Interior of The Bookhouse, Dinkytown
There is still a few shopping days until Christmas for those of us who celebrate the holiday in one form or another, and, for me, nothing makes a better gift than a book. For those of us who don’t, the time off can be used to curl up with a book. I’ve been meaning to post a list of a few of my favorite bookstores in the Twin Cities after poking around them all year, purchasing a few more books than I might need.
One of those things that people often cite about the Twin Cities is our high rankings in the “most literate cities” indexes published every other year or so. Both Minneapolis and St. Paul tend to hover in the top five, with Minneapolis often topping the list. Our only rival seems to be Seattle for this coveted spot. In addition to selling books, art, and other needed items, many of these locations offer interesting literary events as well, including author discussions, readings, performances, and more things that help give you fun things to do over the weeks.
Being a generally bookish person, this may be one of the reasons I feel so at home here. One of the gauges for judging the “most literate” cities is the number of independent bookstores, and the Twin Cities have our share. In fact, it can be hard for me to decide which to visit whenever I find myself needing to purchase a book. I always check the local stores before falling back on online options, to keep my consumption of literary materials local. Here are a few of my favorites and ones that I’ve visited recently, though they are by no means a comprehensive list, just some that I visit often. On occasion, I’ll also mention a good place to eat/drink nearby as well!
Magers and Quinn
The big one, the Twin Cities’ largest independent bookstore, Magers and Quinn is one of my favorite bookstores in Minneapolis, offering new and used books and consistently sponsoring all manner of authors, events, and concerts, so that there’s always something going or coming up there. I’ve written about their participation in the awesome Books and Bars, but last August, for instance, I saw New York researcher Richard Beck present on his new book, We Believe the Children: A Moral Panic in the 1980s, which included a local element that brought some very interesting discussion. Discussing the infamous “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s, I’ve yet to read it yet, but it looks to be an intriguing read with much to tell us today as well. I may not have heard of this book without the promotion offered by Magers and Quinn.
Big Brain Comics, Washington Avenue
Big Brain Comics
For graphic novels, zines, comics, and any other combination of the literary and visual arts, Big Brain Comics should be your first stop. Definitely my favorite comic shop in the Twin Cities, it’s got everything you might want; from superheroes to my personal favorite, memoir comics.
A maze like warren of used books on all topics, this is the place to go to look for reference material for your various classes at the U. Stocked with an utter sea of books on all topics, fiction and nonfiction, I love looking at all of hidden gems here. In particular, they have a great collection of books on folklore, mythology, history, and local topics, all fields of interested to me. A fixture in Dinkytown for decades, I recall spending a lot of time browsing for folklore and mythology at its earlier basement location across the street. It’s great that they are weathering the great upset of Dinkytown going on. Last summer, I traded in a pile of my old books here as well!
If you stop by to browse books, you might as well grab lunch at one of my favorite quick lunches in Dinkytown, Lands End Pasties, located in “Dinkydale” right downstairs.
Moon Palace Books
My favorite new (open since 2012) independent booksellers in Minneapolis, Moon Palace Books is a great little store tucked away just south of Lake Street on East 33rd Street in the Longfellow neighborhood, I’ve stopped by a few times to get certain items I’ve needed when I’ve been in the area and I really enjoy the cozy ambiance here. A very fun place to browse a great selection of new and used works!
Dreamhaven Books Mural, E 38th Street
A hidden gem in the South Minneapolis Standish neighborhood, Dreamhaven Books is happily back to regular hours since this summer, so I recommend heading down to and checking them out. Offering all manner of rare and mysterious science fiction, fantasy, horror, and other niche materials, they’ll help you track down the most obscure and arcane tomes, old and new, which in my case little known Lovecraftian pulp writers from the Twin Cities. You can really get lost in the shelves here, especially in the marked down sections. There are always surprises to be found at Dreamhaven and you’ll find things you must have that you didn’t even know existed. Make sure you come with plenty of time for browsing.
Interior of Common Good Books, citing St. Paul’s superiority
Common Good Books
St. Paul’s preeminent independent bookstore selling new books, Garrison Keillor’s own Common Good Books is still a booklover’s paradise in its new location on the intersection of Snelling and Grand Avenue in St. Paul’s Macalaster-Groveland neighborhood, and it still includes Keillor’s old study furniture. They provided the materials for George Saunder’s visit last week!
If you get hungry while stopping by, it is just around the corner from one of my all time favorite Twin Cities restaurants, the Khyber Pass. Their lunch buffet is particularly great and affordable, as is their tea! If you haven’t had Afghani cuisine yet, it is a must try!
Eat My Words
A awesome new used bookstore in Northeast Minneapolis, Eat My Words also offers a lot of local authors rarely seen in other bookstores, along with an assortment of handcrafted zines from artists across the country. I’m excited to see the events that they offer here as well! Right across the street from Dangerous Man Brewing, I’d say that enjoying a local craft beer (the Peanut Butter Porter, say) along with a newly purchased local publication sounds like a pretty great idea!
A few other favorites include Micawber’s Books in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood of St. Paul, which I wrote about way back in March of 2014, and some that I’ve only been two once, though I really enjoyed them and can’t wait to return for another favorite bookstore entry, Boneshaker Books, and Uncle Hugo’s. In the end, all of this only scratches the surface of the Twin Cities bookstores and I apologize for totally prioritizing Minneapolis in this entry!