By: Chloë Williams, Columnist
It was sad news from Baltimore book-lovers to hear that the famous Inner Harbor Barnes and Noble will be closing its doors for good. Three stories of endless books is a hard thing to say goodbye to, but don’t worry! I’ve compiled a list of my favorite places to shop for my latest read. The best part? They’re mostly local, and all low-cost options.
- The Book Escape– The Book Escape might be small, but don’t let it fool you. There are pages and pages stacked from floor to ceiling in every room. This shop is made of two stores connected together. They are joined by a terrace reading area with painted murals and a sunny spot to kick back with your new finds. As you travel from room to room, you’ll see knights on horseback to your right, blue mermaids reading fairy tales on your left, and a swirling night sky above your head. Each room is conveniently separated by genre, my favorites being the poetry, classics, and old Hollywood sections. In the final room is a unique shop with Russian goods. When they say “book escape,” they aren’t joking!
- Bank Books– This shop is a new find for me back in my hometown of Martinsburg, WV. Like The Book Escape, it also separates each room by genre. The kicker? It’s housed inside an old bank! This shop is owned by the sweetest duo and their fluffy dog who enjoys napping by the counter. As you wander through the shop, you’ll pass sections on cooking, classics, mystery and science fiction. The must-see sections are their massive harlequin romance collection and the special editions and collections section located in the opened bank safe. Customers are always smiling and conversational, and the owners are keen on helping you find your perfect literary match. If you’re ever in town, stop by this hidden gem of bibliophile heaven!
- Wonder Books– Wonder Books is truly a magical place. I can get lost in this store for hours, and quite literally need a paper map to navigate myself around. There are books wall-to-wall as well as movies, video games, and vinyls. Wonder Books will even let you bring in your own books and trade them in for store credit to buy new ones. You can find brand-new editions and well-loved copies of anything you’re looking for. However, I myself prefer to just wander until I find something that strikes me. I am familiar with the Hagerstown, MD location, however there are also shops in Frederick and Gaithersburg. You can also shop online for all of their media, including 60 different genres of books. You might get lost inside Wonder Books, but you’ll come out having found a stack of new reads.
- Thrift Books– ThriftBooks has become my new best friend over the years. It’s an online shop that sells used and new books with stunning customer service. Again, they have every book under the sun, including textbooks. After making a totally free account (no strings attached), you can start racking up points for every book you buy. Once you earn enough, you’ll get to pick any book you like for free, only paying 99 cents for the shipping. Outside of the points system, shipping is free for orders over $10. A lot of sites like to advertise these types of deals, but with ThriftBooks, the amount of points you need for your free read is actually quite reasonable. You can also choose what quality you prefer for your book, which can lower the price even more. These books can come in quality options like, new, like new, very good, good, and acceptable. ThriftBooks is easy, dependable, and user-friendly, and I highly recommend it for those who prefer an online book-shopping experience during these strange times.
- Libby– Libby is a whole library on your phone! It works in conjunction with your public library, but if you don’t have a card (or don’t know where it is)- never fear! You can sign up on the app. You can use Libby to listen to audiobooks, or read text on your device. Like a library, you “borrow” books on the app, meaning that some can have a wait time. However, you can place a Hold on the books you’re interested in to be notified when they’re ready for you to start reading. You can also read a sample of the book to make sure you’re interested, as well as read a synopsis and reviews. You can search, get recommendations, borrow, and read to your heart’s content all for free.