The importance of independent bookstores

In a recent interview with PBS, Ann Patchett, bestselling author of books like Bel Canto, State of Wonder and the just-released novel Commonwealth, discussed her involvement with Parnassus Books, an independent bookstore in Nashville. (The entire interview is great, but skip ahead to about 5:18 to hear specifically about the store.)

When asked why independent bookstores are important, Patchett answered, “Because you can’t spend your whole life in front of a screen.” Amen!

Patchett also talked about how such bookstores are not only surviving, but thriving; despite fears that often increase with the popularity of online booksellers and e-readers, brick-and-mortar independent bookshops are actually on the rise across the country.

This is fantastic news – of course I, a reader, writer, and book lover would say that. But this is fantastic news for everyone. Entire communities benefit from the presence of independent bookstores. They are a place anyone can go to relax, maybe sip some coffee, connect with friends and neighbors… and yes, okay, buy books. Because buying these books helps small businesses, and the success of small businesses is synonymous with the success of your community.

Mainers are lucky to have a plethora of independent bookstores to choose from. To name just a few: Open Door Books in Bath, Lippincott Books in Hampden, and hello hello books in Rockland. Each of these stores has a distinctive vibe and personality, one sure to strike a chord in any reader.

Here are three more independent bookshops to check out, all located in the beautiful city of Belfast.

14263985_10207315817429840_5775934270915426120_nThe Old Professor’s Bookshop: This is a great shop for classic literature and an eclectic mix of nonfiction books. The store itself is beautiful, the walls lined with rich wooden bookshelves, the smells of pages and sunlight enveloping themselves around you. Several people came and went in the time we spent browsing. One man said, in an almost-holy voice, “Great shop.” And I must agree. It had that good bookshop vibe, and I would love to return when I have more time to browse and more money to spend.


Bellabooks: Such a bright, colorful, inviting shop. Everything in here, from the shelves to the displays, is pretty. A wonderful mix of fiction, nonfiction, bestsellers, Maine authors, children’s, and teen’s books. There is also a really sweet courtyard off the back of the store where you can sit and chat about all things literary. The owner chats and laughs with locals and tourists, and the entire feel of the place is warm and inviting.


Left Bank Books: A fantastic collection of bestsellers, Maine-centric books, nonfiction, children’s books, and fiction. Scattered throughout the stacks of books are signed photographs of writers. It is a light, airy, colorful space – and it is all too easy to lose track of time as you peruse the displays of books. Like Bellabooks, Left Bank Books has a very welcoming, very literary vibe about it. You feel safe here as soon as you walk in.

Photo courtesy of Left Bank Books Facebook page

Photo courtesy of Left Bank Books Facebook page

As a bonus, if you are hungry after all that book-hunting, stop into Eat More Cheese for a great selection of – you guessed it – cheese, as well as locally baked bread, wine, and other fun gourmet accoutrements.

Tell me – what is your favorite independent bookstore? Comment below, and I just might make that store my next stop for bookish adventures.

Shannon Bowring

About Shannon Bowring

I am 26 years old. I was raised up in the County, in the tiny town of Ashland. I attended the University of Maine in Orono and graduated in 2012 with a BA in English, with a concentration in Creative Writing. Reading and writing have always been the greatest loves of my life. I am most at home in the dusty corners of used bookstores, surrounded by forgotten books. One day, inspiration struck when I decided I wanted to combine all my loves – writing, reading, traveling, exploring these beloved shops – to create an outlet in which I can share my bookish adventures with an audience of like-minded readers who could appreciate my love of words and stories.