Great Spots for Baltimore Book Lovers

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.

Read Greedy in Baltimore

Rebecca Wesloh, marketing and publicity director

A small independent bookstore opened in the Fells Point neighborhood of Baltimore in March of 2018. Greedy Reads sits at the corner of Aliceanna and Ann Street, two blocks from the water. Narrow red and blue stained glass windows run the two exterior walls and cast shadows across the beaten hardwood floor. Wide windows are filled with books facing the street, and a wrought-iron gate swings wide to welcome you inside. 

The owner and sole operator, Julia Fleischaker, is a Maryland native. After working in New York City in the publishing industry for 20 years, she wanted to come home. But it wasn’t until she walked past the space on Aliceanna Street that she knew she was going to open a bookstore. It was the perfect space. As Fleischaker points out, “the beautifully weathered floors, the stunning stained glass, the huge windows…sometimes I stop and look around and still can’t believe I landed in such an amazing space.”

The space is spectacular. Walking in feels like arriving at a picnic with friends you didn’t know you had; so many stories that you want to catch up on, so many voices you need to hear. It’s warm, welcoming, and cozy. Somehow it’s both small and expansive. The floor is weathered, worn but not broken, giving you the delightful feeling of all those who must have walked here before you – a sense of community and shared experience. 

A table by the door is stacked with paperbacks. A small A-frame bookshelf houses a colorful collection of feminist and children’s books. An aisle is formed by two tables and the benches that fit neatly beside them. There, the larger books are displayed, the ones that will eventually find their way to coffee tables, sparking conversations. One wall is lined with built-in bookshelves housing fiction, memoirs, cookbooks, signed books, comics, and a sorted offering of others. The other wall has children’s books and a small selection of literary-related gifts. 

Large windows let in the light and offer a view of the neighborhood. It’s an ideal escape from the snow or the rain. It’s a place to browse books, become taken in by their worlds, and forget about whatever the weather is outside. And if you visit on the right day, a labrador-greyhound mix may just come over to greet you. That would be Audie, the friendly and lovable store dog who eagerly accepts any affection she’s offered.

The bookstore is personal; it has a voice and a personality. The selection of books is not determined by a computer but by Fleischaker and the recommendations of the community. It’s hands-on, heartfelt, and purposeful. As she says, “It’s my hope that anyone who lives in or around Baltimore can come into the store and find a welcoming environment and a book that speaks to them.” She makes a point to offer a diverse collection, highlighting authors of color and female writers. 

It’s a small store, but enough books are there for you to find, on each trip, at least one new one that you didn’t know you wanted to read. Last year’s bestseller was Michelle Obama’s Becoming, and other top reads included Paul Beatty’s The Sellout and Charles Yu’s How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe. Handwritten “Why I’m Greedy About This Book” tags offer recommendations and give a sense of who the community is and what they’re reading. 

Fleischaker loves the books, but she also loves the community she gets to share that passion with: “I’ve gotten to know so many of my customers, and honestly, most days it feels like friends just dropping in to visit.”

It’s a place of beauty: the words in the books, the people who frequent the shop, the light that filters through the stained glass windows and falls upon the paperbacks. Stop by to give Audie some love, join the book club or hear an author talk, and find the next book you’re greedy to read.