To say Baltimore is a place with a unique character, and unique characters, literary and otherwise, could go without saying. But who can resist quoting John Waters?
“I would never want to live anywhere but Baltimore,” the renowned filmmaker and writer, whose stories have helped define the city, once said. “You can look far and wide, but you’ll never discover a stranger city with such extreme style. It’s as if every eccentric in the South decided to move north, ran out of gas in Baltimore, and decided to stay.”
So it only makes sense that a city of characters (and great storytellers) would play host to a plethora of independent bookshops. In honor of our “The City That Writes” cover story, we’ve rounded up 18 of the best places in the area to find your next read:
Baltimore Architecture Foundation
The Baltimore Architecture Foundation is home to a small but excellent bookstore specializing in the city’s architectural heritage. By appointment at the moment. 100 N. Charles St., Suite P101
All you need to know is that John Waters receives his fan mail through the Hampden bookstore and stops by regularly to pick it up. 3620 Falls Rd.
Barnes & Noble Johns Hopkins
The official bookstore for Johns Hopkins University is also open to the general public—with all the coffee, snacks, and amenities you’d expect from the national bookseller. 3330 St. Paul St.
Bird in Hand Café & Bookstore
This Charles Village café, with a tea bar and an espresso bar, is the perfect stop for a bite and a book. 11 E. 33rd St.
The Book Escape
The cozy storefront in Federal Hill has the new titles that you’re looking for and is crammed with thousands of used and unexpected finds. 925 S. Charles St.
The Book Thing of Baltimore
What’s not to love about free books? The beloved Baltimore institution is currently open one day a month, so check their website for upcoming dates. 3001 Vineyard Lane
Busboys and Poets
Founded in D.C. in 2005, the restaurant, bar, small bookstore, and community gathering place’s name is a homage to Langston Hughes, who worked as a busboy prior to gaining fame as poet. 3224 St. Paul St.
Charm City Books
The historic Pigtown bookseller has all the character and charm that you’d hope for from an independent, family-oriented bookshop. 782 Washington Blvd.
Recently re-opened after closing during the pandemic, the bookstore offers an eclectic selection of art, architecture, and design titles. 2209 Maryland Ave.
This warm, inviting space in West Baltimore is the place for books on local Black history and remains a broader center of African American culture in the city, offering music, art, jewelry, and more. 1356 W. North Ave.
Opened in Fells Point in 2018, and in Remington in 2019, both shops are curated for readers looking for books from Baltimore writers and national titles. 1744 Aliceanna St.| 320 W. 29th St.
The Ivy Bookshop
Long a Baltimore favorite, the Ivy not too long ago moved to a new home, a renovated Mt. Washington house, with one of the best backyards for reading— and readings—in the city. 5928 Falls Rd.
Normals Book & Records
For more than 30 years, Normals has remained an eclectic and essential wonderland of used books and music. 425 E. 31st St.
Protean Books & Records
A massive warehouse space filled with a curated collection of new and used books, records, movies, video games, nostalgia, and curiosities. 836 Leadenhall St.
The 17-year-old community coffeehouse, bookstore, event space, and worker cooperative is moving later this year to a big new location in Waverly. 1225 Cathedral St. (Moving soon to 3128 Greenmount Ave.)
Snug Books, which opened in November, replaces The Children’s Bookstore, a beloved Northeast Baltimore institution that closed this past summer. 4717 Harford Rd.
Station North Books
Open early afternoons, the fun, quirky, shop is a can’t-miss collection of art, literature, fine binding, and Marylandia artifacts. 34 E. Lanvale St.
A community bookstore, café, and event space— not far from Waverly’s Saturday farmers’ market—dedicated to Black authors and prison authors. 3008 Greenmount Ave.
A small downtown storefront with a low-key vibe offering a range of used books, with a specialization in the arts. 326 N. Charles St.