While Charleston, South Carolina, has inspired a number of literary works from classics like Porgy & Bess by DuBose Heyward to contemporary works by Pat Conroy, this city is a little short on independent bookstores. However, the few shops that exist, from the city’s most popular independent bookstore to a mobile book truck, will fulfill all your bookish needs.
Easily the Holy City’s best-known and loved bookstore, Blue Bicycle Books has been around for more than two decades. Originally beginning as a small, local shop called Boomer’s Books, the store was purchased by former employee and current owner Jonathan Sanchez in 2007. Now, this independent bookstore is recognized by locals and visitors alike as the small shop on King Street with the light blue bike that stands out front, piled with books on the back. Though the storefront seems small from the street, its size is deceiving. Inside, you’ll discover rows of bookshelves from the front room, which is usually filled with new releases, to the back area, which includes a whimsically decorated kids’ room and a more serious literature room complete with a work desk. Over the years, Blue Bicycle Books has embraced its role as the sole independent bookstore on the downtown peninsula, offering regular literary-focused events and festivals. In the summer, the bookstore hosts YALLfest, the largest young adult lit festival in the U.S. Year-round visitors can take advantage of the regular author talks – purchase a ticket to have lunch with a local or visiting author and a small group of people at a nearby restaurant before heading back to the store for a book signing.
Easily the most unique independent bookstore in Charleston, Itinerant Literate is a mobile bookstore fashioned out of a trailer that travels around the city. You can check the Find Us calendar of events on the store’s website, but usually, the truck hangs out at coffee shops, breweries and sometimes local restaurants. The store doesn’t park downtown, choosing instead to park in the Park Circle area of North Charleston or breweries in Mount Pleasant or West Ashley. If you’re looking to join a book club, the mobile store hosts a monthly meeting of the Get Lit book club at The Junction in Park Circle. The restaurant opens after hours to offer book club attendees a customized three-course meal with wine to complement the chosen book for each month.
A recent addition to the independent book scene in Charleston, Sullivan’s Trade A Book in Mount Pleasant offers used books at discounted prices. As the name suggests, readers can also exchange their own used books for ones in the store’s inventory. Anyone looking to donate old books to a good cause should take advantage of the store’s unique system and pick up some new reads while you’re there.