Thursday, March 25, 2010

Iowa's Indie bookstores - jewels on main street

My love affair with bookstores stepped up a notch this past year when I was assigned to write a feature on Iowas independent bookstores for The Iowan magazine.

Visiting these unique locations and talking with the owners was as much a delight as opening a new book.  The cover tells you one thing and with each page turn you learn something new.  Each indie bookstore reflects the interests of the owners and the local reading public.

Readers of my article: "Cover to Cover: Indie bookstores read Iowans" will experience some of Iowa's unique bookstore treasures. The Book Vault in Oskaloosa, which occupies a converted bank building, and where the vaults with their heavy doors and impressive locking mechanisms guard special collections of mysteries and Iowa authors. The Bookvine in Cherokee where bookshelves share space with the works of local artists and a wine collection. The Book Store in downtown Des Moines catering to business and travel readers. Spaces as unique as O'Town Books in Ottumwa where children and teachers are a major focus and as iconic as Prairie Lights in Iowa City.

My travels took me to far more bookstores than are included in the article.  But not to all of them.  The more I looked around, the more bookstores I found.

Iowa is fortunate to have these bookstore treasures - jewels on main streets across the state. With owners who understand and cater to local readers, offering spaces that meet the local gathering needs of book clubs for adults and kids, and giving their owners an opportunity to indulge and pursue their personal dreams, whether those dreams involve wine or wood carving or art. Iowa's indie bookstores face the economic challenges of all small businesses. Sadly some went out of business even as I was trying to contact them for my article.

An all-Iowa treasure hunt to find these jewels would be a great adventure. And while you're there talk to the owners - and buy one book or buy many.  Iowa's bookstores are treasures we will be wise to support.

Photo by Paul Gates, courtesy of The Iowan magazine.


  1. I have my copy ... just haven't read it yet. Looking forward to it! This looks like one of those stories that will stay with you for a long time ... for the reader AND the writer. :)

  2. Thanks for letting me know about the new indie bookstore in your area, Becky. I didn't make it there for this article, but it's a reason for a trip. Some people travel to all 99 Iowa counties. My goal is to visit all Iowa's indie bookstores!

  3. Carol, I'm so glad I have discovered your blog, the writing you have done for The Iowan and your book, Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl. Your writing and photography are beautiful. It's nice to know that you also love supporting independent bookstores and libraries. On January 1, 2010 I began a blog in which I am compiling the diaries I kept 50 years ago as an Iowa farm girl who went to Park College in suburban Kansas City, Mo.

  4. Good to hear from you, Barbara. Thanks for the compliments! You're so lucky to have the diaries to jog your memory. It's the little things that make up the bulk of our life, but they're easy to forget. Good luck with your blogging.