For book lovers, independent bookstores are sacred spaces—places to find your next favorite tome, encounter like-minded readers, or meet a favorite author. Fortunately, the Lone Star State is home to plenty of great independent bookstores. Here are 10 you can visit now, in person and online.
Texas’ biggest independent bookstore looms large in Austin’s community, with a 50-year history of author appearances, story times, and even visits by former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Employee recommendations in each section can guide you toward new favorites as you browse by genre or explore the entire store. On your way upstairs to the expansive children’s section, linger on the staircase to browse for reader-friendly gifts. Before you leave, pick up a sandwich and a latte at CoffeePeople. And check the packed calendar for a full slate of events.
Pandemic plan: Limited in-store hours, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Closed Wednesdays. Curbside pickup. Online shopping. Events are online. Patrons entering the store are required to wear a mask, check in, sanitize hands on entry, and limit browsing time to 30 minutes. Full COVID-19 store guidelines are available at bookpeople.com/covid-19-shopping-store-guidelines.
2. Booked Up
Booked Up offers no hot new best sellers, no in-store events, and a remote location—yet it draws customers from all over the globe. Its secret? The store is the manifestation of Pulitzer Prize–winning author Larry McMurtry’s lifelong love of books. Booked Up’s website promises two buildings filled with 150,000 to 200,000 “fine, rare, and scholarly books” including what McMurtry describes as “a nice section of kids’ books.” For bibliophiles and collectors, especially those interested in literature and Texan themes, Booked Up is more than enough reason for a road trip.
Pandemic plan: Masks are welcome in-store. Hand sanitizer is available, and customers are asked to social distance. Online shopping.
3. Literarity Book Shop
Literarity Book Shop is a love story in the form of a store. In the 1980s, Bill and Mary Anna Clark started spending their weekends scouting for books together in Los Angeles. In 2017, their talk about someday opening a store of their own became reality with this little shop in Pepper Tree Square. Literarity features collectibles and used books in addition to new releases that, in Bill Clark’s words, “tend to be by local and regional authors. We really love books from university presses.” He adds, “We guide people to the books we love and care about.”
4. Interabang Books
Interabang gets its name from the combination of a question mark and an exclamation point, “the search for knowledge and the excitement of discovery.” New visitors to the 2,500-square-foot shop will find an open, airy store layout with a colorful children’s section and a staff eager to help them find new reads. “We’re really good at determining what books somebody might enjoy based on what they’ve recently read or ask about,” says general manager Kyle Hall. “That’s the reason our customers keep coming back.”
Pandemic plan: Curbside pickup, online shopping, in-store shopping with masks and social distancing. Events are online for now.
5. Blue Willow Bookshop
When Houston native Valerie Koehler bought Musabelle’s Books in 1996, she renamed it after a china pattern reminiscent of comfortable family dinners. Now, Blue Willow Bookshop is known for its warm welcome and personalized recommendations for customers. “Nothing replaces that conversation where we talk with a customer about our favorite books,” Koehler says. The cute 1,200-square-foot shop stocks 7,000 titles and hosts more than 300 events each year to keep the conversation about books going.
Pandemic plan: Porch pickup. In-store shopping by appointment only with masks and social distancing. Events are online for now. Gift cards and selected titles available to buy online.
6. The Dock Bookshop
Sisters Donya and Donna Craddock opened the Dock in 2008 to focus on African American and African history, culture, and authors. Now it’s the state’s largest Black-owned independent bookseller. In recent months, customers across the country have been ordering antiracist books from the shop’s website as part of what the Craddocks describe as a “great awakening” about social issues. In store, shoppers can explore collections on racial justice, fiction, history and culture, children’s and teen titles, cookbooks, and more. There’s also a browse-worthy vinyl section and gifts including soaps and jewelry. And there’s community. “We love people,” Donna Craddock says, “so we do what we do.”
Pandemic plan: In-store shopping with masks. Online shopping. Events have moved online.
7. Books and Barrels
The newest indie bookstore on this list opened in June after pandemic precautions delayed a March launch. Books and Barrels is a combination wine bar and bookstore that features regional authors among its 4,000 books, 13 wines from nearby Enoch’s Stomp and Los Pinos wineries, and beers on tap from neighboring Oil Horse Brewing. Works by local artists adorn the sunlit space, where guests can sit and read, enjoy a glass of wine, and maybe play a tune on the old upright piano.
Pandemic plan: Customers are reminded to social distance and wash their hands and are encouraged to wear masks.
8. The Twig Book Shop
The Twig’s location on the Museum Reach of the Riverwalk makes it the perfect destination for a family stroll whether you’re a local or a tourist. The store hosts “Sit and Sign” author events during the Pearl Farmers Market on weekends, as well as author readings on weekdays. For children, there’s Friday story time with Miss Anastasia, who entertains “twiglets” (virtually at press time) with high-energy readings and the occasional special musical guest, like 123 Andrés or Uncle Jumbo. The store also stocks games, buttons, cards, and seasonal gifts, such as herds of adorable plush bunnies for Easter.
Pandemic plan: Curbside delivery. Online shopping. In-store shopping with hand sanitizer and temperature scan on entry, masks and distancing and contactless payments if possible. Events are mostly virtual for now. Some in-person author events outdoors.
9. The Storybook Garden
The only bookstore in our roundup that’s focused on children features new and classic books as well as a small selection of boutique children’s clothing, toys, and gifts. Owner Sarah Cuadra has run the store since 2001 while also working as a teacher for many of those years. Like any good educator, Cuadra offers many ways for children to connect with books in her bright and cozy store: musical story time events, creative craft sessions led by Miss Weslaco, visits from authors, rocket launch watch parties, and contests.
Pandemic plan: In-store shopping with masks and hand sanitizer. Shoppers are asked to carry a basket and place books they touch in it for the staff to sanitize before re-shelving. Events are virtual for now.
10. Redbird Books
Getting books into the hands of readers is what Redbird Books is all about. Since owner Sherita Miller bought the store 11 years ago, “We’ve always done curbside pickup” to cater to seniors, parents with small children, and customers who like the convenience. Redbird also offers personal shopping, including monthly book boxes of 5 to 30 titles shipped directly to customers. In the store, readers can browse more than 60,000 titles, including rare books, Texas authors, manga, and religious fiction—and say hello to Page and Read, Redbird’s rescue cats.
Pandemic plan: In-store shopping and events with masks. Curbside pickup. Online shopping.
AAA Travel Alert: Many travel destinations have implemented COVID-19–related restrictions. Before making travel plans, check to see if hotels, attractions, cruise lines, tour operators, restaurants, and local authorities have issued health and safety-related restrictions or entry requirements. The local tourism board is a good resource for updated information.