Destinations

Where are the best independent bookstores in the South?

Find your new favorite indie bookstore in the SouthFind your new favorite indie bookstore in the South — Photo courtesy of zamrznutitonovi / Getty Images

The South has some of the best — and quirkiest — in independent bookstores in the country. Even small towns like ours (Beaufort, South Carolina) boast multiple bookstores, like NeverMore Books, McIntosh Books and The Beaufort Bookstore. Beaufort is also where the legacy of the late author Pat Conroy lives on at the Pat Conroy Literary Center, which also contains a small bookstore.

As we wind up a book-signing tour of the South to promote Lynn’s new novel, “Carolina’s Ring,” we have put together our top 10 list of independent bookstores in the South.

Auburn Oil Co. Booksellers, Auburn, Alabama

A university town treasure trove in Auburn, AlabamaA university town treasure trove in Auburn, Alabama — Photo courtesy of Henry Williford, Auburn Oil Co. Booksellers

Auburn Oil Co. Booksellers is a collegiate favorite. Opened in 2019 by Auburn native and Auburn University alum Mike Armor and his wife, June, Auburn Oil Co. is a place that was created for people to gather and share their love of books and coffee, including signature coffee drinks, like the Zelda Fizz. Camilla Kitchen at super sister store, M. Judson Booksellers, in Greenville, South Carolina, supplies the delicious baked goods.

Mike’s father previously owned Auburn Oil Co. and several Phillips 66 service stations, back when service stations were community hubs. Today, the bookstore is a gathering place for locals, students, professors and many visitors to the city. Fall asleep with a good book at The Laurel Hotel and Spa or The Collegiate Hotel at Auburn, both of which are around the corner from the bookstore.

Books & Books, Miami, Florida

Books & Books for Florida book loversBooks & Books for Florida book lovers — Photo courtesy of Books & Books

Books & Books is quite simply an independent bookstore icon. It was founded in 1982 by Miami Beach native Mitch Kaplan and has locations in Coral Gables (including the Courtyard Café), Coconut Grove, Bal Harbour and Suniland. There’s also an outpost in Key West, co-founded by married authors Judy Blume and George Cooper. If you’re only in Miami to catch a connecting flight, no problem. You’ll find a Books & Books at Miami International Airport, Concourse D!

The Courtyard Café features a fresh menu (ask about Papo’s homemade daily soups), where a Gables Cobb Salad pairs perfectly with a new book in the airy courtyard. With a long history of hosting best-selling authors and up-and-comers talking about their debut books, these indie bookstores always have a long list of events for book lovers.

Buxton Books, Charleston, South Carolina

Walking tours are offered at Buxton BooksWalking tours are offered at Buxton Books — Photo courtesy of Polly Buxton, Buxton Books

Owning a bookstore in downtown Charleston was Polly Buxton’s dream since childhood. With her husband, Julian, and their loyal team, they have crafted a dream destination for book lovers at Buxton Books. Their well-curated shelves feature lots of Lowcountry writers, ranging from Pat Conroy to Mary Alice Monroe and many more (including our bestselling book, “100 Things to Do in Charleston Before You Die”).

The bookstore is the meeting place for Julian and Polly’s book-inspired walking tours, which offer a fun way for visitors and residents to learn more about the city. Buxton Books also hosts an impressive schedule of author events.

Home to several bookstores, including King Street’s Blue Bicycle Books and two college bookstores, charming Charleston has been truly blessed by the presence of Buxton Books, which is appropriately situated next to the Charleston Library Society on King Street.

Downtown Books, Lexington, Virginia

Family-owned Downtown Books in LexingtonFamily-owned Downtown Books in Lexington — Photo courtesy of Paige Williams, Downtown Books

Little Lexington is big on books, as it is home to two colleges, Virginia Military Institute and Washington and Lee University. Founded in 2021 by the wife of a VMI graduate and family-owned, Downtown Books occupies a narrow but deep space in the heart of Lexington’s always-active downtown. The bookstore features a well-curated book collection, a children’s book nook and a southern-inspired gift selection.

Owner Paige Williams and her family have created a cozy space for book lovers of all types. Overnight visitors to Lexington will want to curl up with a good book at The Georges on Main Street, just a half-block stroll from Downtown Books.

E. Shaver, Booksellers, Savannah, Georgia

A Georgia gem in E. Shaver, BooksellersA Georgia gem in E. Shaver, Booksellers — Photo courtesy of Melissa Taylor, E. Shaver, Booksellers

Opened in 1975 by Esther and Ed Shaver, E. Shaver, Booksellers is a book-buying beacon in the Hostess City of the South. Now owned by Melissa Taylor and Jessica Osborne, the store hosts many events and features the Savannah Tea Room, offering teas, tea ware and gifts. Their great staff includes several cuddly cats.

E. Shaver recently opened a second location called E. Shaver, Starland, just south of downtown, in partnership with adjacent Foxy Loxy Print Gallery and Café.

There’s also another great bookstore, The Book Lady Bookstore, just a block from the original E. Shaver downtown.

Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, Asheville, North Carolina

A beloved bookstore in Asheville, North CarolinaA beloved bookstore in Asheville, North Carolina — Photo courtesy of Bobby Bradley, Malaprop’s

Founded in 1982 by Emoke B’Racz, downtown Asheville’s Malaprop’s has grown into a must-see destination, just like nearby Biltmore Estate. American novelist Thomas Wolfe was born and buried in Asheville, so books are on the brains of locals and visitors alike.

Along with hosting lots of events, their busy café features the fare of local bakeries, as well as locally roasted coffee. Gretchen Horn became majority owner of Malaprop’s and sister shop Downtown Books & News in 2019, after starting as a Malaprop’s barista in 2001.

The bookstore’s name comes from a character in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s 1775 play, “The Rivals,” where Mrs. Malaprop uses language “malapropos” (inappropriately).

Parnassus Books, Nashville, Tennessee

Best-selling author Ann Patchett, owner and co-founder of this independent bookstoreBest-selling author Ann Patchett, owner and co-founder of this independent bookstore — Photo courtesy of Parnassus Books

Internationally acclaimed author and Nashville resident Ann Patchett is the owner and co-founder of Parnassus Books. With a strong love of and emphasis on local authors and illustrators, as well as numerous events highlighting authors near and far, the staff and loyal customers also love their shop dogs (like Ann’s dog, Sparky, as well as Opie and Barnabus).

Those who can’t always make it to the shop swear by Parnassus’s online presence, where customers can get books signed and personalized by Ann and read staff picks, author interviews and notes from Ann on the bookstore’s blog, “Musing.” Parnassus’s popular, redesigned Hudson partnership location is at Nashville International Airport.

Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi

Nothing square about Square Books in Oxford, MississippiNothing square about Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi — Photo courtesy of Beckett Howorth, Square Books

Yes, there’s a theme here when it comes to college towns featuring great bookstores. Home of the University of Mississippi and many great writers (like William Faulkner, Barry Hannah, and, at one point, both Willie Morris and John Grisham), Oxford’s Square Books was established in 1979 and has grown into a multi-location bookseller and much more that’s anything but square.

Housed in three separate buildings about 100 feet apart, there’s the two-story main store, Square Books, with a café and balcony on the second floor; Off Square Books, featuring lifestyle sections on gardening, cookbooks and more; Square Books, Jr. the children’s outpost; and, above it, Rare Square Books, with collectible, vintage and first edition books.

The Book and The Bean, Mandeville, Louisiana

Known to locals as The Book Nook in Mandeville, LouisianaKnown to locals as The Book Nook in Mandeville, Louisiana — Photo courtesy of LouisianaNorthshore.com

Also known to locals as The Book Nook, The Book and The Bean provides a perfect pairing for readers, matching books and brews. The bookstore features a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction, including a selection of local authors, as well as a well-stocked gift shop with a country flair.

The bookstore teamed up with Flamjeaux Coffee Company, a local small-batch coffee roaster whose coffee drinks, teas and baked goods are perfect accompaniments to a new book. The Book and The Bean is also a gift shop with a country flair, offering a variety of handmade candles and soaps, original fine art, photography, jewelry and accessories and home décor.

WordsWorth Books, Little Rock, Arkansas

Community-minded WordsWorth in Little RockCommunity-minded WordsWorth in Little Rock — Photo courtesy of WordsWorth Books

Little Rock and all of Central Arkansas is blessed big-time to have WordsWorth Books. At WordsWorth, they are on a mission to match readers with books, as is evidenced by their website’s staff profiles, where owners and staff members share the books they love and recommend to fellow readers. At the store, you will always be greeted by a friendly face ready to help you find your next great read.

Like many indie bookstores, WordsWorth is engaged in the community, serving as the bookseller for the Clinton School of Public Service Speaker Series and the Central Arkansas Library Systems’ annual Six Bridges Book Festival, as well as the WordsWorth Community Partnership Program, which donates books to school libraries and organizations.

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