Imagine: you’re curled up in bed with your latest read propped against your pillow. Its pages have seen it all: tear-stained, dog-eared, and speckled with coffee. The spine has long been creased as you dive deeper into the words. After a week of pain and poetry, you’re three pages from the end. You flip, read, and close it forever before grabbing your phone to order your next TBR book.
While it’s easy to pop into a Barnes and Noble or order the latest on Amazon, it’s always better to seek out local vendors for your next read. By supporting local shops rather than large-scale corporations, your purchases have an active impact on the lives of people around you (especially when the business is family, LGBTQ+, or BIPOC-owned).
To help facilitate this process, I wanted to highlight some of the great local bookstores in Arizona.
However, if you live in a different state, just check out this link.
Bookshop.org has made it its mission to showcase independent booksellers across the United States, and so far, it has raised $25,402,557.55 for local bookstores. There are a variety of great options in every state, and they’re often more accessible than you might think.
- Changing Hands Bookstore
Changing Hands is definitely one of the more popular independent booksellers in AZ, with two locations in both Tempe and Phoenix, and a First Draft Book Bar (where you can kick back with a book and enjoy coffee, beer, or wine). Founders Tom Broderson, Gayle Shanks, and Bob Sommer started the bookstore in 1974 with a dream: they wanted to create “a socially responsible, environmentally sound business that would also be a community gathering place.” Since then, Changing Hands has expanded and won a myriad of awards, including Phoenix Magazine Reader’s Choice Best Bookstore, Charles Haslam Award for Excelling in Bookselling (2003), and more.
Their Tempe store is located at 6428 South McClintock Road, and the Phoenix location is found at 300 West Camelback Road. For more information or to find any upcoming author events they host, click this link. Check them out for your next read if you’re in and around the area!
- The Poisoned Pen Bookstore
Nestled in Old Town Scottsdale’s Art District, this classic brick building is the perfect place to shelf-search. The Poisoned Pen specializes in fiction and is renowned for “its global outreach through webcasts and worldwide shipping.” Not only do the owners understand bookselling, but they also founded their own mystery-based publishing corporation named Poisoned Pen Press. They keep a ton of different books in stock, including copies signed by their authors. Alongside their collection, Poisoned Pen sells lots of other bookish goods.
This store is located at 4014 N Goldwater Blvd., and its cozy atmosphere is unforgettable. They stream a ton of their events, both on Youtube and FaceBook Live. They also have a lot of useful information on their site, including a tab about their partnered book clubs. There is a British Crime Club, Notable New Fiction Club, International Book-of-the-Month Club, and more!
If you’re in Scottsdale and looking for a beautiful new bookstore, consider supporting the Poisoned Pen! Click this link for more info!
- Palabras Bilingual Bookstore (Latinx-Owned)
With its wide, colorful mural on the walls just outside, Palabras Bilingual Bookstore is hard to miss. Alongside its beautiful display comes a much richer mission: to serve as the cultural hub for a diverse collection of books. As the daughter of Mexican immigrants, Chawa Magaña wanted to create a space that lifted up marginalized voices, and so Palabras was born.
Their official goal, according to their website, is “to promote cultural representation and liberation of historically marginalized BIPOC through community engagement involving literature and the arts.”
This diverse mission statement is carried out in some of their featured collections: ‘Disability Month Awareness’ books, ‘Banned Books by BIPOC Authors,’ ‘Love and Care: 11 Books Celebrating Love in Its Many Forms,’ and a ‘Missed Education Book Club’ list.
Their community-driven message is also present in their frequent BIPOC open-mic events (where poets, authors, musicians, and more can share their artwork) and art markets. If you’re looking to support a bookstore that truly cares about the BIPOC community in Arizona, consider Palabras Bilingual Bookstore.
They are located at 906 W Roosevelt St. in Phoenix. Click this link for more information about their upcoming events! There are a ton of great ones coming up that I encourage you to attend.
- Sunny’s Book Truck
Whereas the other booksellers on this list are run out of buildings, Sunny’s Book Truck sells on wheels!
Based in Yuma, this bookstore began as a renovation project for owners CJ and Kiki Alberts, who converted a 1994 Japanese mini truck into a joy-infused, mobile book vendor. Their primary goal in creating Sunny’s was to provide “accessibly priced books [while] nourishing community along the way”.
Beyond their unique exterior, Sunny’s also focuses heavily on curating a community around them. They have their own book club (Sunny’s Book Club) that meets over Zoom once a month to discuss material. You can buy the book of the month directly from their website, and shipping is free with your order if you live in the US. Not only does this help create communal conversations, but it also extends their club to whoever wants to participate. Each month’s read is optional, and you’re able to decide if you’ll participate by purchasing your copy.
Also, they just opened their very first storefront in Yuma! Check out their socials to know what hours they’re open. They sell beautiful merch and also accept book donations if you’re ever looking to clear off your shelf.
- Stacks Book Club
Stacks is one of the first independent bookstores available in Oro Valley, and it got its name from an Ernest Cline novel.
SBC is a bookstore founded “on the idea that all towns and cities should have an independent bookstore that serves as an anchor for community building,” which is what supporting local businesses is all about. They have a variety of books currently available online.
SBC is home to a ton of bookish events/workshops as well as a built-in cafe, which is often cited as one of the pluses of Barnes and Noble. Now, Tucson readers can kick back with a latte and a new novel at SBC, instead.
To buy from their online store or for more information, click here. They’re open daily from 7am to 8pm!
Local Love is a digital project dedicated to highlighting various local businesses, artists, performers, people, etc. in Arizona with the hopes of spreading the word about shopping/supporting locals. Through this, I hope to 1) educate readers about various new places, missions, or events that they might have otherwise missed out on and 2) support the blooming community we have in the Valley.