On Air
0:00
0:00
Open In Popup
MPR News

Indie Bookstore Day: Where to go, what to read

Share story

Minnesota's many independent bookstores
Each of Minnesota's independent bookstores offers its own unique selection, from progressive literature to local poetry.
Tracy Mumford | MPR News

This Saturday is Independent Bookstore Day, a day devoted to the neighborhood bookshops that keep on kicking.

Six years ago, the fate of the independent shop seemed bleak. Bookstores around the country were closing. The shuttering of Borders proved that not even corporate chains were safe. The recession, the introduction of the e-reader and the rise of Amazon made some question if bookstores were a thing of the past.

But it wasn't The End. Bookstores around the country have rebounded and new shops continue to open. The number of independent bookstores has actually grown 20 percent since 2009. 

Why the changing tide? People still want to wander the store, booksellers say. And it's hard to beat a personal recommendation. Amazon may have algorithms, but booksellers have decades of experience and unbridled enthusiasm for the next big book.

In honor of Independent Bookstore Day, we asked more than two dozen bookstores around the state for their latest recommendations. Many of these shops are holding their own festivities on Saturday; stop by to browse their selections.

Minnesota's independent bookstores

Ancestry Books | Minneapolis

Ancestry Books in Minneapolis
Ancestry Books opened in north Minneapolis last summer.
Courtesy of Ancestry Books

Ancestry Books opened in June 2014 after a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign to bring a bookstore to North Minneapolis. The shop is dedicated to promoting and sharing the work of indigenous authors and authors of color.

• Fiction: "Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements" edited by Adrienne Marie Brown and Walidah Imarisha
• Fiction: "Long Division" by Kiese Laymon
• Nonfiction: "Zapata's Disciple: Essays" by Martin Espada

Beagle Books & Bindery with Sister Wolf Books | Park Rapids

Two bookstores, one stop. This two-for-one is known for its lively book groups and for tracking down hard-to-find titles.

• Fiction: "The High Divide" by Lin Enger
• Nonfiction: "Water and What We Know" by Karen Babine
• Young adult: "Circus Mirandus" by Cassie Beasley

Birchbark Books & Native Arts | Minneapolis

Birchbark Books in Minneapolis
Birchbark Books carries art, jewelry and natural products as well.
Courtesy of Birchbark Books

Birchbark is owned by National Book Award-winning author Louise Erdrich. It's a full-range bookstore that specializes in Native American books and art. 

The store's staff "believe in the power of good writing, the beauty of handmade art, the strength of Native culture and the importance of small and intimate bookstores." Birchbark opened in 2000.

• Fiction: "There's Something I Want You to Do" by Charles Baxter
• Nonfiction: "The Sixth Extinction" by Elizabeth Kolbert
• Young readers: "Jingle Dancer" by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Boneshaker Books | Minneapolis

Boneshaker Books in Minneapolis
You can visit Boneshaker Books in person, or get your books delivered by bicycle.
Courtesy of Boneshaker Books

Boneshaker Books, located in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis, is staffed entirely by volunteers. The shop specializes in progressive and radical literature &mdah; and children's books. It also houses the Women's Prison Book Project, which provides books to inmates across the country.

Boneshaker will even deliver your books by bicycle for free, if you're within the city limits. For Independent Bookstore Day, they will be open for 24 hours straight, from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Sunday. The all-day-and-night celebration includes readings and a zine-making challenge.

• Fiction: "Americanah" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
• Nonfiction: "Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn't Work and How We Can Do Better" by Maya Schenwar
• Children's: "Rosie Revere, Engineer" by Andrea Beaty

The Book Shelf | Winona

The Book Shelf in Winona
The Book Shelf draws local Minnesota authors for readings in Winona.
Courtesy of The Book Shelf

At The Book Shelf, you can grab a bite to eat and a good book all at once. The small bookstore shares space with the Blue Heron Coffeehouse and features a full selection of new and used books for both adults and children.

• Fiction: "The Sympathizer" by Viet Thanh Nguyen
• Nonfiction: "Missoula: Rape and The Justice System in a College Town" by Jon Krakauer
• Children's: "The Imaginary" by A.F. Harrold

Common Good Books | St. Paul

Common Good Books in St. Paul
You might recognize the owner of Common Good if you see him around the store: it's Garrison Keillor, of "A Prairie Home Companion."
Courtesy of Common Good Books

Common Good Books stocks everything from fiction and poetry to books on gardening and writing. Their store is constantly abuzz with author readings, from local poets to Hillary Clinton. The store opened in a basement on St. Paul's Cathedral Hill in 2006, and moved to the corner of Grand and Snelling avenues in 2012.  "Still above average, now above ground," has become the store's unofficial motto.

The store has a full line-up of events planned for Independent Bookstore Day, including F. Scott Fitzgerald Bingo at noon. Visit Common Good Books  for the full schedule.

• Fiction: "Viper Wine" by Hermione Eyre
• Nonfiction: "Bad Days in History" by Michael Farquahar
• Children's: "Wild" by Emily Hughes

Content | Northfield

Content in Northfield
Content opened its doors in Northfield in November, 2014.
Courtesy of Content

Content is the newest bookstore on the block in Minnesota. The shop opened last November in the historic heart of Northfield. The store's selection is expansive, given the many interests of a small college town. Owner Jessica Peterson White remarked that the shop's selection "reflects the eclectic community in which we live."

• Fiction: "A Little Life" by Hanya Yanagihara
• Nonfiction: "The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America" by Ai-Jen Poo
• Children's: "Upon an Alphabet: Short Stories for All the Letters" by Oliver Jeffers

Eat My Words | Minneapolis

Eat My Words in Minneapolis
Eat My Words offers a community meeting space in northeast Minneapolis.
Courtesy of Eat My Words

Northeast Minneapolis was without a bookstore until Eat My Words arrived last February. The cozy corner shop is regularly filled with book readings and music performances. It specializes in used books, including some antiquarian finds, but has two shelves full of new books by local authors.

• Fiction: "Catch-22" by Joseph Heller
• Nonfiction: "The Man Who Ate His Boots: The Tragic History of the Search for the Northwest Passage" by Anthony Brandt
• Young readers: "The Gammage Cup" by Carol Kendall

Excelsior Bay Books | Excelsior

Excelsior Bay Books in Excelsior
Excelsior Bay Books carries everything from national bestsellers to local Minnesota favorites.
Courtesy of Excelsior Bay Books

The years have flown by at Excelsior Bay Books — the shop has been open for nearly two decades. "Many of our young customers are having kids of their own now," said bookseller Ann Nye. Excelsior Bay carries a little bit of everything, and the staff is eager to recommend their favorites.

• Fiction: "The Buried Giant" by Kazuo Ishiguro
• Nonfiction: "Bettyville" by George Hodgman
• Children's: "Home" by Carson Ellis

The Bookstore at Fitger's  | Duluth

The Bookstore at Fitger's in Duluth
Are you looking for a dog-gone good book?
Courtesy of The Bookstore at Fitger's

This independent bookstore sits in the lower level of Duluth's Fitger's mall. The shop specializes in northeastern Minnesota regional books, including many titles about Duluth and Lake Superior.

• Fiction: "Bohemian Flats" by Mary Relindes Eliis
• Nonfiction: "Braiding Sweetgrass" by Robin Wall Kimmerer
• Children's: "Enchantment Lake" by Margi Preus

Magers & Quinn | Minneapolis

Magers & Quinn in Minneapolis
Magers & Quinn has over 90,000 books out on the floor. There's even more in the basement.
Courtesy of Magers & Quinn

This Uptown staple has been open since 1994. The shop carries a wide variety of new and used books, and has a calendar packed with author visits and readings. It's easy to get lost in the store's large selection — in the best way possible.

• Fiction: "Kitchens of the Great Midwest" by J. Ryan Stradal
• Nonfiction: "Girl in the Dark" by Anna Lynsey
• Children's: "Snow White and the 77 Dwarfs" by Davide Calli A hilarious, fractured fairy tale. Instead of seven dwarfs, Snow White is rescued by 77 dwarfs. Turns out 77 dwarfs is a lot dwarfs with a lot of needs.

Mayday Books | Minneapolis

Mayday Books in Minneapolis
Mayday Books is tucked beneath The Hub Bike Co-op in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis.
Courtesy of Mayday Books

Mayday Books is a non-profit, all-volunteer bookstore selling politically progressive books. Their collection includes a wide variety of magazines, newspapers and zines as well. Their motto? "Not making a profit since 1975."

• Nonfiction: "The Communist Manifesto" by Freidrich Engels and Karl Marx
• Nonfiction: "The New Jim Crow" by Michelle Alexander
• Nonfiction: "A People's History of the United States" by Howard Zinn

Micawber's | St. Paul

Micawber's in St. Paul
A sneak peek of the selection at Micawber's.
Courtesy of Micawbers

Micawber's has been in business for 42 years, drawing a devoted group of book buyers to their readings and events. "It's not the biggest bookstore," said owner Tom Bielenberg, "but we strive to be one of the most interesting." 

• Fiction: "All the Old Knives" by Olen Steinhauer
• Nonfiction: "Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II" by Vicki Constantine Croke
• Poetry: "The Superior Life" by Jean Larson

Midway Used and Rare Books  |  St. Paul

Midway Used and Rare Books in St. Paul
Midway Used and Rare Books is the oldest independent used bookstore in the Twin Cities.
Courtesy of Midway Used and Rare Books

Get lost in the stacks at Midway Used and Rare Books — there are more than 50,000 volumes to browse, including what the store says is the largest art book section in the Midwest. Established in 1965, the shop is the oldest independent used bookstore in the Twin Cities.

• Fiction: "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand
• Nonfiction: "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds" by Charles MacKay
• Young readers: "Someday, Angeline" by Louis Sachar

Moon Palace Books | Minnapolis

Moon Palace Books in Minneapolis
Moon Palace Books's bright exterior is hard to miss.
Courtesy of Moon Palace Books

Moon Palace Books is a neighborhood gem, tucked by the Trylon Microcinema. The small shop opened in 2012 and has a built a loyal following with a carefully curated selection and lively events. Independent Bookstore Day will be no exception: The shop has a bevy of events planned.

• Fiction: "A Little Life" by Hanya Yanagihara
• Nonfiction: "Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys" by Viv Albertine
• Young readers: "Hug Machine" by Scott Campbell

Once Upon a Crime | Minneapolis

Once Upon a Crime in Minneapolis
Mystery lovers flock to this "Crime" scene.
Courtesy of Once Upon a Crime

Whodunnit? The answer is probably at the Once Upon a Crime bookshop. The shop is stocked entirely with mysteries and crime fiction, with an emphasis on local authors. Once Upon a Crime has been on the case since 1987, and earned a prestigious Raven Award from the Mystery Writers of America in 2011.

• Fiction: "Fallen Angel" by Chuck Logan
• Fiction: "Big Wheat" by Richard Thompson
• Nonfiction: "Stolen From the Garden: The Kidnapping of Virginia Piper" by William Swanson

Red Balloon Bookshop | St. Paul

The Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul
Kids books aren't just for kids at the Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul.
Courtesy of Red Balloon Bookshop

This St. Paul shop boasts a wide selection for the young and young at heart. The store focuses on baby books up through young adult literature. (And young adult literature has fans of all ages).

• Nonfiction: "Mo'ne Davis: Remember My Name" by Mo'ne Davis with Hilary Beard
• Children's: "The Octopuppy" by Martin McKenna
• Young adult: "Nimona" by Noelle Stevenson

Scout & Morgan Books  |  Cambridge

Scout & Morgan Books in Cambridge
Scout & Morgan is stocked with more than 25,000 titles.
Courtesy of Scout & Morgan Books

Scout & Morgan Books has been serving east central Minnesota since 2002. The shop is known for its wide collection of used, new and out-of-print books. The space is frequently buzzing with author events and the shop's summer reading program for kids. Dogs are welcome!

• Fiction: "The Cherry Harvest" by Lucy Sanna
• Nonfiction: "Her Honor: Rosalie Wahl and the Minnesota Women's Movement" by Lori Sturdevant
• Children's: "Wherever You Go" by Pat Zeitlow Miller

Sixth Chamber Used Books | St. Paul

Sixth Chamber Used Books in St. Paul
Sixth Chamber Used Books' 20th anniversary falls on May 5.
Courtesy of Sixth Chamber Used Books

When you walk into Sixth Chamber, trust in serendipity to lead you to the right book. That's the sentiment at the shop, where the prevailing belief is that the book finds the reader. With more than 90,000 used books on the floor, there are options aplenty.

• Fiction: "The Sea, the Sea" by Iris Murdoch
• Nonfiction: "What to Eat" by Marion Nestle
• Young readers: "The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963" by Christopher Paul Curtis

Subtext Books | St. Paul

Subtext Books in St. Paul
The drool-inducing fiction wall at Subtext Books' current location.
Courtesy of Subtext Books

The owners of Subtext believe that "our bookstore is a reflection of our community." The shop's schedule is packed with local author readings and the shelves feature local artists of all kinds. This summer, Subtext is on the move from its Cathedral Hill location to a new storefront in downtown St. Paul.

• Fiction: "The Ghost Network" by Catie Disabato
• Nonfiction: "Empire of Deception" by Dean Jobb, 
• Poetry: "The God of the Whole Animal" by Lewis Mundt

Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction Bookstore and Uncle Edgar's Mystery Bookstore |  Minneapolis

Uncle Hugo's and Uncle Edgar's in Minneapolis
With Uncle Hog's and Uncle Edgar's, you get two bookstores in one.
Courtesy of Uncle Hugo's

Calling all fans of science fiction, fantasy, mystery and suspense: Uncle Hugo and Uncle Edgar have you covered. The shops, which are connected, carry genre galore and City Pages just named them the best used bookstores in the Twin Cities.

From Uncle Hugo

• Fiction: "Ancillary Justice" by Ann Leckie
• Nonfiction: "The Science Fiction Universe. . . And Beyond: SyFy Channel Book of Sci-Fi"
• Young readers: "The Boy at the End of the Worl,"  by Greg Van Eekhout

From Uncle Edgar

• Fiction: "Midnight Riot" by Ben Aaronovitch
• Nonfiction: " Falco: The Official Companion" by Lindsey Davis
• Young readers: "P.K. Pinkerton and the Deadly Desperados" by Caroline Lawrence

Valley Bookseller | Stillwater

Valley Bookseller in Stillwater
Valley Bookseller partners with schools and libraries for book fair events.
Courtesy of Valley Bookseller

Valley Bookseller will celebrate its 25th anniversary in September, marking a quarter century of finding the right book for thousands of readers. The Stillwater shop is stocked with books for all ages.

• Fiction: "The Secret Wisdom of the Earth" by Christopher Scotton
• Nonfiction: "My Grandfather's Knocking Sticks: Ojibwe Family Life and Labor on the Reservation" by Brenda J. Child
• Young readers: "Wonder at the Edge of the World" by Nicole Helget

Village Bookstore | Grand Rapids

The Village Bookstore in Grand Rapids, Minn.
The Village Bookstore provides lot of summer reading to vacationers on the North Shore.
Courtesy of The Village Bookstore

Readers at the North Shore can head to this Grand Rapids bookstore for a wide selection and a well-curated children's section. Established in 1980, the shop has a Minnesota focus, with many titles by local authors.

• Fiction: "Gathering Prey" by John Sanford
• Nonfiction: "Nightingale: A Memoir of Murder, Madness, and the Messenger of Spring" by Suzanne Congdon Leroy
• Young readers: "I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives" by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda with Liz Welch

Wild Rumpus | Minneapolis

The Wild Rumpus bookstore in Minneapolis
The canoe hanging from the ceiling in Wild Rumpus is bound to inspire young readers' imaginations.
Courtesy of Wild Rumpus

If you head to Wild Rumpus, keep an eye out for the chickens. And the rats. And the cats. The children's bookshop has its own menagerie, in addition to a huge selection. The shop was designed with kids in mind — there's even a kid-sized door at the front.

The shop will be busy on Independent Bookstore Day with a number of events, including a Sheep Painting Party. Yes, you read that correctly.

• Fiction: "The Republic of the Imagination" by Azar Nafisi
• Nonfiction picture book: "Animalium" by Jenny Broom and Katie Scott
• Young readers: "The Walls Around Us" by Nova Ren Suma

Reading statewide: A map of Minnesota's indie bookstores