Whether you want to spend time with a bookstore cat, go to poetry readings with friends, or see the places famous authors lived, you can do it all and make it back to Van Pelt to finish the readings you were actually assigned. 

Independent Bookstores (Some Cats Included)

Philly has many independent bookstores with new and used books alike, and as I’ve mentioned three times in two paragraphs, some of them come stocked with their very own cat to keep you company.

A House of Our Own 

Poised right on the edge of Penn’s campus, thousands of books are nestled into this Victorian townhouse on 39th and Spruce. Sandwiched between frat houses, A House of Our Own throws you into another reality. Books crowd every surface, but they’re lovingly organized, and range across every genre you could imagine. If you want to be transported without having to stray far from campus, this is the place for you. 


Located in Fairmount, Bookhaven has extensive fiction sections, popular reads, and two floors of titles for you to browse. There are also, of course, cats. This is the perfect place to escape a gloomy day for a few hours, and you’ll walk out the door with used books and the love of two new feline friends. Idyllic. 

The Spiral Bookcase 

Over in Mayunuk sits The Spiral Bookcase, also equipped with a store cat (Amelia owns my heart), a bookstore that feels like home—if home were covered in books of every genre on every surface (which mine is). This bookstore hosts community events and fundraisers for local charities, and has a Small Press subscription that mails you copies of recommended under–the–radar books. A perfect way to explore literature when you want to stay in with a book. 

Public Readings  

The Free Library of Philadelphia 

At many of their branches across the city, the Free Library of Philadelphia hosts dozens of events where authors across all different genres read their work, answer questions, and give presentations on a variety of topics. Big–ticket names for this year include Steven Pinker and Madeline Albright, and the tickets are always affordable, albeit quick to sell out.  

The Kelly Writers House

On Penn’s campus, the Kelly Writers House is an epicenter of literary culture and activity. Paul Auster was there just the other day, and each week they have events that span all genres and mediums: fiction, poetry, photography, music, and more. Stop walking past this incredible resource and stop inside for an evening filled with food and brilliance. 

Literary History 

The Rosenbach 

With rotating exhibits, an incredible collection of original manuscripts, and classes to introduce you to a variety of literary masterpieces, the Rosenbach is a heaven akin to Dante’s paradise. Their collection features the original manuscript of Ulysses, medieval and early modern maps and manuscripts, and more original texts that make me salivate. Visit, take a class, refuse to leave. 

The Edgar Allan Poe House 

Take a tour and look out for a beating heart under the floorboards as you traverse the place where Poe penned many of his gothic stories. There are exhibits to read, and dramatic recordings of Poe’s stories and poems to transport you backwards into the perennial genius of spookiness. For more Poe paraphernalia, visit the Free Library to see the taxidermied raven that inspired his most famous poem. 

This is just a tiny sample of all our city has to offer in the realm of literature. Hear your favorite author speak or discover a new muse within blocks of campus—there are no more excuses.  


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