Ever since the demise of Borders Books in 2011 -- a moment of silence, perhaps? -- the return to boutique-style bookstores has seemed not only trendy, but necessary, if brick and mortar businesses are to survive in Cleveland's 21st century. One new bookstore and one very new bookstore on the west side serve as counterparts to two stalwart Cleveland bookstores on the east side, which have been cheerfully persevering even as block stores and Amazon.com! expand or close, have monopolized book sales in recent years. Instead of driving out to Books-A-Million at Westgate or Barnes & Noble at Crocker Park, or lazily gobbling up bestsellers online, try browsing one of these paper palaces.
Loganberry Books, Larchmere
This massive repository for all things literary will have you browsing for hours. Fiction and nonfiction lovers alike will find endless options here. Likewise those who prefer used books (for price, charm) and new (for crispness, security, etc). Loganberry also hosts monthly book clubs and readings. One of the coolest things they do -- and that's saying something -- is a monthly "book club" in which they send you a book a month the selection of which is entirely at their discretion. You tell them what you like (or what your mom likes), some her favorite titles and authors and genres, and then they giftwrap a new volume every month just for you (or her). It makes an incredible Christmas gift, and feels quaint and old-fashioned in a magical sort of way.
Visible Voice Books, Tremont
This one's not going to win any awards the depth of its selection -- it's a small space after all -- but this homey spot in Tremont has loads of local titles and wine for sale to boot. Like Loganberry, new titles are interspersed with used ones, and there are a few very well appointed shelves of both fiction and non-fiction. Visible Voice has become a cool location for offbeat musical and poetic performances as well. If you're in the mood for some acoustic north coast folk and a Malbec, pop over.
Mac's Backs Paperback, Coventry
Guilty pleasure sci-fi, Tommy's Milkshake
Perhaps nowhere else in Cleveland is that oft romanticized "bookstore smell" as dramatic and raw as it is at Mac's Backs. This flagship haunt on Coventry is a Cleveland classic. You'll find cool magazines and journals at the front of the store, as well as staff picks to guide you in your browsing. Classic works and new fiction are both well represented, as well as an entire upstairs full of sci-fi and fantasy paperback, a hideaway for the secret geek. Tommy's on Coventry is connected to Mac's Backs, so buy a book and then read the first chapter while indulging in a positively criminal Moosetracks Milkshake.
Guide to Kulchur, Gordon Square
Salon-style vibe, modernist tomes.
The new kid in town in the bookstore circuit, this small boutique shop on W. 65th and Detroit has been an exciting addition to Detroit-Shoreway. Helmed by the intellectual power couple RA Washington and Liz Bly, this shop feels a little bit like a personal library -- lots of modernist essays and literary criticism -- but feels European in that respect. Washington refurbished typewriters and holds readings that make the whole enterprise feel like it's been dropped here from a more culturally vibrant time, a more European place. Take in a movie at the Capitol Theatre and shop at Valerie Mayen's Yellowcake while you're over there.
Cleveland Bookstore Memories
Six Steps Down, on W. 25th Street, was like browsing through a grandparent's attic. Full of dusty tomes and atlases and paperbacks with coffee stains, it was as unpretentious as it was cheap. A cat patrolled the front desk before memes made it cool.