One of the highlights of our summer trip is going to the bookstore in Copper Harbor, Michigan. The store is called Grandpa’s Barn, but it’s really more of a quaint little log cabin. The woman who operates the store does a great job of selecting books. We spend a lot of time in bookstores throughout the year, but without fail, we find hidden gems at Grandpa’s Barn. We never leave without making a dent in the inventory, doing our best to help the store’s bottom line.
Driving back from Grandpa’s Barn the other day, I got to thinking about independent bookstores. There’s a lot of talk in our digital times about the demise of bookstores, but I have to believe there will always be a place for well-run independents. Here are five great independent bookstores that I hope are around for a very long time.
5) Antigone – Tucson, AZ: This store is located on 4th Avenue in the heart of the University of Arizona campus. I don’t get down there as much as I should, but every time I do, I find great books. My wife once showed up to a Barbara Kingsolver reading so early she was afraid the store’s employees might think she was stalking Kingsolver.
4) Powell’s Books – Portland, OR: I’ve been to Portland twice in my life, which means I’ve been to Powell’s twice in my life. Powell’s is huge, occupying an entire city block in downtown Portland. Without the benefit of any data, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Powell’s is the most successful independent bookstore in the country. If it’s not, I’d like to see the independent bookstore that’s doing better.
3) The Wild Rumpus – Minneapolis, MN: You have to love a place that takes its name from Where the Wild Things Are. The Wild Rumpus is a children’s bookstore, complete with all kinds of animals running around and on display. The store has an iconic entrance, a door within a door for the kiddos.
2) Grandpa’s Barn - Copper Harbor, MI: A Keweenaw Peninsula treasure.
1) Singing Wind Bookshop – Benson, AZ: This one is WAY off the beaten path. Benson is about 30 miles east of Tucson, and Singing Wind is located on the outskirts, down a long private dirt road. When you get to the end of the road, you’ll find a fully functional cattle ranch. The bookstore itself is a series of rooms in Winn Bundy's home, and she will gladly show you around. Winn specializes in all things Southwestern, but her interests are diverse, and you’re sure to find a book you need to have. Singing Wind has been written up in the New York Times, and people from all over the world have purchased books at this truly unique place.
The independent spirit is still alive and kicking at these amazing bookstores. If you’re ever in the neighborhood, make sure you stop in and spend a little money. You’ll be richer for the experience.
If you know of any other great independent bookstores, be sure to tell us about them in the comments.