Do You Have a Favorite Indie Bookstore?

I’m lucky to be surrounded by talented writers here in North Carolina and to count so many of them as my friends. I’d like you to meet one of them, Anne Clinard Barnhill. Anne writes historical fiction and her latest novel is At the Mercy of the Queen, the story of Anne Boleyn’s cousin, Madge. I invited Anne to tell us a little about her recent book tour. Reading her post made me want to push away from the computer and spend the afternoon at my local indie bookstore (Quail Ridge Books–the first on her list below.) Have fun reading Anne’s words and then I hope you’ll tell us about your favorite bookstore.


     I love bookstores.  Always have, always will.  There is nothing more exciting than wandering in, gazing at the colorful books arrayed in the front window and on the tables, looking at posters or photographs of my favorite writers adorning the walls.  When my children were young, they became adept at luring me into a bookstore because they knew I could not refuse to buy them a book.  Toys, I could turn down; candy, a definite NO.  But a book–I’ve always been a sucker for a book.

     Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the privilege of visiting several bookstores across North Carolina.  I love the different personalities I’ve discovered in each one–I even love the sameness of the big chains like Barnes and Nobles.  But I confess, it is the indie bookstores that really captivate me.

     Take Quail Ridge Books and Music in Raleigh, NC.  There’s a sunny intelligence permeating the store, a dedication to the written word evident in the signed photographs of the many writers who have given readings here over the years.  I can almost feel my I.Q. go up a notch just being there.

     Then there’s The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, NC.  The atmosphere is intimate and cozy, the staff friendly and willing to go out of their way to help.  In the charming downtown, restaurants are just a short walk away.  This store seems to embody southern charm at its best.

     Being a mountain girl at heart, I was thrilled to discover City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, NC.  This one feels like you’re coming home–well, the store is in an old house with a ton of rooms, and the ambiance is warm and welcoming.  The staff made me feel like I was someone special and I noticed that was the way they treated everyone.  The surrounding mountains hover and, when I was there, I felt like I was nestled in, safe and secure, for the winter.

     I wouldn’t want to short-change the beach, where I did a reading at Pomegranate Books in Wilmington.  This store also had a previous life as a house and the white railings leading up to the front porch look very ‘beachy’, which means ‘relaxing’ to me.  Here, they have an especially  nice selection of regional writers.

     As I crisscrossed the Old North State, I was impressed with the number of bookstores I found and the people who run them.  We shares a love of stories, poems, a literary love that binds us.  As I travelled back toward the heart of the state, I found myself wondering what life would be like if there were no bookstores.  Who knows what the future will bring as ebooks continue to grow in popularity?

     In downtown Salisbury, I found the Literary Bookpost, a large store that keeps going back forever.  The wooden floors and shelves are filled with signed books from writers across the state and beyond.  Deal, one of the owners, is so friendly and laid-back, with his long, grey ponytail and his smile, I almost thought he might pick up a banjo and start playing.  His store seems like one big family as he called out the names of every customer who walked in the door, patting them on the back and discussing which books they wanted next.

     Moving north, I surprised the folks at Only at Barnhill’s (no relation) in Winston-Salem–I’d gotten mixed up about dates and just showed up, much to their shock and my own embarrassment.  Immediately, they made me feel right at home and I ended up doing a reading for some folks who showed up.  They also sell wine and hand-made crafts.  I love the idea of wine and books combined!

          When I ventured out of North Carolina into South Carolina, I discovered FictionAddiction in Greenville.  This small store offers a Book Your Lunch with Your Favorite Author event, where I was the guest speaker.  I love the idea of bringing writers and readers together with food!  Again, another wonderful store with knowledgeable staff and a big selection of Southern writers.

     Alas, there are many others I’ve had the chance to explore, but space is limited.  I hope to have the chance to see them all.  It’s heartening to know that the independent bookstore is alive and well in North (and South) Carolina.  I, for one, hope it stays that way.


  1. Rob lopresti on February 13, 2012 at 10:06 am

    my favorite is Village Books here in Bellingham, Wa. admittedly my wife works there, but i felt that way for two decades before she got the job. the owners, Chuck and Dee Robinson are great local citizens, prlomoting the literacy council, and the neighborhod where they live, plus they bring a lot of great authors to town. and how many bookstores run their own radio show? (Google the Chuckanut Radio Hour.)

    • Julie Merritt on February 29, 2012 at 4:27 pm

      Village Books in Bellingham, WA has a warm spot in my heart because they recommended Chet Raymo’s book, “The Soul of the Night: An Astronomical Pilgrimage”. It is one of my all time favorite books!

      • Diane Chamberlain on February 29, 2012 at 6:11 pm

        Julie, Village Books has a warm spot in MY heart because my sister-in-law works there! Great bookstore.

  2. Katrina on February 13, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    I wish we still have an indie bookshop in the town I live in. Actually I’d be content with just a bookshop full stop. We used to have a Waterstones but it was shut down last year. It still makes me a little sad to see that empty shop on the high street – as I spent many hours in that shop browsing books and making choices. I grew up there.

  3. Margo on February 14, 2012 at 10:26 am

    While attending college at Drake University, I discovered what would become my favorite bookstore for years…READER’S WORLD. Loved it so much and stopped in daily for coffee and my ‘fix’ on books. Sadly, the bookstore eventually closed as so many others have. I find joy in knowing that the indie bookstore we discovered in Cannon Beach, Oregon years ago is still going strong & just celebrated 30 years in business. Located in our favorite resort ‘getaway’ town, CANNON BEACH BOOK COMPANY has all the charm you could possibly want near the beautiful Pacific Ocean. Whenever my husband & I travel there, one of our first stops is to visit our treasured store of books where we always leave with a sackful of goodies to take to our room by the sea. We’re thankful for that. (-:O

  4. susan on February 15, 2012 at 8:04 am

    I wish you visited us!! Page After Page Bookstore in Elizabeth City, NC located in the Historic downtown, best view in town of the water!!! – North East corner of NC – just inland from the outerbanks – some call us the inner-banks. I have loved owning this bookstore for the past 7 years – it was closing when I purchased it, with a strong group of local support to encourage me to keep it open. One of the best decisions I’ve made. We love being here!! Come see us! Books, music, toys & gifts!!; 252-335-PAGE(7243). Love to host a signing!

    • Diane Chamberlain on February 15, 2012 at 1:41 pm

      Hi Susan, I’d love to get to know your bookstore. This year may not work, but when my summer 2013 book comes out, I’ll be in touring mode so please get in touch with my publicist then.

  5. […] the full interview here. This was written by charles. Posted on Wednesday, February 15, 2012, at 12:37 pm. Filed under […]

  6. Anne Barnhill on February 16, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    I am so happy to find fellow indie bookstore lovers! Thank you, Diane, for giving me the opportunity to talk about a few of the stores I’ve loved visiting.

    • Diane Chamberlain on February 16, 2012 at 3:28 pm

      It was great having you here, Anne!

  7. Mary Stascak on February 16, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    I really appreciate shopping in indie bookstores -indie booksellers know their stuff. My favorite NC indie bookstore is Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh. Anyone visiting the area should take time to stop, browse and be assisted by knowing staff. The customer service & author events are great. Also, I recommend Rainy Day Books, Kansas City, KS. They also have impeccable customer service.

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