Six Stellar Independent Bookstores


There’s nothing quite like taking a trip to a local bookstore. These six indie booksellers (plus Joseph-Beth, discussed here) bring communities together over great reads in ways the big-box bookstores just can’t.

Smith & Hannon

Photograph by Carlie Burton

Smith & Hannon

As the city’s sole Black-owned bookstore, founded by a former school superintendent to promote literacy in the African American community, Smith & Hannon is a hub for conversations between the community and local and national authors. It sells modern and historic Black literature, as well as art, jewelry, and gifts. 1405 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 641-2700,

Downbound Books

This gem opened last October and has been online-only since mid-March (’cause, ya know). They’ve been getting readers through the pandemic with self-care packages (“six cookies and one bookie”), curated summer reading stacks, and keep-in-touch stationery sets. 4139 Apple St., Northside, (513) 541-1394,

Cincy Book Bus

Giving back is the name of the game for this bookstore on wheels (a 1962 Volkswagen pickup, to be exact), founded by a teacher of 25 years. Each purchase helps supply children’s books for schools in low-income areas. Shop its curated selection online or locate the bus on Instagram.

Blue Manatee

Last year this beloved bookstore became the Blue Manatee Literacy Project, building on three decades of helping little ones forge a passion for reading and learning. For every book purchased, one is donated to a child in the Cincinnati area who faces barriers to literacy. 3094 Madison Rd., Oakley, (513) 257-0774,

Roebling Point Books & Coffee

Covington’s quintessential neighborhood bookstore, with cozy spaces to read; coffee, tea, and pastries; and café seating out front. To continue serving customers staying home, they’re delivering bags of coffee and books within the I-275 loop, up to 20 miles from the store. 306 Greenup St., Covington, (859) 815-7204,

First Edition Rare Books

This appointment-only bookstore is for purist collectors who appreciate rare, unvarnished first-edition printings, often closest to the author’s original intent. Have first editions you’re ready to part with? They’ll do the legwork, cataloguing and promoting them until they sell for a fair price. 250 E. Fifth St., #1542, downtown, (513) 719-0001,

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