Bookstore Explorer: The Show

Bookstore Explorer is a celebration of independent bookstores, the people who run and frequent them, and their place in the fabric of community. Combining the adventurous tone of road-trip travel shows with visits to the greatest bookshops in the world, it’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives meets Shakespeare and Company.

While the brick-and-mortar bookshop suffered in the early years of the internet boom, when online sales and electronic readers shifted consumer attention away from paper, a quiet resurgence has emerged over the past decade. Bookstores went from being simply a place to pick up the latest new release or dig for the elusive buried treasure to becoming the heartbeat of community. By focusing on being an integral part of town life, independent bookstores aresuddenly alive with spirit. Even a global pandemic can’t stop the growth of indie shops. The American Booksellers Association, a nonprofit organization that supports independent booksellers, reported a 4% growth in member stores over the past year. 

From coffee to wine, artwork to music, birthday parties to book clubs, literary escape rooms to bookshop vacation rentals, bookstores are finding creative ways to reenergize towns all over the world. There are even bookstore vacation rentals and bookstores on boats. Bookstore Explorer goes ‘behind the shelves’ of independent bookstores, getting to know the sellers, customers, writers, and readers who make these magical places so magical, because – as bookseller and author Jeff Deutsch says in his new book “In Praise of Good Bookstores,” good bookstores reflect their communities; exceptional bookstores both reflect and create their communities.

What pairs better with a good book than a hot cup of coffee? In this sample episode, Matt visits two bookstore cafes in West Virginia that are brewing up something special. First we meet Dan Carlisle, owner of Charleston, West Virginia’s flagship indie shop, Taylor Books. The bookstore, coffee shop, wine/beer bar, clay studio, art gallery and movie theater (yes, all in one building!) has been a city mainstay for nearly 30 years. Then head west to Huntington, West Virginia, where mother-daughter duo Dawn Hilbert and Katie Norman operate Cicada Books & Coffee, a welcoming, all-inclusive bookstore cafe that is really standing out from the crowd.