Welcome to Bookstore Explorer!

The bell on the sturdy old door jingles as I push it open. Old wooden floorboards creak beneath my feet as I step from the cold street into the warm, welcoming atmosphere of an exciting new world. A world full of adventure and intrigue. Mystery and terror. Comedy and tragedy. Action and adventure. Poetry and prose. The hot new release jumping off the shelf into my arms. The floor-to-ceiling stacks of used novels holding rare hidden treasures for which I’ve searched a lifetime. That Jane Austen bookmark and Edgar Allan Poe coffee mug I didn’t know I needed. I stop being regular old me and am suddenly a voyager, ready to discover new and exciting worlds.

I am Vasco da Gama. I am Marco Polo. I am Jeanne Baré. I am Lewis and Clark. I am a Bookstore Explorer.

As I’ve traveled around the U.S. in recent years, I’ve attempted to make every effort possible to seek out independent bookstores in whatever city I happen to be visiting. It is always interesting to see how each shop has found its niche, from Portland, Oregon’s massive Powell’s Books to Faulkner House Books in New Orleans to Capitol Hill books in Washington, D.C., and the countless others, each indie bookstore has its own unique charm. It was that exploration that led to this website. As I’ve combed the country – and especially my home state of West Virginia – in search of indie shops, several commonalities – and plenty of differences – surfaced.

There is an intriguing consistency among independent bookstores. Perhaps it is little more than the sense of comfort that comes with being surrounded by books – the touch, the smell, the sound of the turn of a page. Or perhaps it’s knowing that, no matter who walks through the door of the shop, we all share a commonality – an appreciation and joy for the love of reading. Often tucked into busy downtown streets, independent bookstores have become more than simply a place to pick up the latest bestseller or dig for that buried treasure. Today, more than ever, indie bookstores are the heartbeat of towns and cities across the nation.

In any given shop, you may find a bustling coffee counter brewing fresh, regional blends, a neighborhood author hosting a reading, a wine tasting, live music, local artwork for sale and, in some instances, even a movie playing in a cozy theater underneath the sales floor. Locals gather to discuss the news of the day. Students camp out with their laptops to study for that stressful final exam. Old friends gather for a holiday reunion. Townspeople seek a momentary and comforting reprieve from the elements over a warming drink and a warming read. All these things – and plenty others – happen inside the bookshop.

This website will chronicle my adventures exploring the independent bookstores of the U.S. (or anywhere else I may happen to end up). I hope you enjoy it! And check back for details on the forthcoming publication of Bookstore Explorer: The Book.

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