In a country of big corporations and homogenized megastores, the little shop down the street has become all too rare. Everywhere I go I try to find that bookstore where I can have my own little keepsake; My own memory of the places I’ve been to. Since Memorial Day Weekend is upon us, here are five independent bookstores that you should visit on a long weekend (like this one) or on a summer getaway.
Mermaid Books: Williamsburg, VA
On a Saturday morning after having a much needed breakfast by the William and Mary campus, I came across Mermaid Books. Resting below a flight of stairs leading to a basement, this little store sells all kinds of vintage used books. In a tiny room that would make a claustrophobic have an attack, sit books from the floor to the ceiling, with every genre ranging from classic hardcover first editions of Farewell to Arms to a long-lost activist pamphlet from the ’70s. I got a first print of Jack Kerouac’s Dr. Sax with my last eight dollars. The thing is I had to do it because the books seem to call to you in a place like this. I recommend Mermaid Books to anyone who seeks forgotten classics.
Brown University Bookstore: Providence, RI
Being a Providence College grad and lifelong hater of Brown University, saying this pains me to no end but they do have a kick-ass bookstore. Located in the heart of Providence on historic Thayer Street, this two-story giant has a selection that rivals any Barnes & Noble. Always up to date with the newest releases, the incredibly well-read staff also specialize in finding any classic that might come to mind. What also adds to this place’s charm are the comfy chairs peppered throughout the store. If you’re in Providence and want to go for a visit, get ready to burn off several hours of your day.
Avid Bookshop: Athens, GA
This is the baby of the list. Established in 2011 right outside the University of Georgia’s campus, Avid is staffed by some of the most enthusiastic booklovers I have ever seen. Most went, or are still going, to UGA themselves. If you’re in the area and interested in the local arts scene, go to a reading where you’ll see some of Georgia’s best up-and-coming writers. This is the place to be if you want to support hometown talent as many local authors sell their books here too.
Commonwealth Books: Boston, MA
Take a right after you pass Faneuil Hall and there’s this old office building from the 1950s. You’ll find Commonwealth Books of Boston on the ground floor. This relic from days gone by sells old books exclusively, several from publishing houses that closed their doors decades ago. I bought a collection of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short stories that was so dated, the author bio on the back cover didn’t even mention he wrote The Great Gatsby! It’s a quirky little place, too. The owner’s cats freely wander around the store jumping from shelf to shelf.
Three Lives & Co.: New York City, NY
The quintessential corner bookstore is located on West 10th and Waverly in Greenwich Village. This is the kind of bookstore that helps define the look and feel of a neighborhood; paneled with classic wooden shelves with every surface stacked with books. Some visiting authors have gone as far as to say this is one of the finest bookstores in the world. Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Cunningham once said of Three Lives, “I go there when I’m feeling depressed and discouraged, and I always feel rejuvenated.”