Minnesota readers are fortunate to have more than 25 metro area merchants providing access to an eclectic array of books. Each shop offers a different blend of fiber woven into a unique cultural fabric that makes up the Minnesota experience.
Magers & Quinn Booksellers
3038 Hennepin Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55408
Essence of fresh book fragrance invites you across the threshold into this bookstore. Immediately, you know this is something significant. “Twin Cities’ largest independent,” say the owners. Better than San Francisco’s famous City Lights say some bibliophiles. The store is huge by independent standards. Along with best sellers and staff picks are book topics organized for the curious and serious such as Minnesota, Sociology, Religious Studies, Military History, Gardening, Cooking and Rare and Collectables.
Common Good Books
38 S. Snelling Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55105
“Walter Potter’s Curious World of Taxidermy” is one of many “bizarre but cool” books that “showcase the literary and off the beaten track.” This is an example of what can be found at Common Good Books, according to Manager Martin Schmutterer. Other examples of serious authors featured are American poets Billie Collins and Wendell Barry and prize novelist Joseph Boyden, writer of the newly released “Orenda.” In fact, a nearby chain bookstore with 35,000 square feet has only “one-quarter of the selections in poetry that we have,” Martin elaborates. Author, radio personality and poetry advocate Garrison Keillor founded Common Good Books in a basement below Nina’s Coffee Café on Western Avenue, but has moved the endeavor, packing many uncommonly good books in a small space on Snelling and Grand. Sometimes less is more.
2115 W. 21st St.
Minneapolis, MN 55405
“The most substantial, truthful and accurate collection of books about our native culture, perhaps in the U.S., but at least in the state,” says manager Susan White of Birchbark. Ms. White explains that Birchbark Books doesn’t accept just any book on the subject. In fact, Susan adds, “our entire bookstore is carefully curated to be a vastly interesting bookstore to all from children to adults.” Owner Louise Erdrich, a prolific and award-winning writer and a granddaughter of the Chairman of the Turtle Lake Indian Reservation in North Dakota, speaks volumes to the authenticity of this enterprise.
Uncle Hugo’s Science Fiction Bookstore / Uncle Edgar’s Mystery Bookstore
2864 Chicago Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55407
After 40 years of operations, this bookseller may now legitimately claim “customers from all over the world tell us that we have the best selection of new and used science fiction, fantasy and mystery books anywhere on the planet.” Perhaps the truth in this tale is about the faithfulness of local customers more so than whether this collection is the largest in the universe or on the block. As technology crushes the little guy and his line of work, Amazon’s 800,000-square-foot warehouse is probably bigger than the entire block of this store’s location at 28th and Chicago Avenue. Owner, Don Blyly, reports business is down. Nevertheless, there is no other shop out there like Uncle Hugo’s, anywhere.
The Red Balloon
891 Grand Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55105
Teach your children well and bring them to this charming and enchanting store for kids. It offers books for purchase but also has a busy schedule of events for all. Check the website for special events, story time for the young, book forums for teens and even a book club for children’s literature enthusiasts. Plus, picking presents for kids gets a lot easier with the knowledgeable staff and ample selection.
Related: New Books By Twin Cities Authors
Robin Johnson was born in Annandale, Minn. and graduated from Richfield High School and then the University of Minnesota where he studied Political Science, Business and Industrial Relations. A writer for Examiner.com, he also consults with a variety of organizations and individuals helping them develop and grow. His work can be found at Examiner.com.