The Best Independent Bookstores in Milwaukee

Renaissance book store | © Courtesy Renaissance Books
Renaissance book store | © Courtesy Renaissance Books
Sometimes there is nothing better than finding a worn bookshop and curling up with a great read! Milwaukee knows long winters, so the entire city is filled with nooks and crannies that are perfect for sweater weather and a nice cup of coffee. Here are a few of the wonderful independent bookstores to get lost in.

Boswell Book Company

The Boswell Book Company looks like it popped straight out of a hipster romantic comedy. The space is vast and has row after row of gorgeous bookcases. They are well known for having a pretty prestigious speaker tour, which they always adorably advertise on a chalkboard with doodles. Boswell is a perfect place to go to a signing and Q&A with a friend or significant other. It is also very close to the North Point Lighthouse, so go for a beer tasting and then a signing … or vice versa!

Downtown Books Bought and Sold

Downtown Books Bought and Sold is the cozy urban bookseller of everyone’s dreams. Adorable cats roam the space, giving the whole location a very homey vibe where people address each other by their first names, because this place has regulars coming back time and time again. Though the space somewhat resembles a school library, it’s comforting and familiar, and may be the best place to make new friends in the entire city!


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Renaissance Book Shop

The name Renaissance Book Shop truly points to the vibe of this company … as it is one of the oldest remaining bookstores in Milwaukee. Renaissance was founded in the 1960s and was built inside a former furniture warehouse that is five stories tall. The shop also has a venue across the street! All in all they house almost 600,000 books. There is also a branch within Milwaukee’s General Mitchell Airport, if you want to grab a rare read on the go.

Woodland Pattern Book Center

Compared to the other shops on this list, Woodland Pattern Book Center really flaunts its carrying of contemporary novels, as opposed to old, used, and rare. This is the perfect place to pick up a novel that no one has ever heard of, and find the magic within it. Woodland Pattern turns the shopper into a story discoverer, so they can be the first to find a new gem. The center also offers performances, as well as film and video installations, making it seem like more of a museum than a bookstore.

Outwords Books, Gifts, and Coffee

Out and proud, the Outwords Books, Gifts, and Coffee shop is Milwaukee’s premier LGBT bookstore and gift shop. Outwords, which was originally named Afterwords Bookstore & Espresso Bar, is the perfect spot to grab some Rainbow Pride gear and also a great book. The place is quirky and fun, and ideal to find some obscure comic or book celebrating sexual diversity. They too have a wonderful lecture series that has featured such names as Greg Louganis, Kate Clinton, and David Sedaris.

I've spent my entire adult life here, and only just found out Milwaukee has a #gay bookstore

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