There’s no arguing the fact that Pittsburgh is a city that loves the written word; visitors and locals will find a lengthy list of great independent bookstores in and around the city. What makes Pittsburgh’s bookstores particularly unique is they truly care about local authors and not only by selling their books but also by organizing and promoting their events, talks, and signings – with or without a publisher. Here are 11 of the coolest bookstores in and around the ‘Burgh.
Founded in 2011 by artist Melissa Catanese, Spaces Corners is a lovely space: a photography bookstore, a gallery, and a project space dedicated to contemporary photography. Situated in Troy Hill, this unique bookstore offers a carefully curated selection of books, including rare and out-of-print pieces, and space for photography events and fairs.
With an excellent selection of both new and used books and special support for local writers, Classic Lines has a comfy environment to sit, relax and read for a while. If you have kids in tow, you’ll also find a special little space for kids and some signed copies. But Classic Lines is more than just books – you can also stock up on vintage housewares, home and garden décor, fine art, gifts, and more. Don’t miss this unique spot, conveniently located in the beautiful Squirrel Hillneighborhood.
The Big Idea Bookstore | Courtesy of The Big Idea Bookstore
A big idea, indeed — The Big Idea Bookstore is a non-profit establishment that defines itself as having a radical, democratic and anarchist modus operandi, wishing to instruct and inspire people through literature that is beyond any prejudices. Their shelves boast hundreds of new and used books, but you can also pick up stickers, patches, pins, greeting cards, and more. The Big Idea is the perfect spot to sit and have a read over a cup of coffee in the trendy neighborhood of Bloomfield, Pittsburgh’s Little Italy neighborhood.
Phantom of the Attic | Courtesy of Phantom of the Attic
The ‘best-named bookstore’ award goes to Phantom of the Attic Comics, which supports two establishments: one for books and one for games. Both shops are just steps away from CMU and PITT campuses on the trendy Craig Avenue, in Oakland. This rare and unique space is paradise for collectors and comic lovers who can also enjoy having a chat with the friendly and knowledgeable staff who won’t hesitate to look out for that one comic that you can’t find.
The biggest and oldest independent bookstore that’s definitely worth the short ride out of town is the Penguin Bookshop. Situated in the heart of Sewickley, Pennsylvania, just 20 minutes away from the city, Penguin Book Shop has also been recommended by the one and only Stephen King in End of Watch. Founded in 1929, this historic shop has an extensive collection of books for all ages plus journals, cards, newspapers, and magazines. It’s a place to read and find that story you need along with story times, games and craft for your kids, or you can attend book-signing events. This place is a must-see whether you live in Pittsburgh, or you’re just passing by.
Also situated on the trendy Craig Avenue in Oakland is the Caliban Book Shop. One of the most fascinating things about this bookstore is their intriguing collector items, making Caliban possibly the best bookstore in and around the city for book collectors looking for that hard-to-find piece. Caliban Book Shop also offers professional appraisal services and is a member of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA), which is the main professional organization of book dealers and appraisers specializing in rare books. Don’t miss out!
Situated in the heart of Bloomfield, the East End Book Exchange buys and sells used, rare, and local books. With an excellent selection of both popular and unusual used books, this local bookstore is another great place in the city to visit and spend some time. Ask for books recommendations from the keen and friendly staff, bring the kids to enjoy their own cute space, and don’t forget to check out the events section so that you can nab your own signed copy.
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‘Perfectly strange, strangely perfect’ as they call themselves – Rickert & Beagle Books is a treasure worth the visit. This hidden gem is situated just 15 minutes away from downtown and is a haven for science-fiction, horror, and fantasy lovers. Every other Tuesday from 6:45 pm to 9 pm, the Word Writer’s Group reunites to discuss the craft of writing and to critique each other’s work. And calling all crafters: Rickert & Beagle Books hosts a once-monthly crafts and ‘fairly odd conversation‘ event.
With three different locations including those in Squirrel Hill and Oakland, Amazing Books happens to be the only used bookstore in downtown Pittsburgh and with one of the friendliest owners in the city, Eric Ackland. Vinyl lovers take note: Amazing Books recently added records to their three locations, and Ackland is planning on starting a writer’s school in the Squirrel Hill locale and an all-vegan café in their Oakland location – two amazing ideas!
In the small community of Dormont, just 11 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh, lies one of the most charming bookstores around, Beyond Bedtime Books. This cute spot has it all – from a broad selection of books to a welcoming feeling, not to mention a knowledgeable and friendly owner, Jamie, who will help you find the perfect gift. Stopping by with kids is also a good idea, as a cute little space is designed for them in the back to explore their own love of reading, providing a magical literary experience.
Mystery Lovers Bookstore | Courtesy of Mystery Lovers Bookstore
Are you in Oakmont looking for thrillers, crime stories, espionage, and mystery fiction? Mystery Lovers Bookshop has it all and happens to be one of the largest mystery bookstores in the entire country. The Mystery Writers of America awarded Mystery Lovers Bookshop with a Raven Award in 2010 as recognition for their contribution to mystery writing. They also have a gorgeous weekly e-newsletter – a must-read when it comes to being updated on upcoming events and books plus reviews. While Mystery Lovers mainly sells new books, don’t miss out on their collection of signed first editions!