Texas Travel

8 of Our Favorite Bookstores in Texas

By Peter Simek 3.9.20

There was a time when we were told that the bookstore was an antiquated business. As new online companies began to offer infinite stock shipped straight to your door, people wondered why anyone would ever walk into a brick-and-mortar bookshop again.

But then, we started to remember how much we enjoyed going to a great bookstore. Bookstores offer so much more than a place to buy the latest bestseller or a gift for your favorite niece. They are community gathering spaces and sources of inspiration. We go to bookstores not to buy what we want but to discover something we didn’t know existed. That’s why, over the past few years, there has been a surge of independent bookshops opening and thriving all across Texas.

Texas has no shortage of legendary bookstores. Some, like Archer City’s Booked Up, have been around for decades and have reputations that offer a reason to go miles out of the way on a road trip just to browse the shelves. Others are new additions to the Texas literary scene. What follows is a list of just eight of our many favorite bookstores in Texas. It’s only a sampling, because a list like this — just like a great book — can never be long enough.

Brazos Bookstore, Houston

Brazos is a bookstore founded with a mission. In 1974, Karl Killian opened the shop in response to an emerging Houston literary scene that needed a place to meet and engage with one another. Over the years, it has attracted the likes of Larry McMurtry, Edward Albee, and Donald Barthelme, who all frequented Brazos during the times they were living in Houston. Today, the combination of a thoughtfully curated stock and plenty of community events helps sustain that commitment to the Gulf Coast city’s literati and enthusiastic readers alike.

BookPeople, Austin

BookPeople’s long and storied history includes visits by Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton; the honor of being named Bookstore of the Year by Publishers Weekly in 2005; and, most importantly, a 50-year track record of satisfying the curiosity of Austin readers. In addition to a fabulous stock, BookPeople features regular author signings and a lively café, and it hosts more than a dozen book clubs.

Photo by Jessica Turner

Recycled Books, Records, & CDs, Denton

Recycled Books is not your typical used bookshop. Located in the historic Wright Opera House on Denton’s Downtown Square, it bills itself as the largest independent used bookstore in Texas, boasting roughly half a million used volumes. As it’s spread across three floors, you’ll have to dedicate some time to mine its selection of classics, unheard-of gems, and rare finds.

Booked Up, Archer City

There was a time when Booked Up was Archer City, with its stock spread between multiple storefronts surrounding the old courthouse on the town square. But alas, owner and legendary Texas writer Larry McMurtry began downsizing his collections in 2013. Today, Booked Up is still a destination, even if it is only one store instead of four. With a focus on rare, fine, and scholarly books, it boasts a unique and special stock.

Photo by Jessica Turner

Interabang Books, Dallas

A newcomer to the Texas literary scene, Interabang is the latest of a slew of independent bookshops (including The Wild Detectives and Deep Vellum Books) that opened in response to Dallas’s long drought of quality bookshops. The drought is over, and Interabang’s thoughtfully selected stock has quickly established it as one of the finest in the state. Sadly, a tornado destroyed the original location in late 2019, but the beloved Interabang quickly reopened in a new spot.

Photo by Jennifer Boomer

Marfa Book Company, Marfa

Typical of a shop located in a little West Texas town whose cultural scene punches well above its weight, Marfa Book Company is not only a bookstore but a publisher and performance space as well. How does such an eclectic and sophisticated shop of this size stay afloat in a tiny town where the next town is almost a half-hour away? Come on, this is Marfa. And in true Marfa spirit, founder Tim Johnson admits that he opened his store as a kind of artistic experiment, to “flaunt or try to confuse the commercial aspect [of a bookstore].”

Burrowing Owl Books, Canyon

Todd and Dallas Bell were inspired on a trip to Chicago by the feel and ambiance of a used bookstore they stumbled into. When they returned to Canyon, they decided their little town on the dust-blown Texas Panhandle needed a place that could replicate that experience. Thus, Burrowing Owl Books was born. The Bells take a boutique-style approach to the bookstore model, supplementing a rich selection of new and used books with a variety of items that would appeal to any bookworm.

The Twig Book Shop, San Antonio

Another Texas legend, the Twig Book Shop has been serving San Antonio readers since 1972. Over the years, the Twig has provided a venue for local and national authors and poets and has also focused on programs and readings for children. One of its specialties is a wide-ranging selection of Texan titles.

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