Reading roadtrip: Authors recommend bookstores worthy of a drive

We love a good bookstore — so much so that we're willing to drive. We asked some authors to offer some recommendations for roadtrip-worthy bookstores. Here are their edited responses. 

This piece first ran in Printers Row Journal, delivered to Printers Row members with the Sunday Chicago Tribune and by digital edition via email. Click here to learn about joining Printers Row.

Christine Sneed, author of "Little Known Facts"

Prairie Lights in Iowa City, Iowa; the owner, Jan Weissmiller, is a lovely person and is good to authors both local and non-local. And the same goes for Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, Mich.; its owner is Dean Hauck, another wonderful person. I also think the Tattered Cover Book Store on Colfax Ave. in Denver and Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, Calif., are excellent. They're exciting independent bookstores that are staffed by dedicated readers and book lovers.

Jeff Kinney, author of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid"

My favorite bookstore to visit while traveling is the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vt. The Northshire delivers on the promise of what a bookstore should be: warm, cozy and magic. It's a great place to make new discoveries and is a completely authentic experience.

Karin Slaughter, author of "Unseen"

Poisoned Pen (in Scottsdale, Ariz.) has always been one of my favorite bookstores, and not just because I get to stay at a hotel called the Valley Ho when I visit there. Barbara Peters, who started the store, is a person who loves all things thriller and mystery. Her depth of knowledge and passion for reading offer a bright spot during any tour."

Elin Hilderbrand, author of "Beautiful Day"

When I'm touring, my favorite bookstore to visit is the Brewster Book Store on Cape Cod. This is the same bookstore I grew up going to in the summer. I would take my hard-earned allowance and spend it all on summer reading pleasure. I get a crazy sense of nostalgia when I sign there and see adolescent girls browsing the stacks. But I will not sell my novels to any such girls unless they're 15 or have their mother's permission!

Laura Moriarty, author of "The Chaperone"

It's so hard to choose just one. The best part of book tour is getting to see so many indies and the people who keep them alive. But I was recently particularly dazzled by Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tenn., and I got the T-shirt to prove it. Parnassus is in a small but beautiful space, and it really seemed to be the hub of the reading community.

Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, author of the forthcoming

"Brief Encounters With the Enemy"

The first time I visited City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, I was 21 and traveling across country with two friends. I had just dropped out of college with the vague and mildly pretentious notion that I was going to be a famous writer. It was the tail end of our month-long trip, and the bookstore felt like a significant preface for what was in store for me. It had the look and feel of legend; it seemed to be balanced perfectly between inspiration and intimidation for a young writer. Twenty years later I happened to passing by City Lights with my cousin. On a whim he suggested stopping in to take a look at my memoir, which had just come out. Twenty years later, with my first book possibly on their shelves, it was still a lovely place to wander through.

A couple farther flung options:

Anders Nilsen, author of "The End"

When I'm in France I make it a point to browse graphic design in bookstores. French graphic design is very distinctive. It tends to be cleaner and simpler than that in the United States and other countries I've been. Last February, I was in Paris and had the good fortune of doing an event at a newish place called Le Monte en L'air, which is my new favorite bookstore on the planet. It is, in part, a regular bookstore, selling novels and philosophy, but it is also the perfect comic shop, with an emphasis on the more literary and experimental side of comics, both French — which also has a slightly different cast than the same category in the U.S. — and from around the world. Along with the comics and the most lovely children's books, they carry a lot of prints and hold exhibitions of cartoonists and print makers as well. The place is magical.

Averill Curdy, author of "Song & Error"

It was another swelteringly humid evening following an event to honor a new publication of Joseph Brodsky's poems in Polish when our group from the Krakow Poetry Symposium entered Krakow's Massolit Books. The walls not covered by floor-to-ceiling bookcases filled with poetry, history, fiction were Tuscan red, stenciled in botanically-inspired folk motifs of green and blue and white. Armchairs encouraged thoughtful grazing. A tall furnace in its carved and varnished beetle-like casing was topped by the single, impercipient eye of what looks like a Soviet-era television set whose glaucous screen and knobs had the quaint appeal of a design originally intended to signal its up-to-dateness.

Massolit is an essential part of Krakow's rich, literary atmosphere and is a gathering place for poets, writers and university students. That night after talk, food and drink, everyone joined Lynn Suh, our host and master of ceremonies (and former Chicagoan), to recite poems or read from some new discovery found just that evening. A young man who'd just arrived in Krakow from America that afternoon stood up and recited Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale." Only silence followed his moving performance. As a bookstore, Massolit possesses the compact abundance and surprises of a lyric poem, and we knew that, like a good poem, the night had discovered its ending.

— Compiled by Paige Wagenknecht

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