“10 Amazing Bookstores in Philadelphia”
Written by Jaylynn Korrell
Heading to Philly and looking for some literary fun? Here are some of the best bookstores in Philadelphia to see while you’re there.
After you get your cheesesteak and take a picture with the love sign like a classic Philly tourist, you’ll need to get down to business and check out the awesome indie bookstores in Philadelphia. Fair warning, there are tons!
When creating this list, I was able to find over two dozen bookstores within the city limits. There are shops that have been around for decades and a few that just opened up. So I put on my walking shoes and went to each one, revisiting bookshops I’ve loved for years and acquainting myself with the ones I’ve never even heard of. And there were so so many amazing shops, but just like Kris Jenner with her children—I have my favorites. Whether it was their creative displays, gorgeous atmosphere, or wide variety of books, each of these stores felt so special that they needed to be shared.
And so here they are, in no particular order.
1. Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books
5445 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19144
With a slogan like “Cool People, Dope Books, Great Coffee,” it’s easy to trust that this bookstore knows what it’s doing. They offer chill coffee shop vibes and a wide variety of well-curated books that will grab your attention at every turn. For me, Uncle Bobbie’s is a must see bookstore in Philly.
Uncle Bobbie’s has been located in the heart of Germantown since 2017, and in their own words was “created to provide underserved communities with access to books and a space where everyone feels valued.” This is a true community bookstore and is one of our favorite bookshops in Philly. They also offer some amazing literary merchandise that you should check out like t-shirts, and the owner Marc Lamont Hill hosts an incredibly podcast as well.
2. Book Corner
311 N 20th St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
This bookstore is conveniently located right behind the Free Library of Philadelphia, and it has a unique tie to that historic space: Book Corner is a charming second-hand bookstore where all the books are donated by the community, and the profits help to support the libraries in Philly. So in this situation, your book buying addiction can help a good cause. Win win.
We were lucky enough to live right up the street from this spot, and it is truly a gem. Book corner in Philadelphia features big windows that let in lots of sunlight. There are some lovable bookstore cats and tons of opportunities to find the book you’ve been looking for. I myself found a copy of my now favorite book for just $2! Which brings me to another point, the books are all pretty inexpensive, making it easy to find the perfect gifts for book lovers!
3. Harriett’s Bookshop
258 E Girard Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19125
Though this bookshop is quite new to Philly, one visit will tell you that it has the potential to stay around for a long time. Walking in feels like going into a new friend’s home, where everything from the displays to the inventory feels thoughtfully picked just for me. I loved it here and was lucky to stop in just before quarantine to get the full effect of this amazing space.
Named for historical heroine Harriet Tubman, this new bookstore in Philly is a haven for anyone looking for unique work created by women. Women of color, activists, and artists are all celebrated in this cozy space in Fishtown. It also offers cool merchandise from Philly artists!
4. Philly AIDS Thrift @ Govanni’s Room
345 S 12th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107
This bookstore is amazing for a handful of reasons. For one, it’s named after a James Baldwin novel. Another is that it is one of the oldest LGBTQ+ and Feminist bookstores in the country.
Sitting right on the corner in Philadelphia’s famous Gayborhood district, Philly AIDS thrift @ Giovanni’s room features tons of used and new books, most with an LGBTQ focus. It reminded us of some of the cool bookstores in Seattle that we’ve visited. Their bright flags and posters will beckon you in, but their book selection is what will keep you there for an hour at least. Oh, and did we mention they have a handful of racks full of thrifted clothes!?
5. Garland of Letters Books
527 South St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
If you’re looking for New Age books or books on spirituality then look no further than Garland of Letters Books. In truth, this is one of my favorite bookstores in Philadelphia and is one that I return to every time I visit.
This bookshop can be found on the infamous South Street in Philadelphia and features a wide variety of books for New Age mystics. It’s the perfect place for spirituality beginners or longtime New Age learners to gain some more wisdom. They also feature cool gifts like crystals, incense, candles, and some other great gifts for readers.
6. Penn Book Center
130 S 34th St, Philadelphia, PA 19104
*Sadly, Penn Book Center is now permanently closed.
Don’t let its being right in University City fool you. This bookshop is for the community as well as the students and faculty of the area, and it’s completely independently owned. Their large window displays will draw you in and their massive collection of books will make you stay a while. Since 1962 they’ve been serving this area with their huge selection, and they show massive support to their local authors by hosting author readings and discussions regularly. In the end, it was an easy choice to include them.
7. House of Our Own
Address: 3920 Spruce Street, Phiadelphia, PA 19104
Imagine: you have a favorite aunt who you’ve always admired, but you’ve never been allowed in her house. She reads on the beach, she reads in the streets, she’s a renaissance woman. One day, when you’re old enough, she invites you over. And low and behold, she’s filled every room with books! That is House of Our Own. Floor to ceiling books, books lining the stairs, books lining the hallway in a beautiful Victorian house nestled into UPENN’s campus. It Is a dream come true. Though filled to its brim, House of Our Own manages to keep a tidy and well-curated collection of books in its ownership, (which I have so much appreciation for). No trip to literary Philadelphia is complete without stopping here.
8. Head House Books
Address: 619 S. 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147
This picturesque bookshop in Queen Village is a must see in Philly. Established in 2005, Head House is cozy, like somewhere you’d want to go on a snowy day. Large carpets lay on the wooden floors, strings of lights hang from the bookshelf. It’s truly a dreamy place to be. Their staff is friendly, their layout is beautiful, and they have a wide variety of books to browse. They are also on of the bookstores in Philadelphia that hold a number of author events and readings for adults and kids.
Speaking of kids, I think this was my favorite children’s book set up out of all the bookstores. Located in the very back, this section felt like what a kid’s area of a bookstore should be. It wasn’t overrun by toys and knick knacks, but held enough color and gorgeous covers to grab a kid’s attention while also displaying books that were thoughtful and educational. When we were there they had a book called The Heart of a Boy (Workman Publishing, 2019) on display and it’s the coolest thing and so perfect for kids. If I had a kid, I’d bring it here and buy that book.
9. Brickbat Books
709 S 4th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
This place is neat. And not like, “wow that sure is a neat backpack, Sally!”, more like these books are meticulously displayed, and it looks amazing. Their shelving is probably the best I’ve seen of any bookstore, with square wooden shelves that all look big enough to hold vinyls, lined up from the floor to the ceiling. It just feels good to be in there. I found myself drawn to so many books I wouldn’t normally pick up, because they were featured in a cube of their own. The space feels open, not over-crowded and intentional. One of the cooler bookstores in Philadelphia that you’ll find.
10. A Novel Idea
1726 E. Passyunk Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19148
You’ll feel right at home at A Novel Idea, one of the newest indie bookstores in Philadelphia. This community-minded space opened in December 2018, and it just pulls at my indie bookstore heart strings. I mean, they feature local authors and small presses right in the front! Like, as soon as you walk in, you get hit with small press books and it hurts so good.
From its small press displays to its regular events, it’s clear that A Novel Idea is passionate about creating a literary space for their community of readers and writers. Because of that and their heartwarming small-business story, I couldn’t help but get excited stepping into their space. They make it easy to join in on the fun with their author readings, book clubs, and their monthly open mic night that they conveniently host at a local bar, Lucky 13 pub. Ch-ch-check it out.
Extra: Farley’s Bookshop
44 S. Main Street, New Hope, PA 18938
If you’re visiting Philly for more than a day (or live nearby), I would also suggest making the trip to New Hope to visit Farley’s. The town is adorable, the main street is thriving, and this bookstore will make the whole trip worth it. It’s like it was created around the idea of promoting small press books. As you walk its aisles, displays are hung specifically to promote different small presses that they support.
Jaylynn Korrell is a nomadic writer currently based in Pennsylvania. She does many things.
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