Arts & Culture

Readers’ Choice: The South’s Best Independent Bookstores

G&G readers share their treasured book repositories and reading nooks around the South

Photo: Patrick Michael Chin

Books & Books in Coral Gables, Florida.

In a recent Talk of the South newsletter, we asked readers to tell us about their favorite local independent bookstore. Here are some of the many responses:

My neighborhood bookstore here in Chattanooga, Tennessee, The Book & Cover. It is a woman-owned business located in a cute, walkable retail district, occupying a one-hundred-year-old bungalow. It has an amazingly curated selection of books, from cookbooks to mysteries to romance, a great coffee bar featuring locally roasted coffee and local baked goods, and plenty of sunny spots to sit with your book or laptop. It also offers lots of fun programming, from author visits to more than ten different genre book clubs that have become the hottest ticket in town to get into. It’s the kind of place where people from all over Chattanooga come together to abide by the shop’s motto: Read books, stay curious. —Emily L.

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Page and Palette in Fairhope, Alabama. The people are friendly and it has a hometown feel. The employees host a book club night where all people gather, have drinks, and learn about new releases for their clubs. —Nancy M.

Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia, has a great location next to a chocolate shop. They have wonderful personal service, offer unique greeting cards and other gifts, and place orders if a book is not in the shop. Also, the Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina, has a huge selection of diverse books for readers of all ages, plus lots of community connections, author events, and a cozy vibe. —Teresa N.

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Positive Vibes Bookstore in Virginia Beach. It started from the trunk of the owner’s car, and now it’s a brick and mortar, cultural and community beacon, compass, and anchor. —Floyd B.

Parnassus Books in Nashville, owned by novelist Ann Patchett along with Karen Hayes. It is one of the few remaining independent bookstores in Nashville and is noted as a store for independent readers. —Pate M.

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Park Road Books in Charlotte. Yola the dog is bookstore royalty. Our daughter and her husband had their first date there! —Jere B.

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T. Hargrove Fly Shop in St. Louis, Missouri. Although it’s technically not a bookstore, they do sell books and magazines. This little shop is the epitome of Southern hospitality and a true treasure. —Ken F.

Novel in Memphis. It has something for everyone. —Emily L.

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Pratt’s Books in Graham, Texas. Nestled in America’s largest downtown square (true), Pratt’s Books is among the finest little-known bookstores in the United States. Collectors and novice readers flock to this unique store, which may possibly be the oldest continuously operated independent bookstore in Texas. The shelves are highlighted by hard-to-find Texana, American history, art, cookbooks, and some classics. The owners have curated a massive children’s section filled with titles we all remember growing up. —Carter P.

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I love Hub City Bookshop in Spartanburg, South Carolina, because of its commitment to budding authors and its support of literacy in my hometown. Aside from cultivating a fabulous selection and supporting local schools, the staff also partners with our public library to bring interesting author programs to the area. Whenever I visit, I find new works that resonate with me. —Karen H.

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Quail Ridge Bookstore is an independent bookstore in Raleigh that has been around for decades.  The store has moved from its original location to a more central location in a busier area, but this store is well worth the trip. —Laura Anne W.

Edisto Bookstore on Edisto Island, South Carolina. They have a huge used book section—perfect for beach reading! Plus, there is a residential librarian: Emily Grace, the bookstore cat. —Henriette H.

Lemuria Books in Jackson, Mississippi. They have helpful employees, lots of reading nooks, and a signed first editions club. —Linda S.

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The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama. If you’re ever down in Mobile, I hope you chance upon a quiet by-street where there is a very remarkable bookshop. Eugene Walter worked there and met Harper Lee there, and “the shop is haunted by the ghosts of all great literature.” It is also haunted by the spirit of all the children and book lovers who have dreamed their dreams between its hallowed shelves. —Joe D.

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My absolute favorite local bookstore will always be Books & Books in Coral Gables, Florida. The store’s building is gorgeous, with Mediterranean arches that lead you into a seductive outdoor space that becomes an actual courtyard. The bookstore itself wraps around the courtyard, with shelves that go so high it reminds you of an old historic library. In fact, the building is even listed on the Coral Gables Register of Historic Places. I’ve never left with fewer than three or four new items, and I love introducing friends to this delightful treasure. —Alissa G.

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My favorite local bookstore is Midtown Reader in Tallahassee, Florida. Owner Sally Bradshaw has created a cozy, inviting atmosphere in a vintage two-story building. Downstairs there’s an assortment of carefully curated books and a “Kidtown Reader” area, with a section of picture books, middle grade, and Young Adult texts. Upstairs you’ll find more books, gifts, gadgets with a literary theme, and the “Piebrary,” serving delicious beverages and tasty treats. Midtown Reader also hosts lots of events, both in-person and virtual. They welcome local authors, like me, and promote our events with the same enthusiasm as their James Patterson and Louise Penny events. —Susan K.

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I fell in love with independent bookstores—and signed first editions—at Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi, during graduate school. After moving away, I still miss the prominent displays of signed books from local authors, the palpable sense of community, and the relaxed contentment when sitting on their balcony overlooking the Oxford Square. —Kristie S.

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Ernest & Hadley Booksellers is an Alabama treasure. It’s a quaint, cozy cottage in Tuscaloosa, with a nicely curated selection of books, and an especially good section dedicated to local and Southern authors. —Rosalyn B. 

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