A trip to an independent bookstore can be a great way to get to know a new town quickly. Check out this list of some of the best independent bookstores in the South—where each of these shops are a representation of the communities they’re based in, whether they’re owned and operated by a longtime local, house resident cats or neighbors in a cozy coffee shop.
Avid Bookshop, founded by University of Georgia graduate Janet Geddis, is located in the walkable Five Points district of Athens next to locally-owned Condor Chocolates and across the street from Jittery Joe’s, “Athens’ favorite cup of Joe.” With a charming and homey aesthetic, Avid has become a staple within the community over the years, regularly hosting book signings and readings, plus many author/illustrator events for younger readers throughout the year.
Goldberry Books is located in historic Downtown Concord and sells new and used books, greeting cards and specialty gifts in a welcoming atmosphere. Grab a book, stop in neighboring coffee shop Press and Porter for a latte and take a stroll off the quaint Main Street lined with various specialty shops and a curated art gallery inside the historic Cabarrus County Courthouse.
Sylva’s Main Street in the western North Carolina mountains is home to landmark bookstore City Lights, which is lorded over by a pair of resident cats and specializes in rare and out-of-print texts. An adjacent café named after it, City Lights Café, is a go-to spot for both visitors and locals for delicious coffee and locally sourced food.
Located in the birthplace of the civil rights movement and specifically, on the “most historical short street in America,” Dexter Avenue, 1977 Books in Montgomery continues to carry the torch of social and racial equality that was lit by local leaders like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. years before opening its doors in 2019. Independently owned, 1977 Books operates on a volunteer employment structure, reinforcing its concept of being “for the people, by the people.” Its quaint and cozy physical aesthetic also functions as a multipurpose space open to the public to use for hosted events such as book club meetings, poetry workshops and any other gatherings that support its mission of fostering healing and community.
Co-located with Cat Island Coffeehouse, Pass Christian Books is a two-story building and deck overlooking the Gulf of Mexico is an inviting and stimulating spot to browse books, relax, converse and meet friends. The second floor is known as The Mississippi Loft for its focus on Mississippi authors and subjects. Pass Christian Books has organized and hosted over 150 author and book events, and they continue to do so either independently or in conjunction with other organizations.
An indie bookseller in Laurel, The Bookstore in the Window focuses on new and used books, gifts, a unique atmosphere and lots of Southern hospitality. It offers a two-for-one trade-in on books so traders can swap an old book for a new read in a fun way.
Square Books is made up of three separate buildings 100 feet apart from each other on the historic town square of Oxford, Mississippi. The first two-story building holds the main store, Square Books, featuring a café and balcony. A few doors down in the second building is Off Square Books, which houses the lifestyle section, and in the third building is Square Books Jr., which houses the children’s section and the newest edition to the Square Books family, Rare Square Books.
Founded in 2006, Turnrow Book Co. in Greenwood is the Mississippi Delta’s charming headquarters for book signings, live music, art exhibitions and more. The small and dedicated staff curates a rotating inventory of hand-selected reads, so there’s always something new to discover. Plus, the bookstore shares space with the Turnrow Café, which is a local favorite for coffee, lunch and craft brews.
With floor-to-ceiling shelves full of books, including several first editions and a dedicated children’s section, Lemuria Books in Jackson has something for everyone. Guests are encouraged to grab a coffee from Broadstreet Bakery and bring it to the store to pair alongside their newest book.