Columbus Bookstores – Love Local, Live Local!

by Kyle Garvey

As part of Simply Living’s ongoing series on the benefits of buying goods and services from locally owned businesses, I wanted to showcase some of Columbus’s bookstores. There are so many great spots in the city for reading, browsing, just hanging out, or seeing a cool event. Along with basic info about each store, I’ll suggest some titles you might want to check out during your next visit!

*The Book Loft in German Village (631 S Third Street 43206), famous for its labyrinthine, 32-room floor plan, works with authors of all sorts in their main store as well as their many off-site venues across the city. / Ph (614) 464-1774 You can make an entertaining day of slowly, leisurely browsing through the whole store! Ende’s Neverending Story is a great one for book-centric old fantasy, and Murnane’s Inland is a very clever surrealist touch about writing itself.

*Gramercy Books in Bexley (2424 E Main St 43209) offers many events, from author talks to a monthly book club to poetry readings. / Ph (614) 867-5515 Gramercy has a convenient location right next to a cake shop, and a knowledgeable staff to curate your next great read. Try Philips’s Tragedy of Arthur (about a lost Shakespeare play) or Wood’s How Fiction Works (for a deep critic to guide you through literature).

*Two Dollar Radio Headquarters in Columbus’s South Side (1124 Parsons Ave 43206) offers a family-run bookstore and cafe, brought to you by local indie press Two Dollar Radio. / Ph (614) 725-1505 There’s so much Two Dollar Radio HQ does in their place: vegan food, coffee, booze, a publisher, an event space. Konstam’s World Atlas of Pirates is a fun one for aimless browsing, or Wittgenstein’s Culture and Value for deeper (but, honestly, still fun) randomness. 

*Prologue Bookshop in the Short North (841 N High St 43215) is a boutique shop selling books, games, cards, and literary gifts. / Ph (614) 745-1395 Prologue lets you get lost in a warm and well-worn mood all around. If you want some exciting fiction that fans out into comics, try Chabon’s Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay; or if you want some deep nonfiction that fans out into a whole other art (painting) try Gayford’s Yellow House.

*Karen Wickliff in Clintonville (3527 N High St 43214) buys and sells used books. They pride themselves on ‘piles’ and not much on ‘shelves’, so the shop always has an unmistakable vibe inside. / Ph (614) 263-2903 Small but intricate, the space invites an ambling adventure each time you walk in. Murakami’s Wild Sheep Chase or Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge might match the mood: a little chaotic but interesting!

*Kafe Kerouac in University District (2250 N High St 43201) hosts all sorts of musical acts, poets, speakers, and interest groups. / Ph (614) 299-2672 Kafe Kerouac is homey too and naturally serves food and drinks, coffee, beer, so for a one-stop-shop you can’t do much better. A little grungey, like a dive bar, but smart, authentic still. Try their namesake author’s On the Road or Dharma Bums for some good beatnik literature.

*Cover to Cover in Upper Arlington (2116 Arlington Ave 43221) specializes in children’s books, for toddlers through young adults. In-store events include Saturday-morning storytime, reading clubs, and visits from authors and illustrators. / Ph (614) 263-1624 Hoff’s Tao of Pooh or Lowry’s Giver are some excellent titles for little ones, but you can find a whole bunch of great stuff in Cover to Cover! First opened in 1980 by teacher Sally Oddi, the store wants to foster a love of reading, variety, opportunity.

*Paperback Exchange in Lancaster (201 W Main St 43130) is a small, locally-owned bookstore specializing in used books and local authors. They keep their prices much lower than publishers’. / Ph (740) 654-5856 For local titles, you might try Barsotti’s Single Version (futuristic thriller) or Maggie Smith’s latest, Good Bones (a 2017 poetry collection). At Paperback, there’s often even a cat to guide you through the shelves!

*Beanbag Books in Delaware (25 W Winter St 43015), originally founded as a teacher supply store, bursts with colorful and kid-friendly shelves. / Ph (740) 363-0290 Maybe an illustrated copy of Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince or Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland would fit the bill. A neighborhood favorite for thirty years, Beanbag is a nice fit in Columbus’s independent spirit.

 Alkebulan Ujamaa Book Store in E Columbus (1493 E Livingston Ave 43205) specializes in African American literature. / Ph (614) 258-4633 Achebe’s Things Fall Apart or Morrison’s Song of Solomon are both bold and intriguing works in this vein, and Alkebulan Ujamaa’s a wonderful, warm, Afrocentric place for Columbus bookselling. 

*Zawadi Books in Mt Vernon (1500 Mt Vernon Ave 43203) offers African American literature for kids, teens, and adults. / Ph (614) 321-2476) If you’re checking out Children of Promise or Hair Love or Islandborn, then Zawadi Books has what you need. After coming to Columbus in 1986 from New Orleans, Zawadi’s owner was excited to share his cultural experiences with a new community.

*Iqra Bookstore in E Columbus (3252 Cleveland Ave 43224) specializes in Islamic books and DVDs. / Ph (614) 843-7957 Whether you’re Muslim or not, maybe a new copy of a Qur’an or a copy of Malcolm X’s autobiography is something you’re after! It’s big and impressive, definitely authentic.

So shift your shopping: a 10% shift from chain to local keeps $312 million in Franklin County – enough to create 5000 new jobs!  Be a conscious consumer. When more of our dollars circulate locally, communities create more wealth and become more resilient and sustainable. 

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