My Favorite Indie Bookstores and Public Libraries by Jennifer Chen
This month, author James Patterson made headlines for announcing his plan to donate $1 million to independent bookstores that have children’s sections. As a fan and supporter of indie bookstores, I was thrilled with the news. With more and more readers migrating to e-readers (and I count myself as one), beloved mom-and-pop bookstores are struggling. Recently I purchased a membership to my local bookstore, Skylight Books, because I believe in supporting brick-and-mortar shops. Finding the perfect little shop to wander around and discover new works is getting harder, but hopefully with Patterson’s donation, these undiscovered gems will continue to survive. Just like a good bookstore, a public library is another heaven for bibliophiles. In fact, my love of reading started at my hometown local library, which had a huge children’s section. Without further ado, here are my top 10 favorite independent bookstores and public libraries.
1. Powell’s Books. This is truly book heaven. The main headquarters and five other locations are in Portland, OR. If you’re ever in Portland, it’s a must-visit for book lovers. If you have a favorite author, you can find their name and grab used, new, and first-edition copies of their books. I order online from Powell’s all the time.
2. Skylight Books. I have a crush on this LA bookstore. The website has illustrated covers of recent best-sellers. There’s an adorable tortoise-shell-colored store cat. And the author events here are killer.
3. Community Bookstore. I have fond memories of standing outside online at midnight waiting for the release of the last Harry Potter book at this Park Slope mainstay in Brooklyn, NY. I love that it host events by local authors regularly.
4. Book Passage. This Bay Area bookstore has two locations and the San Francisco location is right on the water, so you get a lovely view while enjoying cool books and excellent author readings.
5. Book Soup. I used to live in walking distance from this West Hollywood local shop that hosts readings with some famous folks. You’ll always find something interesting here.
1. Monmouth County Library. As a kid, this place was my home away from home. I scooped up armfuls of Sweet Valley High and Baby-sitters Club books from this huge library. Also, I’m convinced a really cool hipster with great taste in music manages the CD section.
2. Brooklyn Public Library. I was lucky to live around the corner from this massive library. Besides being a stunning building, I loved placing books on hold and just picking them up on the hold shelf. They have everything.
3. West Hollywood Public Library. This library underwent a major renovation and turned into this gorgeous, modern library that I wish I could live in (seriously). The kids’ section has a really cool theater and the view from the second floor is spectacular!
4. Berkeley Public Library. If you’re a fan of magazines, their selection is superb and their children’s and DVD section are pretty fantastic.
5. Alafaya Branch of the Orange County Library System. This Orlando, FL library comes courtesy of a fellow author who works there as a librarian. I always notice on Facebook all the wonderful programming her branch offers—from computer classes for kids ages 6 to 12 where they can learn 3D animation, a filmmaking club where teens can create their own films, and a monthly Ladies Night Out event that lets ladies hang out and enjoy crafts and snacks. All for free! Amazing, huh?
As enthusiastic readers and lover of books, let’s continue to help and support wonderful local libraries and indie bookstores that are helping authors and readers connect everywhere. What are some of your favorites?
Jennifer Chen is a freelance writer and editor, playwright, and middle-grade author, represented by Michelle Andelman at Regal Literary. She lives in Los Angeles with her TV writer husband, three-legged cat, adorable pug, and huggable yellow Lab.
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