Books are always a go-to holiday gift of mine. Whether I’m buying a sports book for my Dad, a historical fiction book for my mother-in-law, or picture books for my nephew, a bookstore has something for everyone on my list. There’s something so special about wandering through the aisles and spotting that perfect book on the shelf. And if I’m not buying for a reader, bookstores are also great places to buy trendy games, stationery, candles, blankets, socks, and other cozy gifts. I highly recommend checking out your local bookseller for a one-stop gift shop. Here are my top 5 indie bookstores to shop for holiday books & gifts:
Parnassus Books (Nashville, TN)
Growing up in Nashville, TN, we didn’t have a ton of options for indie bookstores after the closure of Davis-Kidd, aside from a few used bookstores and chain retailers. But when author Ann Patchett opened Parnassus Books in 2011, the Nashville literary scene got a whole lot cooler. Parnassus is stocked with an amazing and diverse selection of books and gifts, and if you don’t know what to choose, there are plenty of staff-recommended titles on display. You can also sign up for their First Editions Book Club, where you’ll receive a signed first edition of a literary fiction book. Previous selections include books by Kevin Wilson, Jennifer Egan, Elizabeth Strout, George Saunders, and Yaa Gyasi.
Union Avenue Books (Knoxville, TN)
This is one of my favorite places in my current hometown of Knoxville, TN. Recently expanded, Union Avenue Books has a tremendous selection of the latest bestsellers and buzz worthy books, and a generous customer rewards program. They also have a ton of options for puzzles, games, toys, and other giftable items. If you’re visiting East Tennessee, you don’t want to miss this cozy downtown bookstore, which is also surrounded by several of my favorite restaurants and shops.
Labyrinth Books (Princeton, NJ)
My parents lived in central New Jersey for several years, and each time I visited, we had to make a stop at Labyrinth. As a lifelong fan of Joyce Carol Oates, this bookstore stole my heart when I saw how many signed editions of her novels they carried (Princeton is where Oates lives and taught at Princeton University for over 30 years). It’s also one of the largest indie bookstores I’ve ever been to, and you can wander around in there for hours (I’m starting to understand why it’s called “Labyrinth”). They have an especially impressive selection of non-fiction titles, including art books, essay collections, and photography / coffee table books. Located in the heart of gorgeous, gothic downtown Princeton, this spot is about an hour and a half outside of NYC, and absolutely worth the detour if you’re near the city. You can also enjoy historical walking tours, museums, fine dining, and trendy shops nearby.
The Regulator Bookshop (Durham, NC)
The triangle area (Durham, Raleigh, and Chapel Hill) all have a some great indie bookstores, but my favorite has to be The Regulator, located in downtown Durham. They always have a great selection of signed books, and their consignment program ensures that indie authors and less-discovered writers have a place on the shelf. They also have a generous discount program for students and teachers. This place is incredibly community-oriented, so when you support The Regulator, you’re supporting the city of Durham in more ways than one.
Writer’s Block Bookstore (Winter Park, FL & Winter Garden, FL)
When my parents moved from NJ to Orlando, I was pretty sad to say goodbye to my Princeton stomping grounds at Labyrinth Books, but I perked right up when I discovered this charming little bookstore in Winter Park, Florida (they also have a location in Winter Garden, FL). First of all, the entire town of Winter Park is adorable and beautiful. I highly recommend the scenic tour of their Venetian-style canals. Tucked into an area of unique retailers and fabulous restaurants, Writer’s Block is a small store, but I still can’t go in there without buying an armful of books (their selection of NYRB Classics always makes me drool). The staff are super friendly, they have a great little coffee and tea counter, and plenty of interesting toys, games, and books for kids. Writer’s Block is also a great place to go for gifts, as they have unique, affordable items like beautiful journals, handmade crafts, puzzles, magnets, clothing, and games.
If you’re needing some unique gift ideas this year, a bookstore is the perfect place to start. And if you’d like to advertise your book to people like me who frequently shop in indie bookstores, get in touch with Mary Beth (firstname.lastname@example.org) to find out how.
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