5 Independent Bookstores Every Bibliophile Should Visit



The South’s Bucket List Bookshops


By Mary Beth Wallace


Whether it’s the friendly booksellers, the engaging author events, or the hidden gems you’ll inevitably find stocked among the shelves, there is a lot to love about independent bookstores. These shops not only serve as a place to browse the latest titles, but many of them also act as cultural hubs in their respective communities.

The five shops featured here are located throughout the Southeast, yet they all have at least one thing in common: a deep appreciation for the written word. Make sure to add them to your itinerary the next time you’re in town!

Square Books

Oxford, Mississippi


Square books bookstore


Besides being home to the University of Mississippi, Oxford’s claim to fame lies in its literary roots: Distinguished writers such as William Faulkner, Willie Morris, John Grisham, Barry Hannah, and Donna Tartt called the college town home at one time or another. It’s fitting, then, that Square Books, located in Oxford’s historic town square, takes up so much real estate. The bookstore actually has four iterations – Square Books, Square Books, Jr., Off Square Books, and Rare Square Books – divvied up among three buildings spaced approximately 100 feet apart. The flagship store, founded in 1979, is known for its broad sections on literary fiction, Southern fiction, and history, as well as its author events – more than 150 a year.


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The Alabama Booksmith

Birmingham, Alabama


The Alabama Booksmith is not your typical bookstore, and it’s not trying to be. To start, the store’s inventory consists solely of signed copies, most of which are sold at regular publisher’s price – a change that came about when The Booksmith received a head-to-toe makeover in 2012. The remodeled space can accommodate hundreds of author events, and, most interestingly, allows for every title to be placed face out, helping guests more quickly gauge their interest in the material. The quirky business model seems to be working, as the small shop gets thousands of curious visitors every year.


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Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café 

Asheville, North Carolina

Having celebrated 40 years in 2022, Malaprop’s is an Asheville institution. This downtown bookstore is not only full of the classics and current bestsellers, it also gives a home to traditionally marginalized voices as well as regional authors. What’s more, the store is the perfect stop for a caffeine fix; its lively café carries locally baked goods and coffee sourced and roasted by Counter Culture Coffee. Don’t miss skimming the trusted staff recommendations to pick up a new read, and if you time your visit right, you can enjoy one of Malaprop’s many author events, workshops, or poetry readings.

Malaprop Bookstore book displays and shelves









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Parnassus Books

Nashville, Tennessee


Nashville’s literary crowd can be found at Parnassus Books, nestled in the centrally located Green Hills neighborhood. Branded as “the independent bookstore for independent people,” the store, which opened in 2011, offers an extensive local author section as well as fiction and nonfiction books; other highlights include helpful staff recommendations, friendly shop dogs, a bustling children’s section, and a slew of author events held throughout the year, both online and in-person. Did we mention that Parnassus is owned by bestselling author Ann Patchett (The Dutch House, Commonwealth)? Every single book of Patchett’s is available – and signed – at the store.


woman shopping in Parnassus Bookstore



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Blue Bicycle Books

Charleston, South Carolina


Blue Bicycle Books storefront from the street.


A royal blue sign advertising “Blue Bicycle Books: Used, Rare & Local” juts out into King Street in Charleston, beckoning passersby to check out the unassuming, 12-foot-long storefront. What they’ll soon discover is that the store has much more depth than it appears from the street – it goes back 172 feet! Boasting a vintage, cozy vibe, Blue Bicycle stocks new releases and used books and dedicates a good chunk of its inventory to both local authors and military history (Charleston was a major player in the American Civil War, after all). The bookstore is also the hub of YALLFest, Charleston’s young adult book festival, which is held in November every year.

Blue Bicycle Books

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