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There is nothing like stumbling upon a bookshop and discovering a whole new world through the books it holds. In a world where so many books are ordered online and arrive via mail or are delivered straight to reading devices, independent bookstores still stand out. Arkansas is lucky to have many independent bookstores across the state to provide their communities with great reads and a wonderful place to connect through books.
Dickson Street Bookshop – Perhaps the most iconic bookstore in Arkansas, owners Donald Choffel and Charles O’Donnell opened the used bookstore in 1978. It is a fixture of downtown Fayetteville and has been featured several times as one of the best bookstores in the U.S. and the world. Wandering through the winding passages lined with crowded shelves feels like stepping into another world. Though O’Donnell passed away in August, he left both a legacy and tradition of reading. Find gently-used gems for all ages on the corner of School Ave and West Dickson.
Nightbird Books – Nightbird is a lovely and lively little shop at 205 W. Dickson Street in Fayetteville. Owner Lisa Sharp hosts author events, book clubs and many more opportunities to bring the literary community together. The store offers a wide selection of new books, from a sweet children’s section to a great local authors section. Once you stop in, you’ll return again and again.
Once Upon A Time Books is both a physical bookstore and an online one. They have thousands of used books in their online inventory and will ship anywhere in the U.S. The physical store is located at 462 E. Henri de Tonti Blvd, Springdale. The large store is in Tontitown and features gently used (and some new) books with a fun children’s, middle grade and young adult section and large selections of everything from Arkansas history, fiction, collectible books and so much more. If you buy online, you can pick up the books locally. This shop is definitely worth a stop.
The Friendly Bookstore – This all-volunteer operation is run by the Friends of the Rogers Public Library and proceeds from the sales are used to help fund programs at the Rogers Library. The shop is located in downtown Rogers and has a nice selection of titles and also accepts donations.
Bookish: An Indie Shop for Folks Who Read – This lovely addition to Ft. Smith launched in August 2018. Friends and English teachers Jennifer Battles and Sara Putman joined forces to combine their love of reading and a desire to serve the local community in a unique way. As Jennifer puts it, they’d already spent the past fifteen years “selling” books to their students. After the success of The Unexpected, Ft. Smith’s annual art celebration, the teachers felt “that an indie focused on curating a solid selection of literature as well as bringing in literary events was much needed.” After one year of business, the co-owners feel they have “the smartest, most well-read, interesting customers in the world.” Visit them at 115 N. 10th Street in Ft. Smith.
Chapters On Main – Whether it’s a large selection of used and new books, great coffee, pastries and other treats, or a local event, Chapters On Main in Van Buren has you covered. You can even reach it by train on the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad. Whether you arrive by car, train or on foot, stop in to this amazing shop.
Gazebo Books – You can find it all in Eureka Springs, including an independent bookstore. Though Gazebo Books is small, it has a carefully curated selection of books and other gifts. Browsers must leave cell phones in pockets and pay cash, per the owner’s posted rules. Find the shop at 86 Spring Street.
Books & Stuf – In 2017, Jennifer Schubbe purchased this shop in Mena and made her lifelong dream of owning her own bookstore a reality. Now she’s the owner/manager/janitor and cat wrangler of Southwest Arkansas’s independent bookstore. Jennifer’s goal “is to carry as many quirky and fun literary items as I can fit.” With an inventory of roughly 70,000 books, a sitting area and coffee, the shop invites locals and visitors to relax, read and meet Hemingway, the store cat. Jennifer is actively working on increasing the selection in her shop, including literary apparel and decor. Stop in while in Mena and say hello!
Jefferson Street Books – Situated in downtown El Dorado, Jefferson Street Books is carrying the torch for independent bookstores in South Arkansas. With a great selection from kid’s books, tweens, teens and up, you will definitely find something for friends, family and yourself on their shelves. The shop is a can’t-miss stop in El Dorado and easy to find, right on Jefferson Ave!
Pyramid Art, Books & Custom Framing – Pyramid celebrated thirty years of business in 2019 and has been a staple on Wright Street in Little Rock. Find one of a kind artwork and specialty framing as well as a great selection of books for all ages.
The Bookstore at Library Square – Aptly named, this little bookshop is in Library Square at 120 River Market Avenue in downtown Little Rock. The bookstore is part of the Central Arkansas Library System and offers “gently read” books for sale, as well as fun gift items and collectibles. Visit the shop and enjoy a snack at the cafe, too!
The Book Worm – This shop on 12th Street in Little Rock is a true used bookstore, which means you never know what treasures you’ll run across. Shelves are well-organized and easily browseable. This is the kind of shop you can spend hours in.
Wordsworth Books – This has been Little Rock’s independent bookstore for over forty years, though ownership and names have come and gone. Two and a half years ago two loyal customers purchased the shop when the owner retired and continue to provide Little Rock a place to enjoy author events and find great books selected for the local audience. Owner Lia Lent has enjoyed so many things about running the bookstore the past few years, like “sampling books that are not yet in print, discussing books with customers and co-workers and helping match customers with books they like.” If they don’t have the book you’re looking for, they can order it within a few days. The bookstore is actively building its Arkansas interest section as well. Explore all Wordsworth has to offer at 5920 R St. Little Rock.
Dog Ear Books – Dog Ear Books is Russellville’s independent bookstore connection and connection is part of its purpose in the community. From game nights to open mic nights to book clubs, the shop offers a way for everyone in Russellville (and beyond) to interact, have fun and buy a few books at the same time. You can’t miss the store with the white and black dog logo on the corner of Main Street and South Commerce Avenue.
Paper Chase Bookstore – The Paper Chase Bookstore in Batesville existed for many years solely as a used bookstore. As the demand for special orders grew, the store adjusted and now carries over 80,000 new and used books. If they don’t have the book you want, they’ll special order it, but you’re certain to find other great reads while you wait.
The Spider’s Webb – The Spider’s Webb in Walnut Ridge is a bookstore, boutique and coffee vendor rolled into one lovely shop on West Main Street. From the latest new releases to classics and local authors, readers can find great books, and shoppers will be delighted by the other offerings, from fashionable clothes and jewelry to whole bean coffee.
Blytheville Book Company – The Blytheville Book Company is the new iteration of an old Blytheville favorite, That Bookstore in Blytheville. While continuing the tradition of great books, the Blytheville Book Company offers a full drink menu as well. Visit them at 429 West Main Street.
Whether you’re north, south or central, the best way to support these independent bookstores is to stop in, meet the owners and, of course, buy some books! Along the way, you’re likely to discover that it’s the Arkansans behind the bookshops that make Arkansas’s independent bookstores so special.
Photos courtesy of Bookish and Books & Stuf and used with permission.
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