When I was in college, I loved going to Maple Street Bookstore. Even though Tulane had an on-campus bookstore, there was something much more comforting about perusing the shelves in a converted shotgun while the floorboards creaked underneath my feet and the door chimed each time a new patron entered the store. With its catchy slogan, “Fight the Stupid,” Maple Street Bookstore had almost an occult following; it was a source of pride and connection in the Uptown/Carrollton area. I was so sad when it closed a few years ago because it felt like the loss of a landmark of my college experience.
While national bookstore chains may be able to offer large selections of books, they aren’t usually the image people call to mind when they think of a bookstore because they can never quite seem to match the charm, personal touches, and community connections provided by locally owned, independent bookstores.
This Saturday, April 29th, is the 10th anniversary of Independent Bookstore Day, and I encourage you to check out some of the awesome indie bookstores we have in the New Orleans area. Many of them are holding special events to celebrate the day.
I am particularly partial to Two Fish Books because it is owned by two good friends of mine who did what every English teacher dreams of: they retired from teaching and opened a bookstore. Located inside Café Aquarius in Chalmette, Two Fish Books offers a great selection of books, a buy-back and rewards program, and a great selection of kids’ items, including Melissa and Doug toys. They also regularly host authors, children’s events, and a monthly book club.
Garden District Book Shops is in “The Rink,” the old skate rink at the corner of Washington and Prytania. They have a large selection of local books. They also host a monthly book club and regular literary events. Check out their website to learn about the Bookstore Crawl Passport Challenge they are participating in, along with several of the other shops listed here (*), to celebrate Independent Bookstore Day.
Another staple of my college experience, Octavia Books, located on Octavia St., is always hosting literary events. From book-launches, to children’s events, to author signings and readings, if you are looking for a literary encounter, Octavia Books is the place to be. They’ve even hosted former Hillary and Chelsea Clinton. Octavia Books also prides itself in supporting local authors.
Located on Bayou Rd. in the Seventh Ward, Community Book Center is the oldest black-owned bookstore in the city. They place special emphasis on “African-centered books, art, fabric, gifts and more.” Community Book Center hosts “crowdcasts,” allowing those who cannot join their talks and events in person to join online, and they offer their space to community organizations in need of meeting or hosting spaces.
The first time I encountered Tubby and Coo’s slogan “It’s all Geek to me,” I knew it was a shop I had to check out. Their collection focuses on “Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Horror, Queer, And Diverse Books,” and they’ll package and ship a mystery box of books for you based on a quick survey. They also lead yearly, themed “Shelf Improvement” plans, which consist of monthly books and online discussion forums.
Baldwin & Co., located on Elysian Fields, is an indie bookstore with a modern feel, including an incredible book spine mural of James Baldwin, the store’s namesake. In addition to the great selection of books and merchandise, regular events, and quarterly book festivals, the store hosts a coffee shop and a podcast studio that patrons can rent.
In addition to the new books they offer, Blue Cypress on Oak Street is the place to go for secondhand books, books from local authors, and gifts from local artisans. They also host regular literary events, including their live-streamed “Book Banter” events.
In high school, I read A Light in August, The Sound and the Fury, and “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulker. These works inspired a love for both Faulkner’s work and the Southern Gothic genre, so when I discovered, upon coming to New Orleans for college, that Faulkner’s former Pirate’s Alley home had been turned into a bookstore, I just had to check it out. The store strikes a beautiful balance between keeping the historic look and feel of the home and filling it floor to ceiling with books for sale. Faulkner House specializes in rare and first-edition books, and its founders also founded the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society and the Words and Music Festival. They have also partnered with One Book One New Orleans, a non-profit that provides resources and curriculum for an annual city-wide read, including community programs, adult education classes, and Louisiana Books 2 Prisons.
Shortly after my family moved to the Northshore, we decided to grab breakfast in old Mandeville and walk around a bit. While there, I was so pleased to discover the Book & the Bean. This quaint little shop offers great coffee and tea, gifts and home décor, and new and best-selling book titles.
These are just of our favorite local shops, but there are many more in our area, and we hope you’ll check one out on Saturday.