Rachel Villa, online nonfiction editor
Normal’s Book & Records – Waverly
This quirky bookstore in Northern Baltimore is a bookworm’s dream, hosting dim nooks of floor to ceiling books, an impressive collection of vinyl records, and, most notably, a mouse pad with a blown up photo of Nicolas Cage’s face sitting on a shelf next to the register. Normal’s is one of the only places in the city that back stocks periodicals, so you can stock up on old issues of lit and art mags after browsing the adjacent local artists and writers section.
Atomic Books – Hampden
On Falls Road, just off of the charming 36th street that constitutes the main drag of Hampden, lies Atomic Books. This local favorite stocks new books and cultural tchotchkes alongside an extensive comic and zine collection. Crack a fresh spine and enjoy a cup of coffee at the cafe through the back.
The Ivy Bookstore – Mt. Washington
This book store does a lot to contribute to Baltimore’s literary culture, hosting frequent readings from authors and acting as a collaborator with Artifact Coffee to curate Bird in Hand, another entry on this list. The Ivy’s pretty storefront promises what’s delivered inside: a comfortable browsing experience, a vast array of titles, and friendly staff to guide you to the right book.
The Book Escape – Fed Hill
The Book Escape has all the nooks and crannies necessary for book hunting and the low prices on used titles to make the search feel like a victory. Some of my favorite tomes from my personal collection found their way into my hands from the shelves of this store. I’ve spent many Saturday afternoons lounging in an armchair tucked away in a corner of The Book Escape, flipping yellowed pages and reading handwritten inscriptions (“with love”) on inside covers.
Bird in Hand – Charles Village
This bookstore and cafe is settled right next to the bustling area of Johns Hopkins’ University, an impressive college with a busy literary scene. This small shop is the perfect place to scrawl in a Moleskine or tap away at a Macbook to the scent of roasted coffee and the tinkling sound of spoon against ceramic, and it hosts an impressive lineup of writers reading from their published works.
Bluebird – Hampden
This swanky bar just off of Hampden’s 36th street serves fancy (and delicious) cocktails outlined in “chapters” on their menu. Stacked books and reading lamps line the long tables, and the ambience plus the liquor equals a reading room you won’t want to leave. Check it out on Sunday or Monday for all day happy hour.
The Book Thing – Waverly
A weekend wonder that seems too good to be true, Baltimore’s generous The Book Thing is a bookstore that’s only open two days a week – and all the books are free. Nestled right behind Normal’s Book & Records, The Book Thing offers free used titles to anyone who stops in, as long as they get there between 9 and 5 on Saturday or Sunday.
Barnes and Noble – Inner Harbor
No, this isn’t a cool indie bookstore with readings or local titles, but the book giant’s location on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor boasts beautiful architecture, two floors of browsing, and a Starbucks upstairs with outdoor seating and views of the harbor below.