Alta’s Favorite Bookstores: Update 4
Eight more bookstores across the West worth swooning over.
We’re thrilled to share yet another round of bookstores in California and the West that our readers and contributors have nominated and that we have added to Alta’s 2022 Favorite Bookstores. These shops feature cafés, dazzling variety in book selection, literary events, and much, much more. But we still need you, dear readers, to help us make sure we aren’t missing any of the great indie bookstores out there. Submit for consideration those you don’t see on our list by entering them on this form!
Culver City, California
It’s been open only two years, but Village Well is already a major community gathering spot, with its airy and expansive café and diverse slate of poetry readings and author appearances (recent speakers have included Francesca Lia Block and Homeboy Industries’ Gregory Boyle). Owner Jennifer Caspar puts an emphasis on social justice issues through educational programs and on-site events. —nominated by David Mendez, Los Angeles
Along the Highway 4 corridor in Northern California, you’ll find the unincorporated town of Murphys, and along its Main Street sits (the aptly named) Books on Main. Even though it’s the only dedicated bookstore in Calaveras County, owner Kirsten Gomez manages to stock the hottest fiction on the market. The store is known for her personal touch and the magnificent children’s section. —nominated by Cindy Lavagetto, Murphys
This indie neighborhood bookstore has a Murakami vibe, from the vintage typewriter at the front (“Type us a note!”) to the cool jazz spinning on the turntable. Locals come in from Singing Sun coffee shop next door to hang out and browse the store’s imaginatively curated selection, which includes everything from memoirs and graphic novels to a section devoted to “antiracism & history.” —nominated by KW
Located on historic Alvarado Street in Monterey, Old Capitol Books hosts open mic readings and has a decidedly political tilt, sponsoring an Anarchist Reading Group. Owner Ali Elfaki and bookseller Stephanie Spoto offer everything from Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book to Fille de Joie, about “courtesans, sporting girls and ladies of the evening.” Piquant. —nominated by Paul Wilner, Seaside
Downtown Book & Sound has the distinction of being the only bookstore in John Steinbeck’s hometown. Owner Trish Triumpho Sullivan presides over the establishment’s 60,000-plus used and new books. In addition to Steinbeck’s oeuvre, Downtown sells the author’s favorite pencils, Blackwing 602s, which he favored “because they weren’t yellow—too distracting,’’ Sullivan notes. —nominated by Paul Wilner, Seaside
San Francisco, California
This self-proclaimed “comic book store for people who don’t read comics” is a bright, creative, inclusive space for casual readers and devoted makers alike. Silver Sprocket sells books and zines from hundreds of independent creators and presses (including its own). You’ll find classics of the genre like Maus and Persepolis here, but you’ll also discover handmade, self-published comics from talented local artists. —nominated by Ronald Bandar, San Francisco
A three-story brick labyrinth in Bellingham’s historic Fairhaven neighborhood, Village Books and Paper Dreams is built for aimless wanderings and hyper-specific treasure hunts alike. Just blocks from the waterfront, it’s cozy and sea-breezy, and while you need no excuse to meander its aisles of books, maps, art, and Pacific Northwest history, most find a literary gem to take home. For even more options, check out the store’s second location in nearby Lynden. —nominated by Barb Kehl, Bellingham
Changing Hands Bookstore has been a haven for Tempe, Arizona, book lovers since 1974. The independent store, located in a typical southwestern-style shopping center, sells new and used books and hosts hundreds of author events annually. Its second location, which includes the First Draft Book Bar, opened in a historic redbrick building in central Phoenix in 2014 and offers beer, wine, coffee, and, yes, more books. —nominated by Mark Athitakis