Ever since I moved to Waxhaw, North Carolina, I have made it my goal to explore all the independent bookstores our state has to offer. Whenever I travel somewhere new, be it for my brother’s tennis tournaments or my own personal adventures, I make sure to seek out the bibliophile’s hot spots and support indie businesses rather than the chain companies like Barnes & Noble. I have to limit how many books I bring with me because, according to my mom, bringing books on vacation, (even if it’s just for one day or two,) is like “bringing sand or seashells to a beach.” There’s always more to be found.
I plan my trips around the bookstores I can visit.
While the chain bookstore advertises reliability and mass appeal, the indie bookstore delights in the unexpected when it comes to human connection. You can tell the difference between a section that has been picked based on popularity and celebrity book clubs versus unique personal interest with handwritten notes by the staff. From the quirky name of the literary establishment, to the books on the window display, to the organization of the tables inside, each part of the interior design of a bookstore illuminates another shadowed truth about the character of the place you’re visiting and the people who live in it. So, next time you have a chance, make sure to stop by one of these five literary locations.
1. PARK ROAD BOOKS, CHARLOTTE
Ever since it was first opened by Sally Brewster in 1977, Park Road Books, located in the Park Road Shopping Center, has served as Charlotte’s only full service independent bookstore and offered readers and writers a space to celebrate the stories they love with constant signings from famous authors like David Sedaris, Anne Rice, Jeff Kinney and Mo Willems, just to name a few, according to this feature article in The Charlotte Agenda.
Inside the store, you’ll find a book for every kind of reader, an enthusiastic staff, and a wonderful bookstore dog Yola, who is happy to help you give her belly rubs in between the bookshelves. The store is open on Monday – Friday: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m., Saturday & Sunday: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. It’s located at 4139 Park Rd, Charlotte, NC. You can browse in person, where you can relax in the comfortable chairs in the children’s section or order online and get your books or bookish items delivered using curbside pickup!
2. DOG EARED BOOKS, RALEIGH
Now more than ever, in the wake of the overturning of Roe V. Wade, we should support women-owned small businesses. And what better way to do that than through a shared love of literature? Dog Eared Books is a quirky used bookstore that earns its moniker from the book the owner and cofounder wrote and illustrated with her friend Caitlynne, which was written in a spare room of her house, called “River the Three-Legged Dog” in 2019. Unfortunately their brick and mortar store has closed, but you can still keep their mission alive at NoRa Cafe in North Raleigh, where you can grab a book or a drink, which allows you to support two small businesses at once! While you have your freshly brewed coffee, why not pick from the thousands of books available for the cheap price of $1? You can also have a glass of wine or a Ponysaurus beer and relax on the patio with a good novel, memoir or whatever strikes your fancy!
3. FOGGY PINE BOOKS, BOONE
If you watched the Superbowl commercials in 2021, you might have seen Foggy Pine Books in an advertisement by Stephen Colbert on The Late Late Show with Tom Hanks and Sam Elliot. The tagline? “At Foggy Pine Books, customers like Tom Hanks know every book is an adventure waiting to happen.”
Max Ruthless, a graduate and former English major at Appalachian State University with a passion for books, took over the store from their old boss at Black Bear Books and opened Foggy Pine Books on May 23rd, 2016. The bookstore, located in the heart of Boone, between the Baptist Church and the Boone Saloon, is a champion for marginalized voices and local writers and artists, and they believe in the power of books as a way to help us connect with each other in a world where it’s easy to feel like we’re all so separated from one another. Their books are carefully curated from major publishers, independent publishers, and they have a wide selection from the niche to the New York Times best sellers. Foggy Pine Books also has a program called “Free Books For Boone,” because they believe that “everyone should have access to books, regardless of their ability to buy them.”
You can shop online here. At Foggy Pine Books, you’ll be able to buy both new and used books for any reader with a special interest in Southern literature.
They also have a couple of cats wandering around the store for your convenience!
4. BOOKMARKS, WINSTON SALEM
According to their website, Bookmarks is “a literary arts nonprofit organization and independent bookstore that works to ignite the love of reading. We believe in books with purpose and are passionate about connecting our community with books and authors.”
This bookstore has 4,200 square feet of space and carries a vast selection of genres and interests for you to choose from, including young adult, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, memoir, essay collections, historical fiction, romance, and more. It has celebrated famous authors on tour who have won the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, American Book Award, National Medal of the Arts, Lincoln Medal, Presidential Medal of Freedom, Coretta Scott King Award, Newbery Award, and a United States Poet Laureate. Bookmarks authors have written more than 1,500 New York Times, national and international bestsellers and have spent more than 47 years on The New York Times bestseller list according to this link.
Make sure to check out their websites for events and special deals!
5. THE REGULATOR BOOKSHOP, DURHAM
The Regulator Bookshop can be found on 720 Ninth Street in Durham, NC. Tom Campbell and John Valentine opened the store together in 1976. Years later, it’s owned by Wander Lorentz De Haas and Elliot Berger. It’s named after The Regulator Movement, which was an uprising that took place in Provincial North Carolina in the years 1766 to 1771, when civilians fought back against colonial officers, who they believed were corrupt. The Regulator Bookshop has been a cornerstone of literature in their community, where they work to promote a sense of belonging for everyone who comes into the store and openly advocate for diversity in books. They display all kinds of books: fiction, mysteries, poetry, cookbooks, kids books and collect books for women in prison to advocate for literacy through the N.C. Women’s Prison Book Project. If you’re a student or teacher, you can get a 10% off discount.
Lara Boyle is a writer who enjoys coffee shops, reading and used bookstores. She studies Creative Writing at Queens University of Charlotte. She is a staff writer for The Farside Review. You can find her on social media @laraboylewrites. Her work has been published in HuffPost Personal, Zenith Literary Magazine, Herstry blog, and more.