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Judging a Retirement Town by Its Bookstore

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

Authors Recommend Their Favorite Stores and Towns

Baby boomers have begun the search for their ideal retirement communities. For many of them, the quality of the town’s bookstore is a key selection criterion.

Goldengrain, a member at, put it this way: “I need bookstores, colleges, lectures, discussion (and) a good active library We feel the same way – communities without good book stores are ghost towns. This article will review some of the top retirement towns in America – based on the quality of their bookstores.

The most fun part of this article is that we were able to enlist a helpful group of top authors to write about their favorite bookstore towns. Here is the list (and feel free to post blog entries to cover the ones we’ve missed):

Cannon Beach, Oregon
“Cannon Beach is a charming little town on the picturesque Oregon coast. It’s full of art galleries and restaurants, but best of all is the quarter-century-old Cannon Beach Book Company, which calls itself – with good reason – “the perfect browser’s bookstore.” With a central location, comfortable layout, and a collection strong in classic and contemporary literature, mysteries, children’s books and regional titles, CBBC is a boon to locals and visitors alike.”
Deborah Donnelly, Author of the Wedding Planning Mysteries

Asheville, North Carolina
“If I were to retire to a town for its bookstore alone, I’d pick Asheville, N.C., and Malaprops Bookstore and Café. I always go out of my way to visit Malaprops. Its eclectic staff of writers, artists and bibliophiles are truly passionate about their stock, and their taste matches my own taste in books and I always leave with new, unexpected finds.”
Susan Cerulean, Author of Tracking Desire

Newton, Massachusetts
“Even with the glam hustle bustle of Boston just ten minutes away, you’d never have to leave this diverse and cozy but cosmopolitan suburb. Two fantastic independent bookstores (on opposite sides of the city) can provide every book you could imagine. And both have brilliant and knowledgeable staffs. Newtonville Books is a warmly inviting nook of a shop, with one room devoted to the cream of the crop of new releases and old favorites (used and new shelved together!) and another whole room devoted to kids. We can hardly pry our grandson away. New England Mobile Book Fair is huge–almost a warehouse. Here, you could get happily lost in a world of the very latest bestsellers as well as all those books you meant to buy but didn’t. We can never leave either without purchasing way too many books and making new friends. Both stores–are stellar!”
Hank Phillippi RyanPhoenix, Arizona
“The generous brick facade of the Poisoned Pen bookstore in Phoenix, at the corner of Goldwater Blvd. and First Avenue, brings mystery authors from around the world together with readers. Authors covet an invitation from proprietor Barbara Peters to hold a book signing there. In a given month, the store might host events featuring Clive Cussler, Dave Barry, Diana Gabaldon, Dana Stabenow, and J. A. Jance, plus less well known authors whose work is deserving of attention. Seven (!) mystery book clubs meet there, so it’s a great place to meet readers who share your taste in crime fiction and discuss your favorite whodunnits.”
Hallie Ephron: Author of “Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel”

Vicksburg, Mississippi
“Down on recently restored Washington Street, facing the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers, is this jewel of a book shop. The Lorelei Bookstore, owned and run by the team of Laura and Troy Weeks, has brought books and life to this up and coming historical town. They are knowledgeable, encouraging to authors, and always have a recommendation for anybody. The store is so warm and inviting, you might not want to leave!”
Roberta Isleib, Author of “Deadly Advice” and “Preaching to the Corpse”

Kansas City area
Most people probably wouldn’t retire to the Kansas City area for our weather, but I could understand if they retired here for our bookstores! We have two of the best independents in the country. One of them is Rainy Day Books (Fairway, KS), a general bookstore that is famous in the book world, not only for its cozy building and wonderful staff, but also because it brings literally hundreds of speakers to Kansas City every year. It’s a cultural powerhouse. The other is “a href=””>I Love a Mystery” (Mission KS) (), which I swear is the most charming bookstore ever. It specializes in all things mysterious, and it has an atmosphere that makes you want to settle into one of its armchairs and curl up and read a good book, of which it has plenty.
Nancy Pickard, author of “The Virgin of Small Plains”

Raleigh NC
Quail Ridge Books and Music, in Raleigh, NC, is one of the best all-purpose bookstores on the east coast. The owners, Nancy and Jim Olson, are 100% dedicated to the slogan “Think globally, buy locally.” They are heavily invested in the community and donate time and money generously to many local charities and literacy causes. Nancy was PW’s Bookseller of the Year a few years back. It’s here that you find the serious and/or quirky books you won’t find in the chains because the store gives only minimal space to the NY Times bestsellers. The staff members are extremely courteous and knowledgeable. If you like an author and have
exhausted the backlist, they can recommend someone similar that you might enjoy.
Margaret Maron, author of the Judge Deborah Knott mysteries.

Richmond, Virginia
“There’s a terrific independent here in Richmond, VA. It’s called the Fountain Bookstore and it’s located in the heart of downtown. There is a cobblestone street lining the front door, old, wood plank floors inside, and a wonderful selection of books. You can also find gifts and greeting cards there. And if you spend too long inside the shop, there are a plethora of tasty eateries nearby. Richmond also has a fantastic all-mystery, all-fantasy store called “Creatures’n Crooks. This place has the coolest ceiling with painted stars with a plump long-haired feline beauty by the name of Hamilton.”
JB Stanley, Author of “A Deadly Dealer”

New York, New York
The Strand Bookstore is reason enough to visit New York. It has 18 miles of books piled from the floor to their very high ceilings. Every thing from review copies (there must be lots of book reviewers in NYC!) to rare and out of print books, plus every conceivable book in between. They buy collections. You can always count on an adventure in what you will find. It’s just the kind of bookstore you would hope to find in the Big Apple. –
John Brady “ Owner of

Madison, Connecticut
I’m lucky to live in Madison, CT, a town that’s eminently retirement-worthy. Not only is Madison chockablock with New England coastal charm, it’s home to one of the best bookstores in the country: RJ Julia Booksellers Located on the adorable main street, RJ’s brings in a steady stream of bestselling authors from Jane Fonda to Nora Ephron to Tom Perotta. A close relationship with the outstanding Scranton Library across the street means that big-draw authors can be accommodated as well as new writers. The bookstore itself is inviting and well-stocked with the newest releases and an impressive backlist. Owner Roxanne Coady is a frequent guest on NPR’s Faith Middleton show and a true book lover.

Carmel, Indiana
The Mystery Company” an independent bookshop located along the Monon Trail in Carmel’s Arts & Design District. Carmel is a thriving town just north of Indianapolis. Specializing in mystery and suspense, we offer free shipping on any new book order shipped to a US address. Customers know we’ll do everything possible to make it easy for you to order.-
Jim Huang

The New York Times recently ran a story on the amazing concentration of thriving bookstores in the Pioneer Valley. The Valley of the Literate. The article includes bookstores in these towns: Odyssey Books (S. Hadley), Amherst Books (Amherst), and Broadside Bookshop (Northampton).

More Great Towns and Bookstores:
Fayetteville, Arkansas: Nightbird Books
Little Rock, Arkansas Sleuths Mystery Bookstore, and WordsWorth Books & Co.
Blytheville, Arkansas: That Bookstore in Blytheville – where John Grisham signs his best-sellers.
Fairhope, Alabama Fairhope Books”
Sedona, Arizona: Red Coyote
Corte Madera, California Book Passage(Hallie Ephron)
Coral Gables, Florida Books & Books
Delray Beach, Florida: Murder by the Beach
Sun Valley, Idaho
Cambridge, Massachusetts: Kate’s Mystery Books
Portsmouth, NH: River Run Bookstore
Newmarket, New Hampshire: “Crackskull’s used bookstore.
Princeton, New Jersey: Cloak & Dagger (Roberta Isleib)
Fearington Village, North Carolina (near Chapel Hill) Macintyre’s (Mignon Ballard)
Edmond Oklahoma: Best of Books
Portland, Oregon: 2 amazing bookstores Murder by the Book and Powell’s
Oakmont, Pennsylvania: Mystery Lovers Bookshop (Oakmont is a great little town right outside Pittsburgh – Name of Bookstore corrected 11/27)
Seattle, Washington: Seattle Mystery Books (Pamela Samuels-Young)

More Links:
Where Old is New: What is the mark of a good bookstore

Posted by Boomer1 on November 25th, 2007


  1. If you are an antique lover as well as book-a-holic, I recommend Sow’s Ear Books and Antiques in Berryville, AR, an historic small town with a huge courthouse square restoration project going on. (It’s just a few miles from Eureka Springs and the Holiday Island retirement community. Small, with more-than-savy and literate owners Susan and Dan Krotz. Signings there are well supported by both the store and the community.

    AND, Arkansas’ new (and first) mystery bookstore, Sleuths Mystery Bookseller, 2915 W. Markham, in Little Rock, where the snack buffet at signings is “to die for.”

    Also recommended: Words/Afterwords with a coffee house attached in Hardy, AR near Cherokee Village retirement community.

    An Arkie: Radine Trees Nehring

    by Radine Trees Nehring — November 26, 2007

  2. That’s Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont, PA–right outside of Pittsburgh.

    Otherwise, it is a great article.

    Thanks, mary alice

    by mary alice gorman — November 27, 2007

  3. Hubs of Judging a Retirement Town by Its Bookstore…

    hubs about to Richmond also has a fantastic all-mystery, all-fantasy store called “Creatures ’n Crooks”. This place has the coolest ceiling with painted stars with a plump long-haired feline beauty by the name of Hamilton.” ……

    by — May 9, 2008

  4. […] for the Arts” provides more ideas by type of art (sculpture, etc.). And so does its “Best Towns for Bookstores” […]

    by » Cultural Centers: 10 of America’s Best Best places to live blog — December 13, 2011

  5. I cannot believe you do not have Rivermarket Books in Little Rock, right downtown listed. It’s a wonderful three story brick building that has been completely redone and houses gently used books plus some new with great gift ideas and a cute little cafe called Bookends that serves breakfast and lunch. Also has a great covered patio when weather permits and the profits go to support the Central Arkansas Library System. It’s a wonderful place to hang out and enjoy, great wraps and coffee.
    Editor’s Note: Thanks for letting us know about Rivermarket Books, sounds great!

    by Sharon Roberts — December 15, 2011

  6. Back to Goldengrain’s comment…I’m on the Board of Trustees of our county Library. We have author readings, book clubs, numerous adult/children programs, and we’re going to add on a cafe. When I was choosing a place to live, I checked out the Library before making a decision – since it’s supported by resident taxes, I felt that if the Library was a vibrant place that the community would be, too. In many places, the Library serves as a community center.

    Jan Cullinane, The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life (Rodale)

    by Jan Cullinane — December 16, 2011

  7. Jan, Thank you again for a GREAT recommendation (to check out the library … local and system). Years ago, before smart phones and wireless/Wi-Fi access everywhere, we stopped into local libraries on our trips for Internet access. We are also spoiled by our library system, which also loans (no rental charge!) DVDs … movies, TV series, travel, etc. They also have the old VHS tapes, but have been reducing their numbers for years. I will have to amend our wishlist for a perfect place to include looking at the library … and thrift shops … and bike trails … ah, the fun is just beginning! 🙂

    by Mad Monk — December 16, 2011

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