A couple of months ago, I went to a local print shop to pick up some last minute supplies for a work project when the cashier handed my purchase over in a paper bag stamped with a logo that I hadn’t seen in many, many years – Beaucoup Books. The bookstore, which had at one time been a client of the printer’s, once sat proudly on the retail-friendly stretch of Magazine just above Jefferson Avenue – one of my childhood favorites. But it closed its doors many years ago – which made my encounter with the bag a moment filled with the kind of warm nostalgia that makes you both smile and choke up at the same time.
It’s that wonderful emotional connection with bookstores mixed with our tendency to move at a slower pace than the rest of the world that has allowed so many independent booksellers to thrive in New Orleans amidst a sea of eReaders and overnight deliveries from Amazon. Bookstores create a lasting impression on a person – you can pick up a book and remember where you bought it and when. So next time you’re in New Orleans, stop by one of these wonderful locally owned literary gems, and make your own bookstore memories.
1. Community Book Center – Located on historic Bayou Road, Community Book Center is a must-visit for anyone in New Orleans. Lining the shelves are books for young and old on the African-American experience as well as clothes, jewelry, paintings, photography, and more. The space serves as a community gathering place as well, hosting storytelling and performance events on a regular basis.
2. Faulkner House Books – Stepping into Faulkner House Books is like stepping back in time – it’s a truly magical place. It sits along beautiful Pirate’s Alley, which runs alongside St. Louis Cathedral between Royal Street and Jackson Square. Aside from being a powerhouse of Southern, especially locally focused works, the shop is also the home of the Faulkner Society, which hosts a number of literary events from “Meet the Author” events to the Words & Music Festival held annually in November.
3. Garden District Book Shop -Located just off the streetcar in the Historic Garden District, Garden District Book Shop has an extensive offering of local and regional titles, as well as rare used books, signed first editions, and a fantastic selection of cookbooks (my personal favorite). They host a number of book signings and other events, so be sure to check out their website to see what they’ve got on the calendar. Added bonus – once you’ve picked out a new read, you can head downstairs to Still Perkin’ to grab a cup of coffee to enjoy alongside your book!
4. Kitchen Witch – It’s no secret that in New Orleans, we love our food. And so do our visitors. And since you obviously can’t find food this delicious in your own hometown (riiiight?), then you’ll just have to bring the recipes of New Orleans back with you. And there’s no better place to swing by and grab a cookbook or two (or three) than Kitchen Witch, located on Toulouse Street in the French Quarter. Kitchen Witch may be tiny, but it is ALL about food – including many hard-to-find cookbooks that are typically only found on the bookshelves in local kitchens. So happy shopping AND happy eating!
5. Octavia Books – While it’s decidedly the most sleek and modern of all the homegrown favorites on this list, Octavia Books still has all the warmth and comfort of a good, old-fashioned neighborhood bookstore. The staff is attentive and helpful – always ready to lend a hand when it comes to picking out the perfect book. With it’s delightfully serene atmosphere, it’s the perfect place to stop after a long day of shopping on nearby Magazine Street.