Visiting Indie Bookstores on Vacation
One of my favorite things to do when I travel is visit local independent bookstores along the way. Every bookstore has its own personality, culture, and way of doing things, and I enjoy exploring each and every one. While they are all unique, there are certain things that almost every store has such as staff recommendations, a local interest section, and a new release table(s). Often, bookstores are a window into the community where they exist as well.
This summer my family traveled to the Pacific Northwest on vacation. As soon as we set our itinerary, I began plotting all of my bookstore visits, trying to cram in as many as possible. We began in Portland, Oregon where I visited one of the most iconic U.S. bookstores, Powell’s Books. Powell’s bills itself as a “City of Books” and claims to be the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world. The flagship store is gigantic, and we had a ball wandering the rows and rows and rows of books. This is the place to visit when you know what you are looking for or you want to spend hours browsing.
Next we headed to the Oregon Coast where I was lucky enough to visit two bookstores, Cannon Beach Book Co. and Beach Books in Seaside, Oregon. The staff at Cannon Beach was delightful, and my girls and I added several books to our collection from that store. And it is right next to an ice cream shop so after wandering the shelves at Cannon Beach, we grabbed a treat.
The second store, Beach Books, quickly was added to my list of favorite bookstores to visit – the store is beautiful, just so easy to browse and open and airy. They have a fabulous way of doing their staff recommendations that does not make looking at other books more difficult. (This is a pet peeve of mine in bookstores where the placard for one book blocks other books or makes it difficult to get a book off the shelf. Instead Beach Books has created tags that hang from the book making it easy to read the review but also not impacting browsing in the slightest.) Once we returned home, we ordered a couple of my daughter’s novels that she needed for school from them, and the store threw in an extra galley (a copy of a book before it comes out) with what we ordered. My daughter was thrilled.
We then made our way up to Washington and eventually ended up in Seattle where we checked out two more stores, The Elliott Bay Book Company and Island Books, in the midst of other sightseeing adventures. Elliott Bay is larger and very open with a high ceiling, and it was on my list of “must visits” so I enjoyed stopping in there. But my favorite of the two was Island Books on Mercer Island, which is a true gem. The store’s layout makes it easy to wander, and everyone I turned there were books and cool bookish merchandise. We had so much fun exploring the store.
Because we visited so many stores in a decently short span of time, I found myself comparing and contrasting the stores. And while I adored seeing them all, I find that I am more enamored with the bookstores that are not immense and where the personality of the store really shines through. Both types of stores serve different purposes, and more than anything, I am thankful that in today’s world with online shopping so prevalent that each of these stores is open and thriving.
Next time you travel, I hope you will check out the local bookstores on your trip. And if you have any favorites, I would love to hear about them so I can add them to my list!
For more book recommendations and bookish thoughts, see Cindy’s monthly Buzz Reads column, her Thoughts from a Page Podcast or follow @ThoughtsFromaPage on Instagram. Find upcoming Conversations from a Page events here.
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