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The Only Independent Bookstore in Charleston

Blue Bicycle is curating the best lines in Charleston, South Carolina.

by Hope S. Philbrick

When I strolled down King Street in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, a window display caught my eye. The book How to Win at Feminism was positioned between Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bad Girls Throughout History.

Blue Bicycle Books is a store that’s not afraid to stake a position in the world of current events.

I pushed through the front door and on floor-to-ceiling shelves on the left I spotted the children’s picture book A Is For Activist, which was displayed on a shelf with its cover facing out so you’d see the cover not just the book spine. It caught my eye because of its atypical positioning, as well as the simple fact that I’d never heard of it before.

“We carry any section you can think of, just more specialized selections within a category than you might find elsewhere,” says Ben Adams, one of the store’s friendly staff members. “And that is deliberate.”

Displayed on tables and shelves was also a wide array of local books, including Charleston Blacksmith: The Work of Philip Simmons, Cooking the Gullah Way,” “Charleston Style, The Ghosts of Charleston, Charleston Is My Home, Being Dead Is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral and many more.

Launched in 1995, Blue Bicycle Books is Charleston’s independent bookstore. (The store was first opened by Lee and Jim Breeden, but in April 2007 was purchased and renamed by local writer and longtime employee Jonathan Sanchez.) “We have been the only independent bookstore in Charleston,” says Adams. “We are now also a travel book store.”

Used, new, rare and local books are stocked. “We’re more curated than a box bookstore,” says Manager Sara Peck. “We’re pretty specific about what we cover — that said, we do carry books in all genres.”

Blue Bicycle Books is also a New York Times-reporting shop, so what you buy here counts like a vote. Space is available for events; the bookstore hosts more than 200 authors each year.

My advice: Don’t arrive with your arms full, because there are lots of titles you’ll want to buy and carry out of here whether it be by bike or on foot.

Photos by HSP Media LLC. 

Hope S. Philbrick is founder and editor-in-chief of Getaways for Grownups, an online magazine for adults seeking travel options that do not include children. She thanks a friendly taxi driver and a lunch of contemporary Southern cuisine for enticing her to move to Atlanta in 1997. Now she has no plans to leave Georgia, beyond her frequent travels as a freelance writer. Her articles about travel, food, wine and spirits (as in booze, not ghosts) have appeared in dozens of publications nationwide. When not writing, she’s either on the road or savoring something tasty. Read more about her most recent trip to Charleston, South Carolina, here. You can also read about Hope and Erin’s #DSGetaway, which included Charleston, by searching that hashtag. 

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