“IT MAY CALL ITSELF a town,” Neil Gaiman wrote in his 2001 novel “American Gods,” “but unless it’s got a bookstore it knows it’s not fooling a soul.”
These days, bookstores—especially the indie sort—tend to be talked about in the pitying tones normally reserved for the passenger pigeon. But in many American towns, they are alive and well (the bookstores, not the birds). According to the American Booksellers Association, sales at independent stores rose 8% in 2012 and have been holding steady since.
This summer, my husband and I took a 5,000-mile drive that began as work—my book tour—and ended up being one of our best vacations. The itinerary was dictated not by the locations of national parks or can’t-miss restaurants but great indie bookstores. To our delight, that meant stops in some very appealing towns. Places with flourishing bookshops, we found, have vibrant arts scenes, innovative restaurants and prospering local businesses. Here, six of the most notable stops
Southern Spell: Oxford, Miss.
William Faulkner ’s “own little postage stamp of native soil” looks like a movie set of a perfect Southern town, with gracious buildings set around a central square. It’s not all looks: Thanks to Faulkner and Ole Miss, Oxford also offers great contemporary writers ( John Grisham, Beth Ann Fennelly and Ace Aktins), football and food.
The Z bed-and-breakfast is a cozy inn five minutes from the square; it serves a huge breakfast that can carry you past lunch. For dinner, John Currence ’s City Grocery dishes up elevated Southern fare such as Maque Choux Fritters—creamed-corn fritters with tomato jam and fresh thyme. Nearby Ajax Diner serves a mean meat-and-three. (Read more.)Share