The Best Independent Bookstores in Sacramento

Bookshelves at J. Crawfords Books in Sacramento, CA
Bookshelves at J. Crawford's Books in Sacramento, CA | © J. Crawford's Books
Gwen Purdom

In an era when readers can store entire libraries in the palm of their smartphone-toting hand, there’s still something captivating about a good old-fashioned book. And what better place to stock up on bestsellers and indie paperback finds than a book-centric city like Sacramento?

California’s capital city, like San Francisco to its south, is home to famous authors, the setting of classics like The Jane Austen Book Club, and a destination for someone seeking a wide array of one-of-a-kind booksellers. Here are five local favorites.

1. Beers Books


No, a visit to this 82-year-old used and new book and movie shop doesn’t include anything on draft—“Beers” refers to the last name of the place’s namesake, Mrs. Nellie Beers, one of the charter members of the Sacramento Book Collectors Club in the 1930s. The shop has changed locations and owners a number of times over the decades, but now that it’s settled on S Street, Beers can focus on doing what it does best: buying, selling, and trading books and movies.

2. Time Tested Books


Time Tested Books
© Time Tested Books

The name says it all. Since 1981, the beloved, independent Time Tested Books has been stocking quality new and used books and records. If the physical store doesn’t have what a reader is looking for, the staff is happy to look up and order rare or hard-to-find titles. What the physical store does have are lectures, musical performances, author signings, and expert reading recommendations from knowledgeable employees.

3. Avid Reader on Broadway


With a team of helpful staffers and regular author and community events, this independent bookshop has all the makings of a local favorite. Customers can find recommendations from employees and a wide selection of fiction and non-fiction throughout the store, which moved from another location on Broadway in 2017. The store also operates a book club.

4. J. Crawford’s Books


J Crawfords Books
© J. Crawford's Books

There are plenty of hardcovers, softcovers, and audiobooks to choose from at J. Crawford’s Books. But visitors looking to add to the collection can sell or trade their own used titles in addition to buying from the shop. Selections here are mostly used, but there are a handful of new books and, from time to time, a few rare books. Loyal fans like the variety of what’s on the shelves, which includes everything from gardening guides to sports books. And the place has been going strong since 1983.

5. Underground Books


Underground Books, a shop under the umbrella of local development corporation St. Hope, bills itself as the “literary hub of [Sacramento’s] Oak Park” neighborhood. The store offers a wide variety of books and events but has a special focus on black voices and black stories. Underground popped up after Oak Park’s only library shut down in the 1970s and has played an important role in the community ever since. Visitors will find lectures, signings, events, radio shows, children’s readings, and much more there, plus a wide selection of cards and gifts.

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