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Books get a bad rap as the least personal of gifts, right up there with socks and chocolates. But there's more to picking out the perfect title than swinging by the best-seller table at Barnes & Nobel. For your holiday needs this season—and for your own book shopping pleasure the rest of the year—we present 9 indie bookstores with a stellar selection of volumes for anyone and everyone on your list.
Partners & Crime: Mystery/Crime
As the name implies, this New York City shop has a killer (heh) selection of mysteries, true crime, and noir fiction. If your knowledge of the genre stops at Agatha Chrisite, they are here to help. The store's website features "100 best" and "best in category" recommendations, and staff is available to help over the phone.
This high-end publisher makes books about art and books that are art. The most elaborate titles on their list can run you in the hundreds of dollars, but there are many gorgeous volumes in the more reasonable $45 to $75 range. Get your glossy fashion history, art, culture, and coffee table tomes here.
Politics + Prose: History/Politics/Biography
It's only natural that Washington, D.C.,'s favorite indie book store is the go-to source for books about politics, political history, political biography, national history, world history... you get the idea. It's basically dad-gift heaven.
This Portland, Oregon, landmark takes up a full city block and houses hundreds of thousands of books. That includes both new and discounted used books, a la Amazon, and the store's entire, massive inventory is available online. It's hard to imagine the title that escapes their giant literary net, but should you be searching for something they don't have, they will be happy to help you track it down.
Kitchen Arts & Letters: Cookbooks
Cookbooks are a guaranteed homerun gift for anyone in your life with culinary inclinations or aspirations. This New York-based shop claims to be the largest of its type in the US and possibly the world, stocking thousands of niche publications, best-sellers, and food porn volumes, in addition to a stagering collection of out-of-print books. A sampling of the titles in that fascinating category include: Thrifty Cooking for War Time, The Modern Confectioner, and 200 Recipes for Poisons.
City Lights: Rebellious Literature
This famous San Francisco shop was the original publisher of Allan Ginsberg's controversial epic poem Howl, and ultimately won the indecency case brought against them by the government. They specialize in Beat literature, edgy periodicals, and general rebellion.
Open Books: Poetry
Poetry volumes, chap books, quarterlies, and anthologies, as well as quite a few rare, signed, and first edition books are available at this Seattle-based shop. The site is a little bit dot-matrixy, but, as a self-described "poem emporium" the selection is extensive, and the shop is a go to for enthusiasts.
McSweeney's: Hipster Lit
This celebrated indie press is a go to for modern lit nerds. McSweeney's specializes in avant-garde fiction that skews weird and funny, and they take design seriously over there: their books are outfitted in some of the coolest and most unusual covers around. Bonus: They also publish a food magazine in concert with Momofuku deity David Chang, a literary magazine called The Believer, the print version of sports website Grantland, and a quarterly compilation of film shorts. Something for everyone.
Quimby's: Zines/Oddball Finds
A Chicago shop with an art student's heart, Quimby's has an extensive selection of zines, graphic novels, comic books, oddball periodicals, and other weird stuff. Their mission statement proclaims their celebration of "the unusual, the aberrant, the saucy, and the lowbrow," and their inventory lives up to that declaration. It's also your go-to source for "Reading is Sexy" buttons.
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