June 30, 2013

Arkansas: WordsWorth Books & Company


WordsWorth Books & Company is an indie bookstore in Little Rock, Arkansas. This is one of the stores that I chose based solely on research without knowing anyone from the Little Rock area. Well I have to congratulate myself on a great find. ;-) The store has all the necessary ingredients for a good indie bookstore: A welcoming bookseller who's an English major, an owner with a love of all kinds of reading, and an atmosphere that makes you want to buy every book you see. 

And of course, it has a great selection of locally designed and created crafts that makes you know it really is part of a community. One of my favorite things (other than the books) was the selection of local handmade coasters with quotes about reading on them.

Next Bookstore: Book People in Texas

June 27, 2013

Mississippi: Square Books

Indie Bookstores of America
Square Books is an indie bookstore founded in 1979 located in the main square of historic Oxford, Mississippi. Actually it's three stores including Off Square Books and Square Books Jr. which are also located in the main square. Oxford, Mississippi is the home of Ole Miss, but much more importantly, it is the hometown of many famous writers. Remember how I said you're going to get tired of me telling you how awesome a bookstore is? Well, you're just going to have to deal with it because this store is fantastic. It has wood floors, signed books everywhere, and a very cool porch on the second level where you can sit outside and read. (When it's not over 100 degrees outside that is.)  For this store, a picture really is worth a thousand words. Tourists from all over the world come to visit the store and learn about the literary history of the area.

Indie Bookstores of America
And you know  that porch I mentioned? They recently re-did it and are currently selling pieces of wood from the old porch so that loyal fans and customers can own a bit of the store's history. They've been cut down to the size of...wait for it...books! And if you want to buy a piece for yourself even if you don't live nearby, you should check out their website and blog for more information.


And don't forget to follow me on Twitter @MorganAWeiss & #IndieBookstoresOfAmerica to see where in the USA I'm going to next!

June 24, 2013

Georgia: FoxTale Book Shoppe

Jackie & Ellen
Let's get real for a minute, shall we? Sometimes -- on occasion -- not always -- indie bookstores can get a bad rap. People can feel that the stores are a little pretentious and condescending. I mean if you want to buy the latest Dan Brown, you shouldn't have to be embarrassed you're not buying Plato's The Republic. (My motto: All reading is good reading. Turn off that television. ;-)

Any store that gives off that sort of vibe is not one I want to feature in this book, and I am extremely happy to say that so far all the stores I've chosen and photographed have been the exact opposite of the snooty stereotype.

FoxTale Book Shoppe is owned by the COOLEST three women that you must meet. And the story behind the name of their bookstore is awesome. I won't do it justice, I know, but I'm going to give it a shot.

The owners of the store, Jackie, Ellen, and Karen met in a writing class at a local college. When they all turned 50, they took a trip out to Denver, Colorado to celebrate. They visited an indie bookstore they all loved (Tattered Cover, which of course is the store in this book for Colorado!), and that brought up the idea of how cool it would be to own a bookstore. It was just a hypothetical conversation, but the more they talked about it, the better it sounded. One night while hanging out outside in Denver and relaxing over glasses of wine, a fox walked up really close to where the women were sitting around a fire.

One of their friends who happens to really enjoy the book Animal Speak by Ted Andrews decided to look up the meaning for a fox in the book. The description of the fox says many things, but they keys that stood out were that it mentioned about entering a new phase in life at age 50. I really wish I had the book so I can quote from it more directly, but when I heard the story my reaction was that it was clearly one of those awesome signs that you're on the right path.

Another fun fact about this store: it's gorgeous. The decor is so awesome that customers kept asking if they could buy things that were on the walls. Rather than selling off their decorations, the owners wisely added a small section of items that are now actually intended for sale. After spending some time in this store, I am not even a little bit surprised people love this.

It's a great store owned by great people so make sure to support it, especially if you're near Woodstock, GA. (And Atlanta folks, you are!)

The Lorraine Motel
Beale Street
I made it to Little Rock, Arkansas today from Oxford, MS via a quick stop in Memphis, TN. I had lunch on Beale Street, saw the motel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, and took a very quick trip to Graceland. I also got to see another old friend from college who acted as my tour guide during this brief visit. You really don't realize how many people you know throughout the country until you start traveling everywhere!

Facebook:  FoxTale Book Shoppe

June 23, 2013

Lexington, KY: The Morris Bookshop

Hi Everyone!

Wyn Morris, Owner

I am couple days behind on my travel and store updates, but I'll catch up over the next couple of days. Last week I went to visit a store in Lexington, KY called The Morris Bookshop. Morris was freaking awesome. In part because of its awesomeness as an indie bookstore in general and in part because of its great staff. I dare you to walk into this store and talk to either the owner, Wyn Morris, or anyone else who works

there because they are a treasure of information on all sorts of things. Also, it is really evident that they are book lovers and happy to meet other people who love books, too. I'd never been to Lexington before so I didn't really have any expectations, but if I'd had any, they would have been exceeded. 
This metal desk is a local artist's creation

A couple cool things:

1. Their bathroom is painted really cool funky colors and the ceiling is a mirror. Creative way to decorate a small bathroom, right?
2. A bunch of the staff participated in this project where 250 people all had a word (or two I think in some cases) tattooed on their arms that would make sense only when they were put together. 
3. Their store includes tons of decorations from local artists --- including a painted horse that's part of a larger Lexington project (see pic above).

You can follow this awesome bookstore on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. 

Twitter: @morrisbookshop
Instagram: @morrisbookshop

Facebook: The Morris Bookshop

I mentioned I'm a couple days behind on blogging, but I have a very good excuse! This past weekend I met up with my two sisters in Atlanta, GA to celebrate my sister Alexis' upcoming wedding. My sister doesn't live in Atlanta anymore (she's a San Franciscan these days), but a bunch of her friends (and family!) met up in Atlanta to throw her a bachelorette weekend before her big day later this summer. It was a blast and really great to see my sisters.

Lindsay, Alexis, et Moi

June 19, 2013

Nashville, TN: Parnassus Books

On Monday I drove to Nashville, Tennessee to visit Parnassus Books. If you live in Nashville or if you're ever visiting, go visit this store! (As I wrote that I thought to myself, "Sheesh, I'm saying that a lot. I love all these stores.")

Parnassus Books is still a relatively new store that was co-founded and is co-owned by author Ann Patchett and Karen Hayes.This store has a special place in my heart for two reasons. First, I grew up in Nashville so I'm glad (and relieved) there is still a great indie bookstore in the neighborhood. The second reason is that the article written by Ms. Patchett in The Atlantic about Parnassus Books helped convinced me to move forward with this indie bookstores of America project. It was a real pleasure to get to visit this fantastic store and meet their wonderful staff.

And you guys remember in the last blog post how I said all parents should send their children to summer camp? Well meet Augusta! Augusta is nine years old and wanted me to take her picture to be on this blog. She was picking out some books at Parnassus to take to summer camp. How perfect is that?

After finishing up at the bookstore, my two friends and I went to visit some of the places where I grew up. I first moved to Nashville when I was nine, and I moved away right before my 17th birthday. This trip was my first visit back to the city since I'd left. It was cool to drive around my old neighborhood and to play tourist a little by visiting the Parthenon and driving around downtown.

Monday I made it to Nashville, Tuesday I went to Lexington, KY to visit the Morris Bookshop, and today was my birthday! Stay tuned for more about the awesome store in Kentucky. Next indie bookstore stop: Woodstock, GA

Leslie, Me, and Jessi out having birthday fun!

Facebook: Parnassus Books
Twitter: Parnassus Books

June 17, 2013

Another Peek

Here's just a quick peek at a few pictures from my trip to Nashville today. I had a great time! Two of my best friends came along for the ride, and we had a blast going to Parnassus Books and visiting the city. Nashville is one of the cities in which I grew up, but I hadn't been back since I moved away right before my 17th birthday. More about the awesome bookstore soon! 

Next stop: Lexington, KY

The Parthenon Exact Replica in Nashville
Hardin Valley, TN
Batman Building - Downtown Nashville

Visiting a house where I grew up

Cheer Bear enjoying lunch at an old favorite local spot
Visiting the American Red Cross HQ in Nashville

June 16, 2013

The Carolinas: Malaprop's Bookstore & Hub City Bookshop

Yesterday I made it to two more bookstores. The first was Hub City Bookshop and the second was Malaprop’s Bookstore.

Hub City Bookshop is located in the small but cute downtown of Spartanburg, South Carolina. The store has a fantastic vibe you can feel the second you walk in the door. I loved watching the customers being greeted like old friends by Patrick, the bookseller who was working that day. When people came in and when they left, it was obvious that this store has a steady and loyal group of customers. You don't get those kind of relationships in the giant and impersonal bookstores!

Not only is Hub City Bookshop a great indie store, but all proceeds from its sales go to support creative writing education and independent book publishing in the local community. How freaking cool is that?

The next store I went to is Malaprop's which is located in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. Downtown Asheville on a weekend was hopping! And Malaprop's, which also has a cafe, was packed. It's clearly a popular spot for downtown shoppers to hang out. In addition to a great general book selection, Malaprop's also has a fantastic section of regional books as well as cute book related merchandise.

Confession: Sometimes I dog-ear books. That is probably why I noticed this sign posted in the store below a great selection of bookmarks; my guilt kicked in. Do you use bookmarks when you read? The other picture, on the left, is of a couple of guys who were playing music on the street outside the store. It added to the great atmosphere and gave me an idea of the personality of the city. (They informed me their name was Black Eyes Boozies, a play on a bluegrass song called Black Eyed Suzie.) Asheville seems like a pretty cool place, and Malaprop's is a must visit bookstore if you're ever nearby.

Malaprop's is just one of many of the bookstores that will be featured in the book that came highly recommended from a friend. This suggestion came from an old friend from my days (er, years) spent going to an overnight summer camp growing up. I hadn't seen her since I was kid so it was a treat to be able to grab a drink and catch up with her after visiting the bookstore. And as this project goes on, she's not the only person from my summer camp days that I'll be getting to catch up with! If you have kids, do them (and yourself) a favor, send them to an overnight camp. (And be sure to send them with lots of reading material for flashlight time before lights out!)

Next stop: Nashville, Tennessee

Last Bookstore: Page & Palette in Alabama 

June 15, 2013

Just A Peek

Teaser for next blog post! Here's a peek at where today's bookstore adventures took place.

June 14, 2013

Alabama & Louisiana: check!

Hello from Knoxville, Tennessee! In the last three days, I have been to five states, driven more than 25 hours, and photographed two bookstores.

Ron holding court at Page & Palette
Suzanne, who made me
the best iced coffee
Book Group
The first store I went to was Page & Palette in Fairhope, Alabama. I had a few butterflies. But as it turns out, I couldn't have picked a better store to be my first stop. The owners were super nice and all the local patrons hanging out in the store were friendly and hysterical. Everyone wanted to be in the pictures! There are some regular book models down in Fairhope.  The guys in the picture to the right out, hanging out at the table, told me I came on a good day because they were the readers. The non-readers didn't show up that day. 

Unofficial picture of Garden District
Bookshop in New Orleans
Bourbon Street
The second bookstore I went to was Garden District Bookshop in New Orleans. It's a very cute, small store packed with lots of books and character. It's located inside a building called the Rink which was originally built in 1884 to attract tourists who were in town for the World's Cotton Centennial Exposition.  This was my first time in New Orleans so I also took a chance to check out the French quarter and walk along Bourbon Street for a little while.   Finally yesterday I drove Hattiesburg, Mississippi to Knoxville, Tennessee.  Tennessee is going to serve as my home base for the next week.

Our attempt to take a picture outside
of a froyo shop in Knoxville.
Photo booth
I did my undergraduate work at the University of Tennessee, so I still have a lot of friends in this area.  I have to admit that after the whirlwind of the last few days, it feels awesome to get to spend time with some of my closest friends who I don't get to see very often anymore. And if you've never been to east Tennessee, I highly recommend a trip here. The area is beautiful and the people are friendly as heck.

Starting tomorrow I will be visiting Nashville, TN, Spartanburg, SC, Asheville, NC, and Lexington, KY. Stay tuned for more bookstores and cities! 

June 13, 2013

Meet my little friend

Hello from Hattiesburg, Mississippi!

I have a friend who told me that I needed to bring a stuffed animal along on my trip. At first, I was like, "What? No way, I don't have any space! What for?" But with just a little explanation and convincing from him, I popped into Target and grabbed a small little stuffed animal to take pictures of in random places along my journey. If you follow me on instagram, you've already seen her. (And if you don't yet, there's a button on this blog for you to do so. ;-)

In the last two days I've made it to two amazing bookstores -- one in Fairhope, Alabama and the other in New Orleans. Later tonight I will post more about those stores, and I might even have a few unofficial (read: camera phone) pictures to post of the towns and the people I meet that won't be in the book. 

Instagram is where I'm going to post pictures like these, but here are just a few of my little friend. I haven't named her so I just call her Care Bear. I also didn't name my car for this journey! But if any of you guys have any suggestions, you just let me know.

Now I'm off again! Next stop? East Tennessee!

June 11, 2013

Alabama y'all

After driving through West Palm Beach, Orlando, Gainesville, Tallahassee, and Pensacola, I have made it to Alabama. Today was definitely a long day of driving! At one point I thought I only had three hours left but then I remembered the GPS was showing the arrival time in central time. Boy did that last hour feel long.

I also took a few minutes at a rest stop to talk with a couple bookstore owners. Some have been absolutely fabulous so far!

I'm all checked into the hotel for the night, and after doing a little bit of administrative work and getting ready to visit the first bookstore tomorrow morning, I'm going to watch the NBA finals.

Goodnight everyone!


June 10, 2013

Tomorrow is the big day!

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, I hit the road for what I expect will be a trip of a lifetime.

I'm going to be on the road for more than three months traveling to every state in the contiguous US to visit independent bookstores and create a beautiful book about them. Today has been filled with a million last minute errands and packing. Have you ever tried packing to go away for months? Just throw everything you own into some suitcases. That's basically the thing to do. It feels a lot more like moving away.

I picked up the rental car this morning, and the tags were from Tennessee. I take that as a good omen!  (Tennessee is one of a few states I can say I'm from; I'm in south Florida now.) I also took a picture of the mileage on the car for before and after purposes. According to the AAA estimate, my trip is going to cover 19,154.7 miles.

I will try to post pretty regularly on this blog so you guys can follow along on the all adventures and know where I am. If you don't hear from me every couple days, someone call the cops. (No, just kidding. I promise I'll be in touch with you all.)

A few days ago I went to AAA and got a Triptik and a map for my entire trip. Of course I have a GPS, but it's good to have the physical backup in case I hit some dead spots out there. A really wonderful lady named Janet didn't even balk when she saw my printed out spreadsheet of my entire route. It took us more than three hours, and in the end, we had to make 6 Triptik books and highlight the route on 5 maps. 

I'm really excited to see all the wonderful bookstores, and I hope you're ready to hear about my trip to chronicle them. Thank you so much to everyone for all your support, encouragement, and kind words.

Next stop? (And first stop):  Fairhope, Alabama! Talk to "y'all" then!


P.S. -- A big public thank you to all of you who supported this project through IndieGoGo. For those of you who didn't see the dramatic and awesome conclusion to the campaign, Wil Wheaton backed the project at almost zero hour to make sure we reached our goal. I promise not to have a fangirl moment here, but needless to say, it was the perfect cap to a campaign where I was overwhelmed and awed by such kindness and support from so many people.