Your Guide To Memphis Bookstores
Ed. Note: Contributor Aisling has a fantastic list of new and used Memphis bookstores. Which ones have you been to? Should we add any to the list? See more photos here.
Sure, downloading an e-book is convenient…but it lacks the cerebral, emotional and sensory experience of being surrounded by printed books in a bookstore or library. There are the valuable human exchanges with knowledgeable librarians and booksellers. Then, there’s the feel of the pages on your fingertips, and that alluring scent – a fragrance so beloved by bibliophiles, you can purchase paperback-scented perfumes and candles.
Memphis has a ton of wonderful independent bookstores and libraries for book lovers of all generations, with varying interests. Check these out.
1. Book Traders (6112 Quince in East Memphis)
An East Memphis fixture, Book Traders will celebrate 25 years in business in 2018. This family owned business offers thousands of used hardback and paperback books – from philosophy to young adult fiction to coffee table keepsakes — in great condition. They offer in-store credit for trades, which can be used for up to three years.
Monday – Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
2. Burke’s Books (936 S. Cooper Street in Midtown)
Burke’s is my neighborhood bookstore, and it’s a challenge to get my fourth grader out of there once we walk through the door, given the cool child/young adult section and her obsession with the vintage display of typewriters that you’re allowed to touch…gently.
Proprietor Corey Mesler, a Memphis novelist and poet, offers new, rare, and used books in this charming Midtown fixture that could serve as the backdrop for an independent film about an independent bookstore. It smells like paperbacks, is decorated with art and author memorabilia, and you’re welcome to bring your well-behaved canine companion.
Monday – Wednesday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Thursday – Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
3. Cornelia Crenshaw Memorial Library (531 Vance Avenue downtown)
This historic library opened in 1939 to serve Memphis’ African-American community during segregation and continues to play a central role in the lives of neighborhood residents. It’s an especially great location for parents and children, with its interactive literacy space for families.
The library’s charming children’s learning area features colorful murals by local artists, adorable plush animal seating, a play kitchen, grocery store, LEGO play area, and seats for mom and dad to relax and read. In addition, they have an incredibly passionate staff that includes an artist and a head librarian who personally knew Ms. Crenshaw.
Open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Closed Friday and Sunday
4. Crosstown Concourse Reading Area (1350 Concourse Avenue in Crosstown)
The revitalized Crosstown building is a bustle of activity, and one of its newest additions is a reading area situated between the second and third floors in the atrium. The shelves have been stocked with books donated by Friends of the Library. It’s a sleek contemporary spot that offers a unique reading sanctuary in the heart of this energetic, revamped space.
Open daily 8 a.m.- 6 p.m.
5. Novel (387 Perkins Road Ext. in East Memphis)
The former Davis-Kidd/Booksellers space in Laurelwood Shopping Center reopens on August 18, 2017 with an entirely local flair and owenership. Novel’s customers can expect a redesigned store with event space, a wide selection of books and gifts, including a kids’ area, and a new restaurant called “Libro” by Sabine Bachmann of ECCO on Overton Park.
Even though the new store is smaller, it actually holds more books and local merchandise. Staff members will include some familiar faces from the store’s previous incarnations as The Booksellers at Laurelwood and Davis-Kidd Booksellers.
6. Second Editions (3030 Poplar Avenue at the Central Library)
Second Editions at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library is an absolute gem. This second-hand bookstore, operated by Friends of the Library, is the perfect place to buy gifts for the bibliophile in your life, with best-selling hardback novels and exquisite, barely touched coffee table books for $2 a pop. The store stocks the shelves with new books each day, and there’s a massive collection of overstock downstairs.
They even have vinyl records, rare signed books, and a retired pathologist volunteer who repairs rare, antique or just ordinary broken books in the basement. No, I didn’t just make that up. Second Editions is an interesting place. Go there and ask Randy for a tour, and plan to walk out with an armful of books, knowing the proceeds from your sale will benefit our city’s system of 18 libraries.
Monday-Thursday 10 a.m.- 6 p.m.
Friday-Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sunday 1 – 5 p.m.
7. South Main Book Juggler (548 S. Main Street downtown)
It would be impossible for a booklover to pass the South Main Book Juggler’s cheerful turquoise storefront without being lured inside. Their motto is “Somewhere between serious and silly.”
The store, which opened in 2013 in Downtown’s South Main Arts District, offers mostly gently loved books, along with some new ones and unique gift items. They have books in a variety of genres and have a great Memphis section featuring books about the Bluff City and books authored by Memphians.
Tuesday – Saturday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sundays 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
8. The Book Place (691 S. Mendenhall Road)
Located just across those railroad tracks on Mendenhall, where half the population of East Memphis gets stuck for 15 minutes every day during rush hour, is a small, quiet, colorful, buy-and-sell bookstore that’s been around since before a lot of Gen-Xers were even born.
Elaine Davis has worked there since 1977, and five years ago she bought the place from a friend. Their inventory of used books in great condition includes classics, best-sellers, mystery, paranormal, romance and children’s books. The Book Place is old-school – they don’t have a website and they use a Rolodex for customer accounts to keep track of your store credit.
After you turn in your old books for other readers to enjoy, you have up to a year to select new ones. Instead of sitting in traffic at the tracks, pull over and check out The Book Place.
Monday – Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
9. Tiger Bookstore (3533 Walker Avenue in East Memphis)
Yes, Tiger Bookstore sells mostly textbooks and Tiger gear, and that’s why most folks go there. Heck, I’m a UConn alumna and even I own Tiger gear because I’m a Memphian. But it’s an iconic Memphis bookstore, serving Memphis Tigers fans all over the world for more than 50 years. Tiger Bookstore also carries literary classics and books about local history.
Monday and Thursday 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Saturday 11 am – 4 p.m.
10. Two Rivers Bookstore (2172 Young Avenue in midtown)
Two Rivers, located in the heart of Cooper-Young, offers science fiction and fantasy books and unique gifts and curiosities. They sell new, used and vintage pulp novels, and offer a subscription service for vintage sci-fi and fantasy paperbacks.
The store smells heavenly, thanks to the handmade incense and candles they sell. Two Rivers hosts author readings and other events, which you can find on their Facebook page.
Monday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Sunday noon – 5 p.m.
11. Xanadu Music & Books (2200 Central Avenue in midtown)
John and Bev Lowe have been running this mom-and-pop music and book shop for more than 25 years. John handles the music side, selling guitars and his custom mutant guitar invention, the Lowebow. Bev manages their wide selection of books. But Xanadu’s real boss is resident lady cat Cordell, named in honor of Memphis-based female rockabilly guitarist Cordell Jackson.
Monday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sunday 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
About the Author
Aisling Maki is a freelance writer, editor, and public and media relations specialist with awards from The Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists and Public Relations Society of America, as well as several awards for fiction writing. Her work has appeared in publications in more than 20 countries. You can usually find her cheering on the Grizzlies, doing outdoorsy things, or traveling with her daughter, Brídín. They live in Cooper-Young with a dog, a guinea pig and a pair of pet mice.