Birchbark Books & Native Arts in Minneapolis

Independent Bookstores are Alive and Well in Minnesota

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Birchbark Books & Native Arts

Independent Bookstores are Alive and Well in Minnesota

By Lorena Armstrong-Duarte

Whether you’re looking for the perfect novel to lap up lakeside, or seeking a short story collection for an evening spent by the fire, you’ll find every kind of bookstore in Minnesota. Not to mention vibrant communities of like-minded bookworms. Here are some brick-and-mortar shops throughout the state that are beloved by bibliophiles. 

Woman shopping at Red Balloon Books

Stop into Red Balloon Books on St. Paul's charming Grand Avenue

Minneapolis-St. Paul Mainstays 

The abundance and range of Twin Cities bookstores is astounding.

There are respected elder statesmen like Magers & Quinn, Midway Used & Rare Books, and the Book House in Dinkytown; neighborhood favorites like Downtown St. Paul’s Subtext Books, Northeast’s Eat My Words and Standish's Dream Haven Books & Comics (which holds a special place in the heart of esteemed fantasy author Neil Gaiman); and specialists like Once Upon a Crime and Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction Bookstore.

Here are a few unique shops you won’t want to miss:

Moon Palace Books

Originally opened as a tiny little book shop in 2012, Moon Palace Books store moved into its massive new space in 2017 — drastically expanding its shelves and operations in the process. No longer confined to a small, one-room storefront, it has evolved into one of the Twin Cities' most popular spaces for author readings, experimental performances and simply getting lost in the shelves. 

Birchbark Books

Founded by lauded Minnesota author Louise Erdrich, Birchbark Books describes itself as a cozy little neighborhood bookstore and "locus for Indigirati—literate Indigenous people who have survived over half a millennium on this continent." It sponsors readings by Native and non-Native writers, journalists and historians. A strong commitment to ecological responsibility has led to a unique space complete with a personal confessional and a "hobbit hole" for children to play in. Find the bookshop nestled on a quiet little strip of stores in Minneapolis's Kenwood neighborhood by Lake of the Isles.

The Irreverent Bookworm

The Irreverent Bookworm is the lifelong dream of Meg Niesen and her partner Donovan. Selling used and new books from a quiet corner of south Minneapolis, this bookish wonderland opened its doors in September 2019. “Our goal is to maintain a uniquely playful, welcoming and down-to-earth bookshop for our diverse community of readers,” says Niesen, “We truly want folks to feel at ease and at home when they walk through our door.”

Wild Rumpus interior

Wild Rumpus is like a children's book come to life / Kent Kanouse, shared under CC BY-2.0

Children's Bookstores in the Twin Cities

Red Balloon Bookshop

Located in the heart of St. Paul’s Mac-Groveland neighborhood is the award-winning, decades-old Red Balloon Bookshop. A statue of bookish bears greets you out front, and inside you’ll find everything to spark your child’s love of books: imaginative storytimes, best-selling national authors and a wide selection of books, toys and gifts.

Wild Rumpus

Wild Rumpus is the first children’s bookstore to be named Publishers Weekly’s Bookstore of the Year, and it is a favorite of many Twin Cities families. This Linden Hills staple used Anne Mazer’s “The Salamander Room” as a sort of blueprint for the store, and walking through its doors feels like entering a children’s book come to life. There is a painted, 3D mural on the ceiling, and the whole back of the store feels as if you’re in a garden complete with (real!) cats, birds and even a tarantula named after the Harry Potter character, Rubeus Hagrid.

Zenith Bookstore exterior

The creative entrance to Zenith Bookstore in Duluth / Zenith Bookstore

Keep Exploring 

Zenith Bookstore | Duluth

Bob and Angel Dobrow spent their formative years wandering the well-stocked shelves of New York City and decided to start their own shop in Duluth after they retired. The exposed brick, high ceilings, front facade mural and quirky displays have made Zenith a cornerstone of the local community since 2017.

Once Read: Second Hand Bookstore & Exchange | Mankato

With a building constructed in 1870, Once Read cheekily leans into its history and informs visitors of several “Unsolved Mysteries of the Building,” most of which revolve around Elvis Presley. Founded in 1975 with a collection of 200 books, the bookstore has grown into a friendly home for thousands of tomes in every genre.

Fair Trade Books | Red Wing

Fair Trade Books embodies everything a small-town bookstore should: floor-to-ceiling shelves stocked with familiar and unfamiliar titles; cozy reading nooks and antique furnishings; a resident dog; and an array of unique events. The best part? Every first-time visitor gets a free book, hand-selected by the owner.

Books N More | Bemidji

Books N More offers just what it says: books and more. A lot more. In fact, if you’re hungry for the nostalgic video games of your youth, this is the place to come. A newly refinished basement houses instruments and hosts music lessons. It’s far more than just a bookstore; it's a gathering space in the community.

Cherry Street Books | Alexandria

Cherry Street Books is a lovely little bookstore with a very active book club community. Their staff pride themselves on giving one-of-a-kind suggestions and Saturday morning children’s storytimes include special guests, like Mrs. Claus during Christmas.

Lorena Armstrong-Duarte

Lorena Armstrong-Duarte is an El Salvadorian raised in Minnesota. She graduated from Harvard University in 1998 with a degree in romance languages and literature and has worked as a journalist, poet, playwright, editor, blogger and spoken-word artist. She and her husband live in Minneapolis with their two boys.