Welcome to the fourth installment of the bookish cross-country road trip series! We have traversed across the Northern U.S. using I-90, explored the heart of the country across I-70, and traveled along the east coast on I-95. Now that the weather is chilly and generally unpleasant for large swaths of the country, let’s discover what bookish treasures we can find in the southern portions of the United States. Let’s travel coast-to-coast using the Southern Pacific route.
We are going from San Diego, California, to Savannah, Georgia: 35 hours with no stops, across eight states and around 2,400 miles. The Southern Pacific route changes names about six times because it follows the old U.S. Route 80 and some of its modern day equivalents, but it’s all the same road, my friends. We will cross woodland, desert, the great plains, and grassland as we explore the literary goodness to be found along the way.
As always, we will stay close to the highway on this cross-country journey to make your bookish exploring as easy as possible. Any detours are less than an hours’ drive from the road one way. This list is also not exhaustive: there are too many amazing literary stops across this stretch of land to list them all, so I’ve curated a nice selection to get you started. It’s your road trip, after all: this is just a starting point.
Let’s get on the road!
San Diego, California
We begin just north of the Southern Pacific route at one of the coolest looking libraries…ever. The Geisel Library is the University of California in San Diego’s main library, named to honor Audrey and Theodore Geisel (otherwise known as Dr. Seuss) because of their contributions. This eight story building was designed with impressive geometric shapes in mind, and it does not disappoint. Be sure to meander down the Snake Path through the garden on the east side of the building, visit the Silent Tree at the south entrance, and check out their special collections to see what they have on display (which, to no surprise, includes a Seuss Room).
Head five and a half miles south toward the ocean and you’ll find the oldest continuously family-owned bookstore in the country (since 1896). Warwick’s has an impressive collection of books, as well as gifts, stationary, and other fun knick knacks. You’re bound to catch an author event here during your visit, because that calendar looks full all the time. They also host Booked for Lunch, where you can have lunch with an author at a Warwick’s chosen lunch spot nearby.
Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore
Hop back on I-5 S for about nine miles to visit the spot for mystery, fantasy, science fiction, YA, and horror. Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore has all your genre fiction favorites, and you’ll love browsing their collection for your next read. If you want to spread the bookish love, they also curate care packages with hand chosen books and literary accessories that you can either send back home to someone you love, or send to yourself!
San Diego Central Library
In downtown East Village, you’ll find another architectural wonder in the form of the San Diego Central Library. This gorgeous library houses art installations, an art gallery, a Dr. Seuss themed children’s library, a rare books room, and a lofted ceiling, light-filled reading room on the top floor. Don’t forget to walk around the grounds to visit the garden, see its sculptures, and lounge outside on the 9th floor in the Qualcomm Dome Terrace.
You’ll find another bookstore staple in the North Park neighborhood: Verbatim Books has all the used and rare books you could want in an exceptionally cool space. With its cozy old chairs, tall bookshelves, old timey touches, memorable artwork, and a veritable forest of plants, plan to spend a good amount of time exploring this bookish space.
A two and a half hour drive west of San Diego will bring you to Yuma, Arizona, our next stop on the Southern Pacific. Visit Yuma’s Heritage Library, a beautiful columned building surrounded by three acres of gorgeous green space in the Library Park. A perfect place to stretch your legs and enjoy the sunshine.
Fan-Quest Comics and Games
Drive south of the library for ten minutes to find Yuma’s well loved comic bookstore, Fan-Quest Comics and Games. Not only will you find comics here, but they also carry board games, card games, RPGs, and swag.
We’re going to detour off the highway to head north for Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Mesa, a three hour journey from Yuma. Our first stop is Grassrootz Bookstore, Arizona’s only Black-owned, activist-owned, and worker-owned bookstore. They carry an excellent selection of Black authors for adults and children, and every purchase helps fund local grassroots activism, education, and economic development. Grab a snack and a drink while you’re here, because they have a juice bar!
Palabras Bilingual Bookstore
Eight minutes west of Grassrootz is another welcoming, inclusive bookish space. Palabras Bilingual Bookstore carries books in a wide variety of languages across all genres and age groups, with an emphasis on BIPOC cultural representation. You’ll see titles here that you won’t readily find in other bookstores. Enjoy the artwork on the walls made by local artists, and check out the mutual aid garden.
Burton Barr Central Library
Drive a mile east and feast your eyes on the diamond-shaped facade of the Burton Barr Central Library. Walk around the whole building to make sure you see all of the neat, modern architectural touches, and then go inside to check out their art exhibition gallery featuring Arizona artists, the rare book room, and the massive reading room on the fifth floor.
The Heard Museum
North of the library is the Heard Museum and the Billie Jane Baguley Library and Archives, which contains a large resource collection on nearly 25,000 Native artists and writers. The entire museum is dedicated to showcasing Native and Indigenous art, textiles, culture, and history.
Changing Hands Bookstore & First Draft Book Bar
Three miles north of the museum lies the biggest bookstore staple in Phoenix: Changing Hands Bookstore. It’s been around since 1974, offering the community new and used books, gifts, bookish swag, and toys. They host a lot of author events, so you’re bound to stumble upon one when you visit. This bookstore also houses the First Draft Book Bar, so bring an appetite to enjoy their snacks, pastries, teas, coffees, and libations. Is there anything better than grabbing a drink and nestling up with a book? There isn’t, so take full advantage!
The Poisoned Pen Bookstore
Hop back in the car and drive 25 minutes east for Scottsdale, because The Poisoned Pen will fulfill all of your mystery and thriller needs. This quaint bookstore is a must visit, especially if you’re looking for signed copies of books. Enjoy their space and sit down in one of their cozy chairs with the book of your choice.
If you want to visit a bookstore that also feels like an art gallery, take a pleasant walk down Main Street from The Poisoned Pen to visit Anticus. This bookstore has a curated selection of books, locally made art and jewelry, and other unique items you won’t find anywhere else.
Civic Center Library
Now that you have some books to enjoy from your last two stops, walk or drive half a mile east to visit the Civic Center Library. This beautiful Prairie style building was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and features lovely covered walkways, green space, art installations, and an adorable children’s library. Grab a coffee and a treat from Meg’s Civic Center Cafe and settle down somewhere to read your new book(s).
Mesa Public Library
Mesa is less than half an hour away, and your next pitstop is The Mesa Public Library. It’s a beautiful opportunity to take a walk through and admire the artwork both on and inside the building and enjoy the spaces that Mesa has dedicated to its library patrons, both young and old.
Bookmans Mesa Entertainment Exchange
This is more than just a bookstore. Not only will you find new and used books at Bookmans Mesa Entertainment Exchange, just two miles south of the library, but you’ll also find comic books, video games, board games, musical instruments, collectibles, and more. You won’t leave here empty-handed, I promise you.
Joel D Valdez Main Library
We are back on the road for Tucson, which is just under two hours away. Your first bookish stop is the main branch of Tucson’s public library system: the Joel D Valdez Main Library. You’ll know it by the delightful cherry red sculpture in front of the building. It’s a lovely spot for a walk, and has some neat artwork scattered throughout the library.
A five minute drive will take you to our next bookish stop. Look for the lavender exterior and know you’ve found Antigone Books, a women-owned bookstore that specializes in LGBTQIA literature. Enjoy the charm of its mismatched seating, wide book selection, and plethora of gifts, stationery, clothing, and literary swag. Don’t miss the absolutely adorable interior courtyard behind the store, either; perfect for grabbing a drink and reading a recent book purchase in the sun!
The Book Stop
Walk just up the road to visit The Book Stop next, a local favorite that’s been operating since 1967. They carry used, rare, and out-of-print books, so you’re bound to find something unique here.
The University of Arizona’s Poetry Center
You’re just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the University of Arizona, which houses an amazing Poetry Center, the university’s poetry archives. They boast a large print and digital collection for visitors to enjoy, as well as rotating art and literary exhibitions. Check out their event calendar before you plan your trip, because you may get to see a poetry reading or lecture from Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winners during your visit.
Revolutionary Grounds Books & Coffee
You must be hungry after these bookstore and library visits. Drive ten minutes east down Speedway Boulevard to whet your appetite with breakfast, coffee, and teas at Revolutionary Grounds Books & Coffee. The drinks are varied and inventive, and the book selection is specific and robust: Revolutionary Grounds specializes in political and philosophical bookish offerings. Feed your body and your mind.
Singing Wind Bookshop
You’ll find something pretty unique an hour from Tucson. I’m taking you to an old cattle ranch that’s been turned into a bookstore, just outside of Benson. Winn Bundy started Singing Wind Bookshop out of her ranch in 1974, which her son now runs, and it carries a huge selection of Southwest authors. It doesn’t get more local than this, especially if you’re looking for books by regional authors.
Deming, New Mexico
Readers’ Cove Used Books & Gallery
Back on the road! Two and a half hours in the car puts us in the desert town of Deming, New Mexico, where you’ll find Readers’ Cove Used Books & Gallery. This quaint bookish stop is full of around 50,000 used and rare books, which includes a nice selection of New Mexico and Southwestern history, Native author fiction and nonfiction, nature guides, and more. You can also find some fun trinkets and art pieces here, as well.
Las Cruces, New Mexico
Thomas Branigan Memorial Library
In one hour you’ll be in Las Cruces, at the edge of the Chihuahuan Desert. It wouldn’t be a bookish road trip if we didn’t stop at a library, so we’ll be visiting the Thomas Branigan Memorial Library, a building as brightly colored and gorgeous as a sunset. Its unique history began as a collection of 500 books kept by the Women’s Improvement Association, at various members’ homes before one of the members (Alice Branigan) bequeathed her estate money in the 1930s to start a public library. A neat thing they offer is a seed library, where patrons can check out up to seven packets of seeds per season for growing.
Just half a mile from the library is Las Cruces’s favorite new and used bookstore, COAS Books. Enjoy their wide selection of every genre you can think of, because with 500,000 books in stock, there’s no way you won’t find something to your liking. They also have another store located on Solano.
Walk down the street and pop into Zia Comics to quench your thirst for new and used comics, puzzles, table top games, and nerdy swag. They also serve ice cream!
Casa Camino Real Bookstore & Art Gallery
A three minute drive will take you to Casa Camino Real Bookstore & Art Gallery, an inviting and eclectic space owned by Chicana author Denise Chávez. You will find a wide and rich selection of Latino/Latina, Southwestern, Native, and Borderland literature, as well as local art. Chávez also runs Museo de La Gente, which functions as an arts residency center, an exhibit space, and a venue for multi-cultural creative events.
El Paso, Texas
Cactus Flower Bookery
Welcome to Texas! It only took you 40 minutes to get here, and we have a bookstore right in your path on your way into El Paso. Cactus Flower Bookery is a charming little bookstore with an equally charming name, and you will feel right at home here as you peruse their stacks.
A short five mile drive will bring you to El Paso’s newer independent bookstore, Literarity Bookshop. They have a strong focus on Borderland authors, as well as local and regional history. Get a recommendation from their friendly staff and find a new read!
El Paso Public Library
Head to downtown El Paso to check out the main branch of their library and its coolly modern design. Stroll through the pretty gardens out front, and take advantage of the indoor and outdoor seating to read one of the books you’ve picked up so far on this trip. Another neat El Paso library to visit is the Sergio Troncoso branch, named after the author in 2014.
A five minute drive will bring you to the coziest bookstore in all of El Paso. Brave Books resides inside an old house, and you will love wandering through its rooms and halls to see what delights and new reads you find. They carry new, used, vintage, and rare books of all kinds. Be on the lookout for Yofi, the bookstore cat!
BorderSenses Open Mic Series
There is no set location for this next potential stop, which means you could find yourself anywhere in El Paso to attend this bookish event. BorderSenses is a local nonprofit dedicated to cross-border cultural and literary art exchange, and they run the Barbed Wire Open Mic Series, where you can catch poetry readings, musical shows, and other artistic displays at various venues throughout El Paso. Keep an eye on their calendar to see if you can catch a reading or a show.
Ye Old Bookworm
It took you four hours to get here from El Paso, and you are ready to stretch those legs. Your first stop in Odessa is Ye Old Bookworm, a used bookstore with a giant selection that will most definitely have something you’re looking for, even if you weren’t looking for it. They’ll also help you find any out-of-print books either in their inventory or through other book dealers if you’re looking for something rarer.
The Globe of the Great Southwest
Bet you didn’t think you’d find a replica of Shakespeare’s Globe in western Texas, did you? Drive five minutes north and feast your eyes on The Globe of the Great Southwest at Odessa College, a reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre that was built in the 1960s. Catch a play at the venue while you’re here, and check out the Anne Hathaway House next door, a replica of the cottage that Shakespeare’s wife lived in.
The HIVE Comics and Table Top Games
Let’s go play a game at The Hive Comics, just a five minute drive away from Odessa College. They’ve got everything from comics to manga to graphic novels, and plenty of space to play table top games while you’re there.
For fans of the movie/TV show and the novel Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger, well, you’re in the right town for it, since the book’s real events and the movie take place in Odessa. Ratliff Stadium is used by the Permian Panthers, and it’s only a few miles outside of downtown Odessa. Check it out to see where the panther’s share of the book and movie’s events took place (hehe, see what I did there?…I’ll see myself out).
Ellen Noël Art Museum
Your final bookish stop in Odessa is at the Ellen Noël Art Museum. They sometimes have literary themed art exhibitions, such as a recent Alice in Wonderland illustration collection, and this museum is also home to artist and novelist Thomas Lea’s painting Stampede.
Argos Brewhouse and Bookseller
You’ve been on the road for two hours — you deserve a pick-me-up. Make a pitstop in Sweetwater at Argos Brewhouse and Bookseller for a local coffee or a pint, and curl up on one of the comfy couches in this adorable cafe bookshop. This place is a true gem; you may even catch an event here if you come later in the day.
Welcome to the storybook capital of America! It only took you 40 minutes to get here, and you are in for a treat. Abilene, Texas took it upon itself to become the children’s literature center of the country, and the city has sculptures of famous children’s book characters all over downtown, including multiple Dr. Seuss characters, The Man in the Moon, Dinosaur Bob, The Three Little Kittens, Stuart Little, and more. Check out this list to see where you can find them, and go on a scavenger hunt!
National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature
Abilene’s greatest ode to children’s literature is the museum they dedicated to the craft showcasing children’s illustrated literature. Every quarter they highlight one children’s book illustrator’s artwork. Many of the storybook statues are located around this joyful little museum.
A short three-minute drive away is Book Therapy, a used bookstore filled to the rafters with books. Sit down for a spell in one of their comfy chairs and bask in the surroundings of that which prompted this road trip in the first place.
Fort Worth, Texas
Monkey and Dog Books
In just over two hours, you’ll be in Fort Worth. Make the little ones in your life happy by stopping in Monkey and Dog Books, a bookshop that specializes in children’s literature, although they also carry a selection of young adult and adult novels. The decor inside is adorable and cheerful — just what you needed after being on the road.
Fort Worth’s Central Public Library branch is just two miles east downtown, and it is a handsome Greek Revival structure worth a look see. They put together some impressive decorations inside the library, and host a monthly board game night, blind dates with books, a monthly film series to celebrate holidays throughout the year, and other super fun activities for patrons that you might be able to get in on during your visit.
Leaves Book and Tea Shop
It’s time for a cuppa, I’ve decided. Head a mile south of the library to drop by Leaves Book and Tea Shop, where books and tea have a beautiful union. You have a wide selection of teas to choose from (the lychee ginger sounds particularly delicious), so order what sounds good and browse their carefully curated shelves, with offerings in the adult, young adult, nonfiction, and poetry spheres.
The Dock Bookshop
About fifteen minutes east is your last stop in Fort Worth: The Dock Bookshop. It’s the largest Black-owned bookstore in Texas, and they go the extra mile to create a sense of community and celebrate Black culture through the books they carry, along with jewelry, clothing, stationary, and more. They regularly host author events, as well, so you just might catch one during your visit.
Pan African Connection
We’re headed next door to Dallas! In just over forty minutes, you’ll be at Pan African Connection. This is a Black family–owned bookstore that also functions as an art gallery and a community resource center. They specialize in carrying books on Black and African diaspora health, history, and culture, but they are so much more than a bookstore. They carry African art, clothing, games, jewelry, natural hair products and offer various enriching classes and programs.
The Wild Detectives
Drive 15 minutes north to visit The Wild Detectives for books, snacks, coffee, or libations, because it has a full service bar in addition to selling books. It also resides inside a house that looks like a cabin in the woods, so you will be surrounded by a delightful rustic ambiance. If you come later in the evening, you might catch a poetry reading, a show, or a lecture. They also have outdoor seating, so grab a drink and a book and relax.
J. Erik Jonsson Central Library
Another ten minute drive will put you in downtown Dallas. Check out their main library branch, the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library, an impressive structure housing countless books and information on local history. Visit the fourth floor to see their rotating art exhibits, and go up to the seventh floor to see a Shakespeare’s First Folio and an original 1776 print of the Declaration of Independence.
Head a mile east and you will find Deep Vellum, a very cool and cozy bookstore with a great selection of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Deep Vellum is also a nonprofit and a publishing company, dedicated to uplifting socially engaged literature and fostering an exchange of ideas and conversation in their store.
If you time your visit right, you might be able to catch an author reading at LitNight Dallas, run by local author Sanderia Faye. The author readings always occur at Chocolate Secrets, a chocolatier and cafe, so check out their calendar to see if you can fit one into your trip, because you know that artisanal chocolate, coffee, and the spoken word are a trio made in heaven.
You’ll find your last stop in Dallas in the northern part of the city. Interabang Books is a fun, quirky bookstore with a great selection and a regular rotation of author events. Grab a book and a cozy chair and enjoy an afternoon here before we hit the road again!
Books and Barrels
You’ve been in the car for two hours; it’s time for another break. Stop in Longview for a drink at Books and Barrels. They offer beer and wine from local breweries and wineries, so if alcoholic beverages are your thing, they have something for you. Take your time to browse their stacks and unique gifts before hitting the road again.
728 Austen Place
Welcome to Shreveport, the fictional seat of power for vampire Eric Northman of True Blood, from the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris. Your first stop is a beautiful old Victorian home that, if you watched True Blood, you will recognize: It appeared in the opening credits. This is 728 Austen Place, located not too far from downtown. It’s now a bed and breakfast that is open for daily tours from 3–5 p.m., and it’s filled with gorgeous old touches and furniture to really help you feel the age of the mansion that found its way into modern day vampire lore.
Excalibur Comics Cards & Games
Drive ten minutes south and you’ll find Excalibur Comics for all of your comic, graphic novel, and manga needs. They have a great selection, and also sell a lot of merch, figurines, and board games.
The Thrifty Peanut
Five minutes east lies The Thrifty Peanut, a delightfully named used bookstore. Take your time browsing their wares, because this is a large space piled high with books, and you just know it has that wonderful old book smell you can’t replicate anywhere else.
No. 9 Books and Records
Drive another hour down our route and swing by Ruston for some more bookish goodness. No. 9 Books and Records is a very cool used bookstore that also carries a lot of vinyl, so you’ll find some musical gems here.
Southern Realms Comics and Games
Is it just me, or does this area have some epically named comic book stores? Just over a mile from the bookstore is Southern Realms Comics and Games, a fun little comic bookstore that also carries some merch and T-shirts. *whispers* It’s also right next to a Waffle House. You’re welcome.
Welcome to Mississippi! In an hour and a half, you’ll be crossing the Mississippi River. We’re making a quick stop at the rivertown of Vicksburg, where Lorelei Books resides. Enjoy the cozy, homey atmosphere this bookstore and its friendly staff give you.
Margaret Walker Center
In 45 minutes, you’ll be in Jackson. Head to Jackson State University, where you’ll be visiting the Margaret Walker Center. This center was founded in 1968 as the Institute for the Study of the History, Life, and Culture of Black People by Margaret Walker, the first Black poet to receive the Yale Younger Poets Prize in 1941 for her poetry collection For My People. This center has a huge collection of scholarly, anthropological, cultural, and educational books, oral histories, newspaper clippings, and more on Black history and literary works.
Eudora Welty House & Garden
About four miles away is the former home of short story writer and Pulitzer Prize winner Eudora Welty. The Eudora Welty House & Garden is open daily for tours, and you can see where Eudora penned her stories, as well as other artifacts from her life. The garden, designed and created by Eudora’s mother, is a lovely, serene chance to take a walk and admire the blossoming flowers and greenery surrounding the house.
Walk or drive half a mile from the house to take a long, luxurious break at the Library Lounge, a sleekly cool upscale bar inside the old library of the Fairview Mansion, built in 1908. Soak in the antiquated vibes and the shelves filled with Mississippi authors while you eat dinner and enjoy one of the specialty drinks named after a local author. Perhaps the William Faulkner, or the Alice Walker?
Now that you’re satiated on good food and drinks, head north for Lemuria Books, a local favorite with a truly memorable exterior. Peruse their floor-to-ceiling bookstacks that includes a vast selection of southern writers. They also carry a number of first editions, if you’re one who likes to collect them.
You’ll find your final stop right across the street, because you know we’d find a beautiful merger of coffee and books in Jackson. Coffee Prose has quite the selection of literary-themed coffee drinks, such as the Mad Hatter (white chocolate and hazelnut), the Heart of Darkness (dark chocolate and raspberry, yum), and the Nancy Drew (vanilla and cinnamon). Really, you can’t go wrong. They also have some neat swag, and another location in Midtown in case you want double the coffee and books goodness.
Here’s where we’re deviating from the traditional Southern Pacific path. This road trip normally follows the old I-80 route, but we’re following Route 20 a bit north until we reconnect with the original route. I don’t want you to miss out on Birmingham or, more importantly, Atlanta. So strap in, because here we go!
Ernest & Hadley Booksellers
Welcome to Alabama! You’ve been on the road for almost three hours; it’s time to get out of the car for a bit. We’re stopping in Tuscaloosa to visit Ernest & Hadley Booksellers, nestled inside the cutest house you’ve ever seen. They sell new, used, and rare books, as well as themed gift boxes that you can bring home with you for someone you love.
Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
It’s only a one hour drive to Birmingham, and we’ll be going to the heart of downtown first. Visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, dedicated to preserving the history of the Civil Rights Movement. You’ll find an extensive archive of documents, recorded oral histories, and artifacts such as the actual jail cell door from behind which Martin Luther King Jr. wrote Letter from Birmingham Jail.
Linn-Henley Research Library
A ten minute walk from the institute will take you to the stately Linn-Henley Research Library, right across the street from the Birmingham Central Library (be sure to visit that one, too!). Wander through the library to see its art collections, historical archives, and the gorgeous main reading room, which features 16 famous literature scenes on the walls, painted by Ezra Winter.
Jim Reed Books
Walk down Richard Arrington Jr. Boulevard and pop into Jim Reed Books: The Museum of Fond Memories for a one-of-a-kind experience. This bookstore also functions as a museum of nostalgia, with whimsical bric-a-brac and antiques around every corner.
Books, Beans, and Candles
Settle in with a cup of coffee and a new age book at your next stop, Books, Beans, and Candles, because they specialize in carrying occult and metaphysical books. Peruse their shelves and maybe take home some incense, candles, or a new tarot set while you’re at it.
Little Professor Bookshop
Just five minutes south is the Little Professor Bookshop, a great independent bookstore with a fantastic and robust children’s section you won’t want to miss.
Church Street Coffee and Books
I hope you haven’t had your fill of coffee yet, because this last stop is a favorite among the Birmingham community. Church Street Coffee and Books has tasty treats and even tastier coffee along with a nice book selection. Fuel up before we hit the road again!
Hoover Public Library
We’re detouring south about 20 minutes to give a little love to the Hoover Public Library, because it is a gem. Based on the sheer number of events they hold for adults and kids alike, which includes a good number of author events, you can tell that those who run this library care deeply about creating a great community space for locals and visitors alike (as do all libraries). They host the Southern Voices Author’s Conference, a SciFi/Fantasy Fest, and regularly feature art exhibitions.
Our last stop in Alabama is just outside of Birmingham, in the city of Irondale. Sit down for lunch at the Irondale Cafe, made famous by the novel and film Fried Green Tomatoes by Fannie Flagg. Lunch is buffet style, so you’ll have your choice of classic southern staples to feast on.
Welcome to Georgia! We’re headed for Atlanta, and I hope you’re ready for a rich and varied literary tourist experience here, with one quick note. I’ve left two commonly known literary Atlanta stops off this list: The Margaret Mitchell House and The Wren’s Nest (home of Joel Chandler Harris). They are of course open to the public should you wish to see them, but given that their works were rife with racism and cultural theft/appropriation, I wanted to instead highlight all of the other amazing bookish things to see in Atlanta. Let’s get to it!
Our first stop in Atlanta is at Medu Bookstore, a Black-owned bookstore opened in 1989. They carry a wide variety of culturally significant POC literature, and their calendar is always full of author signings, lectures, and other events.
The Goat Farm Arts Center
Head north for West Midtown to find the coolest arts center in the city. The Goat Farm Arts Center regularly hosts concerts, theatrical performances, film screenings, art exhibitions, and panel discussions. It’s also where scenes from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire were filmed! (And yes, they have goats.) Be sure to visit the Warhorse Coffee Shop at the center as well, which doubles as a bookstore and a coffee shop.
Robert C. Williams Paper Museum
A mile and a half away is your chance to learn all about the history of paper and papermaking. The Robert C. Williams Paper Museum has a huge collection of the tools and machines used to make paper, with exhibits tracing all the way back to ancient Sumerian cuneiform tablets and Egyptian papyrus scrolls to the machinery of the modern paper industry. It’s a fascinating look at the history of how we’ve collectively documented our lives and our stories, and a must see while you’re in Atlanta.
Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse
Five minutes south is your chance to see a Shakespeare play. The Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse provides you with an opportunity to see Shakespeare the way you might have seen it at the Globe in his day and age, with live music, hand-crafted period costumes, sword fights, and enjoying some food and drink while you’re entertained. They typically run showings of one play every month. Make sure to check one out!
Atlanta Public Library Downtown
Drive a mile south to visit the Atlanta Public Central Library, which sits on the site of the original Carnegie Library built in 1902. Enjoy their special collections, Georgia history archives, and rare old books.
For Keeps Books
Speaking of rare books: your next stop is For Keeps Books, a Black-owned bookstore that specializes in carrying rare and classic books written by Black authors. There is a wealth of history in this bookstore, and it’s only half a mile from the library. You will truly find something unique and special here.
The King Center
A mile east lies The King Center, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. Visit the Freedom Hall, where you’ll find art and exhibits dedicated to Dr. King and Mrs. King, Rosa Parks, and Ghandi; immerse yourself in Dr. King’s writings and teachings. Dr. and Mrs. King’s crypt is also on site to pay respects to. Stroll past the Reflecting Pool and the Eternal Flame as well, and be sure to walk across the street to 501 Auburn Ave, where Dr. King was born.
A Cappella Books
Your next stop is A Cappella Books, an Atlanta staple that sells new, used, and rare books. They’re constantly hosting author events, and their staff is always ready with a recommendation if you don’t know what you’re in the mood for.
Dr. Bombay’s Underwater Tea Party
It’s time for some afternoon tea and sandwiches, isn’t it? You’ve done a lot of bookish wandering; you deserve it. Walk or drive a mile down the road from the bookstore to Dr. Bombay’s Underwater Tea Party. (The names on this road trip! What. A. Delight.) They have a full high tea menu with scones and clotted cream, quiche, finger sandwiches, and a full pot of tea of your choice. There are also books to be had here, so you can browse while you feast. The tea house’s owner also runs The Learning Tree, and portions of every sale go towards the housing, education, and empowerment of young women in Darjeeling, India.
Wards Chapel A.M.E. Church and Home Site
We’re taking a detour off the main road to head to Eatonton, the birthplace of Pulitzer Prize–winning author (for The Color Purple in 1982) Alice Walker. If you drive up to Wards Chapel Road, you’ll see the church where Walker was baptized, as well as the family home site where Walker grew up. On that same road, you’ll find a tree and a marker commemorating the spot where the house she was born in once stood.
Georgia Writers Museum
Drive back into Eatonton to visit the Georgia Writers Museum, where exhibits to Alice Walker, Joel Chandler Harris, and Flannery O’Connor reside, since all three authors spent many years of their lives within 20 miles of Eatonton.
In an hour, you’ll be in Macon. Stop by Gottwals Books, a new and used bookstore with a wide selection to choose from. Visitors find it relaxing and easy to browse, and you will too!
Golden Bough Bookstore
You’ll find another charmer in downtown Macon called Golden Bough Bookstore. They, too, carry a wide selection despite its cozy interior, and the owners are quite friendly. Bonus: bookstore cats!
The Book Lady
You’ve made it to the Atlantic! Welcome to Savannah. We’ve covered Savannah before, because it’s along the coastal I-95 route, so you’ll see some overlap here. Your first stop at the finale is The Book Lady Bookstore, which provides new, used, and rare books, including first editions of older, well known books. You’ll love wandering the stacks in this quaint and inviting bookstore.
E. Shaver Booksellers
Walk two streets over and visit the bookstore with the adorable storefront. You will find a treasure trove of books and cats to pet, which are two of the greatest things you could find under one roof. Find a book and park yourself in one of their comfortable chairs to read for a spell, because you won’t want to rush your visit at E. Shaver Booksellers.
Flannery O’Connor’s Childhood Home
In Lafayette Square, you’ll find the charming old home where Southern Gothic author Flannery O’Connor grew up. She lived there from her birth in 1925 to 1938, and the house has been furnished to look like it did during the Depression era. Take a tour and learn more about O’Connor’s life and work (which should include the more unsavory aspects: it is worth noting that O’Connor has a history of racism that’s shown up in personal letters and in her writing).
Mercer Williams House Museum
We conclude our road trip with the Mercer House, owned by the Mercer family (including songwriter Johnny Mercer). It’s on this road trip because it’s heavily featured in John Berendt’s novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which tells the true story of a Savannah antique dealer who allegedly murdered someone on the Mercer House property. It’s also a really, really pretty house, and touring it would be worth it for the architecture alone.
You did it! You drove from the Pacific Ocean in San Diego all the way to the Atlantic Ocean by Savannah. Or perhaps you live somewhere it makes sense to only do one half of this road trip — goodness knows there’s plenty of bookish goodness to be had so that you can enter in at any point and still have an amazing time!
I hope this one-route road trip inspires you to seek out new literary spots, libraries, and bookstores that you may not have known about otherwise. Don’t forget to check out the other bookish road trip routes for even more travel ideas. Happy travels, my bookish friends!!doctype>