Spending Your Book Dollars in Philadelphia

Our Fiction Editor, Zach, posted in May about his preferred bookstores in Chicago. Today, I’ll be taking you on a bookstore tour of the City of Brotherly Love.


We’ll start in South Philly, right off of South Street in Queen Village at Brickbat Books, which is one of those bookstores that I avoid going to specifically because it’s so awesome. They host great readings (GS 3.2‘s Wendy Xu read here!), and I can’t not show up when asked to read or hearing that someone I love will be reading at one of my favorite bookstores in Philly. The problem is I always wind up buying something. And by “something” I mean usually at least three books. I have complimented (and reprimanded) the owner of the shop, Patrick, for knowing what to buy–and how to price them. This isn’t your regular ol’ corner used bookshop, but a carefully curated collection of interesting and/or prized editions of books I not only want to read but want to own. I’ve walked out of there with a hardcover UK-edition of Roberto Bolaño’s The Third Reich, a beautiful small press book called The Narrows by m. craig, and a a hardcover (to replace my mass market paperback of this absolutely stunning novel) of Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion. A good portion of this small shop is taken up by fiction, but there is also a decent poetry and children’s section, a section dedicated to strange and intriguing pulp, and a great collection of art books. The most prized editions are displayed facing out on the shelves throughout the store, and at the counter, they sell interesting paper ephemera and more delicate editions of things.

FUN FACT: I was at a reading here once, and right before it started, Anne Carson wandered in to chat up Patrick about the shop.


Head House Books is a “new” favorite of mine– as in, I just recently became a fan. Located on South 2nd Street (rather close to Brickbat, actually,) this story has an amazing children’s books section and decides which other newer editions and classic literature to sell carefully, rather than overstocking on “everything”. This seems to be a theme in most great bookstores in Philly, the “carefully curated collection” of what’s worth selling.

FUN FACT: This store sells some of the most well done and humorous greeting cards in the city. I love how they support small greeting card companies, and hope that they stock some Flying Groundhog cards in the near future, the greeting cards 5.1 cover artist Drew Falchetta makes.

Penn Book Center in West Philly is another great stop, though farther away from the shops previously mentioned, still definitely worth checking out. They have a disclaimer on their website, letting folks know that they are NOT “The” Penn Barnes & Noble Bookstore, but an independently run store that also stocks textbooks for professors who choose to order their books through them. David Hancock hosts great poetry events on the occasional Saturday afternoon here, and the store kindly stocks copies of Gigantic Sequins. They, in fact, sold out of the copies of 4.2 they had in stock. We love Penn Book Center.

FUN FACT: Last time I was at PBC, it was my birthday.


The Wooden Shoe on South Street has a specific goal and purpose, and I didn’t want to catalogue it as either “new” or “used” since its aim as an anarchist bookshop and record store makes it so much more. The shop is an “All-Volunteer Anarchist Collective” that promotes free thinking and speaking out. They also kindly stock GS along with various zines, and books on feminism, veganism, LGBTQ rights, and so much more. While a place like this could be intimidating, the volunteers that staff it are always friendly and the store itself inviting. I highly recommend checking this place out the next time you’re on South Street. And, hey, buy a copy of GS while you’re there!

FUN FACT: When I was a teenager, the shop used to be located right off of South Street and I *was* a bit intimidated to go in here, but my vegan friend dragged me in and it was one of my first real-life encounters with real counter-culture.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Mostly Books (South Philly, used), The Book Trader (Old City, used), Joseph Fox Bookshop (Center City, new), Big Blue Marble Bookstore (Mt. Airy, new).


Steve Burns, over at Apiary, posted about some great Indy Bookstores on and around South Street.

Phillymag.com gives its opinion on the Top 5 Indie Bookstores in Philly.

Giovanni’s Room, for many years, was the world’s top LGBTQ bookstore, and it was located in our great city. Sadly, it closed its doors in May, though the website is still active.

DISCLAIMER: I stole all these photos from a Google Image search =)


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