In the age of Amazon, when you can get almost any book you desire delivered to your doorstep the next day, it's harder than ever for independent bookstores to keep their doors open. But certain shops across Philly offer a better experience than any website through curated collections and friendly, knowledgeable employees. Next time you're looking for a good read, check out these local retailers for an experience that an algorithm can't provide.
Joseph Fox Bookshop
Located just a few blocks from Rittenhouse Square, Joseph Fox Bookshop is home to a carefully curated mix of new releases, coffee–table reads, and children's books, among other genres. What started out as a family–owned retailer of fine architecture books in 1951 has since expanded, offering diverse recommendation lists created by employees. For any book that can’t be found in store, it can be special ordered and ready for pick up in under three days. Known for good customer service, Joseph Fox Bookshop is the perfect place to go when you need a little literary guidance.
Location: 1724 Sansom St., Philadelphia, PA 19103
People's Books and Culture
Located on 34th Street, this store—formerly known as Penn Book Center—has large window displays, giving students a glance into the independent bookseller. Initially set to close in spring 2019, the store was saved by an outpouring of community support and was taken over by new owners with an eye for engagement, offering readings and signings monthly. Besides offering general bookstore findings, the store caters to Penn students by selling a selection of course texts. The store is inviting and homey, with a friendly staff to match.
Location: 130 S. 34th St., Philadelphia, PA 19104
Shakespeare & Co.
In 2018, Shakespeare & Co. opened their first location outside of New York City, a two–story cafe and bookstore on Walnut Street in Rittenhouse. It features a cafe thats serves up coffee and other goodies and has plenty of spaces to work. Between the ground floor and the mezzanine, there’s lots of room to settle down with a good book or finish that research paper you’ve been working on. The books are sectioned off by genre in labeled nooks. For any book that a customer can’t find among their titles, the “Espresso Book Machine” can print one of over seven million titles in less than five minutes.
Location: 1632 Walnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19103
A Novel Idea
A Novel Idea’s goal is to cultivate community, which they do through their passion for creating a literary space for their readers and writers. They opened in December 2018, and have since worked hard to focus on their local community with an emphasis on authors, publishers, artists, and fans in the area. They have a strong event schedule with book clubs, author readings, and even open mic nights at a local bar. The store’s layout puts local authors and small presses right in front, demonstrating their commitment to the community. Perfect for reads you won't find on the Bestsellers list, stop here when you truly want to shop local.
Location: 1726 E. Passyunk Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19148
Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books
With a slogan of “Cool People. Dope Books. Great Coffee,” there isn’t much more to say about Uncle Bobbie’s. The store opened in 2017 as an homage to the owner’s uncle’s house, which was always filled with books and conversation. Their collection contains lots of books by little–known black authors, well–loved fiction writers and great political minds, as well as a number of classics. Even if you aren’t looking to pick up a new book, the quaint vibe and friendly employees make it a fun place to go just to hang out or grab a cup of coffee.
Location: 5445 Germantown Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19144
House of Our Own
Another University City favorite, nestled between frat houses on Spruce Street lives House of Our Own. Every room and hallway in the comfortable Victorian house is covered in books from floor to ceiling. Newer works are housed downstairs, while used books from many genres are kept upstairs.
Location: 3920 Spruce St., Philadelphia, PA 19104