Top 5 Bookish Cities in the USA Book Lovers Should Visit

In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.

Mortimer J. Adler

By now it should be pretty obvious that I just can’t get enough of books. I’m practically glued to them. As the world slowly starts to open up again and we can tentatively start making travel plans, I wanted to make sure to plan a bookish trip. Not only do I want to venture out on a book nerd’s dream trip, but I wanted to share the knowledge and hopefully inspire any book lovers reading this to travel far and wide in search of more books.

There can never be enough books. Ever. It’s a fact.

Below are just my top picks for the cities in the USA that should be on any reader’s radar. Look out for a post coming soon about top cities outside the USA.

Boston, Massachusetts

On almost every single list about the most bookish cities, Boston is near the top. It ranks the highest on the number of bookstores (51) per 100,000 residents and is home to several well-established higher education institutions, making it a great place for people of all ages, especially those who love books and learning. This city is filled with writers and literary lovers from every chapter of history its witnessed.

Be sure not to miss the following sites for the best book adventure possible in Boston.

  • Boston Public Library
  • Local independent bookstores including Trident Booksellers, I AM Books, Harvard Bookstore, Porter Square Books, More Than Words, Papercuts JP, and Brookline Booksmith
  • Metro Boston Bookstore Day happens the last Saturday of April each year
  • Old Corner Bookstore is now a Chipotle, but the building used to print works by Thorough, Hawthorne, Stowe, and Emerson
  • Beacon Hill author landmarks
  • Brattle Bookshop and Book Stalls is an awesome place to catch outdoor booksellers and literary murals
  • Poe Square is worth a visit to see his statue and don’t miss a visit to his birthplace
  • Boston Athenaeum is a private library, you can visit the first floor or visit during its infamous open house to see where famous authors once wrote and tour one of the country’s oldest libraries
  • Take a stroll back to colonial America at the Printing Office of Edes & Gill to see how pamphlets and the Declaration of Independence were printed
  • Boston Book Festival occurs every October and features a wide variety of authors and readers

Ann Arbor, Michigan

As one of the cities with the most book clubs and bookstores (43) per 100,000 people and proud owner of the title “Smartest City in America” book lovers really can’t go wrong when visiting Ann Arbor. There are over 30 libraries and 20 book dealers in the city to keep readers doing what they love. It might also be one of the coziest places to read when the warm weather rolls around. The city has over 160 parks and over 100,000 trees lining the streets. That’s almost as many trees as people living there. What better place to curl up with a good book?

If you’re planning a trip to Ann Arbor don’t miss the following literary sites to see!

  • Literati bookstore offers not only books but monthly book clubs and author readings
  • Mystery lovers should visit Aunt Agatha’s bookstore as it specializes in all things mystery, detection, and true crime novels
  • West Side Bookshop offers incredible views of the 19th century architecture, original artwork, and a vast collection of new and used books. If you’re in the market for rare books, this needs to be on your list.
  • Hatcher Graduate Library is on the university campus and houses tons of books as well as gorgeous views of the stained glass windows
  • University of Michigan Law Library was recently refurbished and features architecture designed to mimic Oxford and Cambridge
  • Helen Zell Writers’ Program often features visiting author readings and never fails to impress
  • Ann Arbor’s book festival in June always celebrates books with lots of literary events
  • Hollander’s is a unique paper goods store that caters to anyone who loves to write. Stationary, notecards, and bookbinding materials can all be found here

Cleveland, Ohio

Looking for a city with 80 libraries and 27 book dealers? Cleveland is your city. While this Ohio city is mostly known for its manufacturing, it should be on every book lover’s radar. For every 10,000 residents there are approximately 48 book club members and Cleveland also ranks high on number of book clubs available to join. I love how much the book community is connected here!

Now that you know you need to visit, here are a few sites you shouldn’t miss.

  • Visit the home of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin
  • Malabar Farms is the home of local Ohio author, screenwriter, and conservationist Louis Bromfield
  • The Paul Laurence Dunbar House is the home of the famous poet. You can peruse his literary works and the home where he lived and wrote
  • Paul Thurber was a famous cartoonist and author. His home is now a museum exhibiting his works as well as a non-profit literary center.
  • It isn’t exclusive to Cleveland, but you get MORE travel with this option. Ohio just opened a literary trail that takes you to 70 different sites with strong ties to authors. How cool is this!?

New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans is best known for its crazy bar scene, Mardi Gras, beignets, and parades, but books should never be overlooked here. The Big Easy is one of the most bookish cities in the USA, but the literary scene is sadly under hyped. Some of the world’s most famous authors wrote extensively in the city including Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, and Faulkner.

After you’ve hit all the most-loved tourist spots, don’t forget to visit these bookish places.

  • Hotel Monteleone features the only revolving bar in the city and can claim the distinction of being a favorite spot for authors to stay. Contemporary and historical authors have all stayed at this hotel and frequently feature the gorgeous location in their books.
  • The Tennessee Williams Literary Festival is a world-renowned festival dedicated to those who love to read, write, watch great theater, and want to experience the unique culture of New Orleans.
  • If you truly consider yourself a TW fan, you can visit his homes! Do a walking tour to get the most out of the experience and see more of the city while you’re at it.
  • Faulkner House Books is a local bookstore situated in none other than Williams Faulkner’s former home.
  • Ann Rice grew up in New Orleans and even set Interview with a Vampire in the city. Make sure to visit her home!
  • Crescent City Books features thousands of rare, used, and new books just waiting for you to read them
  • Backspace Bar and Grill is a literary themed restaurant and bar that is like no other. All of the food and drinks on their menu are named after or inspired by books or authors. The creativity doesn’t stop there. Nearly every inch of the place is decorated with bookish decor and photos.
  • Cuisine is king in New Orleans. Visit the Kitchen Witch bookstore to find out of print and used books featuring delicious cajun and creole recipes.

San Francisco, California

Generations of writers from Mark Twain to many current authors all spent much of their careers in San Francisco. This city has the most book clubs based on the population than any other city and has dozens of bookstores scattered across the city and over 57 libraries. Bibliophiles will love all of the bookstores, museums, and landmarks dedicated to all things reading.

Be sure to include these sites on your next visit to this gorgeous city!

  • Booksmith is a local bookstore that makes a point to bring in talented local authors for readings and events
  • The Beat Museum features nothing but authors, history, and memorabilia from the 1950s, known as the Beat Generation of writing.
  • City Lights Bookstore was once owned by the famous poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti but the book connections don’t stop there. Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsberg were often spotted here.
  • Jack Kerouac Alley is a mural-covered alley dedicated to all things Jack Kerouac. It features scenes reminiscent of his travels and shows off famous literary quotes.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson was most famous for writing Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. His monument can be found in Portsmouth Square
  • Robert Frost is more well-known in New England, but he was born in San Francisco and the city honored him with a monument
  • If The Maltese Falcon is a favorite book of yours, head over to the Hotel Union Square where the author spent much of his time writing

Published by Emma Browning

Hey everyone, my name is Emma Browning. Thanks for stopping by. I like to think of myself as a modern day renaissance woman since I basically do a little bit of everything. Here's a few of my jobs/hobbies in case you're curious: Group Fitness Instructor (Zumba, BodyStep and BodyPump), small business owner (string art& travel photography), archaeologist/anthropologist, actress, SCUBA dive master, reading addict, dog mom, cellist, and of course travel enthusiast. I've traveled to over 21 countries and speak French fluently and am learning Spanish. Traveling is one of my all time favorite things to do whether it be a day trip with my dog or a massive international adventure. I created this blog to help others see the world vicariously through my wanderings and also to give useful tips and essential information that will hopefully inspire more people to travel. Hopefully you have as much fun reading these posts and get a lot of useful information from them!

6 thoughts on “Top 5 Bookish Cities in the USA Book Lovers Should Visit

  1. The ClevNet library system is fantastic! Even in rural Northeast Ohio I could get ANYTHING in practically any language and quickly through the system. It’s a shame the Wooster Book Company, who had been republishing Bromfield, is out of business now. I haven’t been back in ages, but that news made me really sad. The Buckeye Book Fair also used to be pretty big–turns out lots of reasonably famous writers are from Ohio.

    I also loved taking a break from studying in my room to study in the Boston Public Library when I lived there!

  2. Unfortunately, Aunt Agatha’s is no longer in a physical bookstore on 4th street. It’s still online, and it’s previous location is now a small coffee shop called Le Bon Macaroni (excellent coffee shop that I do highly recommend if you like coffee and are in Ann Arbor. If you want to visit an indie that’s been around for awhile, check out Dawn Treader, an amazing used bookstore right downtown on Liberty, and Nicola’s, a store on the West side of town in Westgate, which I believe celebrated 20 years last summer and sells new books.

    1. Oh no! Thanks so much for letting me know. I will absolutely check out the coffee shop when I visit. Thank you so much for the other local recommendation. I need to check them out.

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