A couple of weekends ago, I found myself with a startlingly good energy level. I felt like actually doing things (other than napping for 8 hours straight), which was definitely something new. For the first time in what feels like months, I wanted to go out and do something fun.
So, I took myself on a spontaneous artist’s date!
Basically, I decided to visit all the bookstores in Austin in order to find my favorite. (I didn’t quite visit them all, obviously….) I also told myself that I could buy one book at each location. (I bought way more than one, let’s be real.)
However, I did have a fantastic couple of days driving around new neighborhoods, seeing the sights, and running my hands along about a billion book covers. Sounds like a pretty stellar weekend to me! Read on for an in-depth look at my top five bookstores in Austin, TX.
Mandi’s Ranking of Austin’s Best Bookstores
If you’re looking for new books, you can do no wrong with BookPeople. It’s like Barnes and Noble but ten times better!
The good: This independent, three-story monstrosity is packed with staff picks (like, literally on every shelf) which makes browsing so much fun. You can find all the most artsy editions of your favorite classics, tons of books on subjects you’ve never heard of, and all the newly released pop favorites. They have an insane collection of journals for sale, and they have all the fun gifts that you’d find at Urban Outfitters and the like. There are tons of events held here every week, from book clubs to signings and more.
The best: My absolute favorite part about BookPeople is that all of the displays and shelf decorations are hand drawn and written. The whole store feels like a big artistic and creative doodle!
The downside: The downtown location is a little hard to get to if there’s a lot of traffic, and parking can be a bear. There’s no running in and out of this store.
What I bought: A gorgeous paperback of American Gods, my first copy of The Handmaid’s Tale (thanks to Emma Watson and Our Shared Shelf for the recommendation), and Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (a book by the most unique Youtuber ever)
Visit BookPeople! 603 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78703 ~~~ 9am-11pm every day
2. Book Woman
Book Woman is an absolute gem of a find. A small shop that’s absolutely bursting to the brim with amazing new books about women and from all of your favorite women authors, this is definitely not a place you want to miss.
The good: If you’re looking for feminist or LGBTQ+ lit and swag, this is seriously the place to go. But even if those “genres” aren’t your style, there’s literally so many good books in this shop. I could have bought one of literally everything in there. I loved the gift items, the poetry selection, and the sweet kids’ section. This store is literally a block away from the first house I lived in here in Austin, which means it’s really accessible with plenty of parking available.
The best: Book Woman acts sort-of like a refuge for Austin’s women. Plenty of local resources for mental and physical health and women’s issues are openly available, along with a huge selection of books and resources for recovery of all kinds. It’s definitely a safe space. They even had several books on how to recover after the election… because we all need some help there.
The downside: Your super conservative friends (or an insecure boyfriend) might not feel comfortable. But that’s a very minor downside.
What I bought: My first personal copy of The Artist’s Way, and my favorite bilingual edition ever of Pablo Neruda’s love poems.
Visit Book Woman! 5501 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78751 ~~~ 10am-8pm M-Sat, 12-6 Sunday
3. Recycled Reads
Ah, Recycled Reads. My go-to spot in Austin for the cheapest used books ever sold.
The good: Located on the super-cool Burnet strip (with a full-sized parking lot), this book store is one of my all time favorites. All of the stock is sourced from the Austin Public Library stacks or from donations, which means you’re in for a super eclectic mix. You never know what unique gem you might find, for an unbeatable price. Plus, all of the proceeds go to support the library system– so we all can feel good about the growth of your TBR pile.
The best: You can find some seriously amazing books here for very little money. I’m talking, less than two dollars for a hardback. You could buy an entire shelf of books for less than ten bucks.
The downside: You don’t go into this bookstore looking for anything in particular, because you very likely won’t find it.
What I bought: A ridiculously cheap copy of Artemis Fowl, which I have intended to re-read ever since I met Eoin Colfer in person at the Texas Book Festival back in January.
Visit Recycled Reads! 5335 Burnet Rd, Austin, TX 78756 ~~~ Thursday-Sunday 12-6pm
4. South Congress Books
When you’ve finished brunching on South Congress, walk a block or two to the neighborhood’s best little bookshop, just down the road from Uncommon Objects.
The good: If you’re looking for a collectible or rare item, you’ve found the place. These are rare book exxperts, but they’re the most approachable kind! You can also walk out of here with the used book of your choice in a reasonable, normal price range. You never know what amazing items you might stumble upon here, especially because the inventory changes so quickly!
The best: This bookstore has such a fantastic feel to it. The atmosphere makes you want to lovingly trace your hands along the shelves and whisper the titles to yourself. It’s sophisticated and lovely.
The downside: Out of all the stores I visited, this one might be the most expensive… even if you’re not buying the thousand-dollar books from their glass cases.
What I bought: A gorgeous paperback edition of The Power of Myth which I am so excited to plow through. #mythologygeek #culturenerd
Visit SOCO Books! 1608 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704 ~~~ Daily 11am-7pm
5. Malvern Books
Welcome to the super hipster center of almost-west-campus. While you’re busy sipping at Spiderhouse and thrifting at Buffalo Exchange, be sure to make a stop at the most indie of all indie bookstores in Austin!
The good: This is a fantastic space filled with a beautifully curated collection of fiction and poetry, highlighting local writers and selling strictly indepedent publishers. You’ll find works you’ve never heard of before, from all over the world.
The best: If you’re into poetry, specifically by local writers, and you want to connect with said writers, this is seriously going to be your haven. Literally half the store is poetry books, chapbooks, and pamphlets– all by independent publishers, of course. Their community events and poetry readings/open mics are fantastic.
The downside: There’s something about independent publishing that rubs me the wrong way sometimes… like when companies don’t print titles on the front cover of books. I’ve spent hours in Malvern and haven’t wanted to buy a single tome. Nothing looked interesting, because every book design was trying to be so avant-garde! I’m sure others don’t have this hangup.
What I bought: Nothing :/
Visit Malvern Books! 5335 Burnet Rd, Austin, TX 78756 ~~~ M-Sat 10am-8pm, Sun 12-6pm
In case you’re ever in the most interesting city in the lone star state, now you know where to spend your afternoons! I know I had a marvelous time, and plan on spending plenty of hours in these havens of knowledge in the months to come.
What makes the “perfect bookstore” for you? Do you prefer used or brand new books? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
“What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not foolin’ a soul.” ― Neil Gaiman,