Pandemic, Policing, Protest, and Possibility. Uncle Bobbie’s offers a full coffee and espresso bar along with other beverages, as well as snacks and baked goods like cookies and croissants. According to its Bookshop page, the store, which was founded by Hill in 2017, “was created to provide underserved communities with access to books and a space where everyone feels valued.” Uncle Bobbie’s has regular ticketed events, and some past events are available to watch on videos uploaded to the store's site and YouTube channel, like the 2nd Annual bell hooks Symposium, featuring a panel discussion of subjects related to the writer and scholar’s impact.

Books Are Magic in Brooklyn, New York, owned by Emma Straub

In an author’s note at the end of her novel All Adults Here, Emma Straub wrote about the recent undertaking of starting up her own bookshop. Today, Books Are Magic is up and running in two Brooklyn locations. Its website describes the business as “committed to being a welcoming, friendly, and inclusive space for all people.” In “strongly [encouraging]” event attendees to wear face masks and collecting information for contact tracing, Books Are Magic remains one of a notable number of independent bookstores making efforts towards accessibility and community care in a world that has socially moved beyond Covid-19 but still poses many serious and unknown risks. The store features regular author events and also focuses on “fundraising and awareness building for social causes that are important to…staff and readers.” Like Uncle Bobbie’s, Books Are Magic offers videos of past events that anyone can view, with appearances including writers Hanif Abdurraqib and Kristen Arnett.

Book Moon Books in Easthampton, Massachusetts, owned by Kelly Link

Kelly Link, author of Pretty Monsters, Get in Trouble and White Cat, Black Dog, has run Book Moon Books, previously White Square Books under different ownership, with her husband Gavin J. Grant since 2019. The couple also operates the publisher Small Beer Press. Book Moon’s website describes the store as a “1,200 square foot, one-floor bookshop, with lovely big windows, comfy chairs, and specialties that include fiction, sf&f, poetry, activism, children's books, and our own Small Beer Press titles — and always a few good chocolate bars.” Book Moon encourages mask-wearing to protect immunocompromised people and children, provides free masks and runs air purifiers during store hours. The business isn’t currently hosting events but has plenty of other interesting features. In addition to regular online ordering, they offer Mystery Bundles, surprise packages of books and/or other items that can be made according to price, size and additional specifications.

Bel Canto Books in Long Beach, California, owned by Jhoanna Belfer

Bel Canto Books was started in 2018 by poet Jhoanna Belfer as a pop-up monthly book club. Belfer was inspired to get into bookselling after hearing Ann Patchett in conversation with Emma Straub at a writing conference in 2017. According to a blog post from the LA Review of Books, she was affected by Patchett’s suggestion that opening a bookstore was something that people could do to “actively change their communities.” Today, Bel Canto exists in three locations in Long Beach and “offers a curated selection of fiction, nonfiction and children's books, organized around a theme of the month, in particular celebrating books by women and people of color.” The store hosts events, workshops and multiple “store- and community-led” book clubs, some of which are accessible through Zoom. This year, Bel Canto’s Burning Issues Book Club has hosted discussions of Marc Lamont Hill’s Except for Palestine: The Limits of Progressive Politics as well as Alice Wong’s Year of the Tiger: An Activist's Life

Honorable Mention: Books and Beans in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, owned (recently) by Etaf Rum

While the chic minimalist bookstore and cafe Books and Beans is as of spring of 2024 passing on to new ownership, the business was started by Etaf Rum, who wrote A Woman Is No Man, a BookBrowse Best of the Year selection, and Evil Eye. In a statement on Facebook in May, Rum announced that the store would be taken over by Richard Millinder of Carolina Cheese Co, saying that she was “confident that under his leadership, Books and Beans will flourish, remaining a place where people come together for connection and inspiration.” Previously, Books and Beans has hosted in-store book club discussions of BookBrowse Best of the Year book The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store by James McBride and Behind You Is the Sea by Susan Muaddi Darraj. The new Books and Beans Instagram account describes the store as a “[b]ookish cafe serving signature sandwiches, espresso drinks, local pastries, and diverse reads,” and recently posted content suggests that its book club discussions will continue.

Ryan Holiday owns a bookstore, The Painted Porch, in Bastrop, TX.
He has written several books on stoicism, none of which I can remember the title. The store has written books and digital books, and a surprising number of each for such a small town!
# Posted By Richard Greer | 7/11/24 7:46 AM
How about An Unlikely Story Bookstore snd Cafe owned by Jeff Kinney in Plainville MA? Fun place with lots of great activities and presentations for all ages.
# Posted By Karen | 7/11/24 9:49 AM
Jenny Lawson owns Nowhere Bookstore in San Antonio. Lovely store!
# Posted By Debra Crosby | 7/11/24 11:01 AM
Adding comments from newsletter responses:

Steve Israel owner of Theodore’s Books in Oyster Bay NY
# Posted By Nick | 7/15/24 5:50 AM
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