National Independent Bookstore Day the last weekend in April is a regular reminder that indie bookstores are travel destinations And why not? Writer Ann Patchett, who owns the Nashville, Tennessee Parnassus Books I've visited, wrote about this eloquently in the recent special New York Times Travel section on bookstores. (There are several fascinating articles in this special section of Dec. 6, 2016 about literary adventures and bookstore destinations, starting with Ann Patchett's personal guide of favorites. Additionally the National Independent Bookstore Day link provides a long list of some but not all indie bookstores around the U.S.)
When I'm on the road and happen upon an indie bookstore, my experience changes entirely. In fact, sometimes I change my experience to accommodate the bookstore. And often there's a two-fer (such as a cafe or cultural series) inviting me in often and keeping me there for hours.
- In Miami's Coconut Grove, I walk from my hotel to The Bookstore + Organic Kitchen in the Grove. Tucked back in the corner of the Mayfair shopping center, where tech firms and flexible work offices (like Regus) have replaced some of the 0ne-time retail spaces), the Bookstore is a lively cultural center featuring books and authors as well as music and food of South Florida. I choose from the capacious menu (all-day breakfast, sandwiches, salads, smoothies and more) and settle into a comfortable area in the reading corner among other locals with their laptops or coffees (and where the average stay is 1.5 hours).
- On South Main Street at Paragraphs Bookstore in the small town of Mount Vernon, Ohio, I'm invited to sit on an upholstered wing-back chair and browse through a handful of selections. In a community diligently preserving the best of small town America, proprietor Lois Hanson, a former teacher, has created a neighborhood feel with, as she puts it, "real books, real people and real conversations." It's a community center where people hang out, an intersection of community life and when I'm passing through go to buy books and catch up on the latest local news and events.
- In New York's Greenwich Village, Three Lives & Company is a cozy living room, or you might say, is jam-packed like auntie's attic. A shop where every person working there is incredibly knowledgeable, it's a refuge in a charming West Village neighborhood - and, along with everything else "au courant" and historical, a resource for the best volumes about New York, fiction and nonfiction.
- In Manchester, Vermont, not far from winter ski trails and summer hiking, Northshire Bookstore occupies a former sprawling inn - and its 10,000 square feet of reading trails encourage family friendly browsing and discovery. It's a perfect indoor alternative for an outdoorsy tourist region, especially when the weather isn't perfect or when the rest of your family is out on the slopes.