In following with its rich literary history, as the former place of residence of writers such as Edgar Allen Poe and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Baltimore has a number of amazing local bookstores to visit and support. If you’re looking for somewhere to get started, here is a list of some of my favorite literary places in the city!
Charlotte Elliott & The Book Store Next Door
As a Hopkins undergrad, I remember walking along West 36th Street in Hampden and stumbling upon a warmly lit store lined with wooden shelves and practically overflowing with books. Charlotte Elliott has a wonderfully unique twist that is characteristic of many Baltimore businesses: It is part bookstore and part antique shop, which makes for a fun browsing experience.
Bird in Hand
Bird in Hand is a combination bookstore and café in Charles Village, and is the perfect place to grab a quick bite to eat with friends. While book prices can be on the more expensive side, Bird in Hand was designed with the idea of fostering community discussion and collective creativity; as such, it hosts regular poetry readings and other events supporting local artists and writers that are worth checking out.
Red Emma’s is a worker-owned bookstore/restaurant situated in Station North that contains a vast collection of books covering important topics such as race, queer history, political and social movements, and feminism. Beyond that, Red Emma’s hosts a variety of events, from open mic nights to discussions on historical and current injustices, to encourage community solidarity and involvement with social justice.
The Book Thing
The Book Thing was originally established to provide books for schoolkids from low-income communities, and the organization continues to support schools and educators to this day, along with being open to the public. Their entire collection of books consists of used and donated copies, so you never really know what books you’ll find there, which just adds to its charm and appeal. On my most recent trip there with a couple friends, I walked away with a collection of William Faulkner’s short stories, some fiction novels from up-and-coming authors, and an illustrated manual on Vulcan physiology, among other things — which is just a small sampling of the wide range of titles that The Book Thing offers. And the best part is, all the books are free! At the risk of revealing my bias toward The Book Thing out of everything on this list — because all these bookstores are fantastic — I consider this to be one of my favorite places in Baltimore.
Little Free Libraries
Even though this isn’t exactly a bookstore, I would like to end this list with another way to get free books — simply visit one of Baltimore’s little free libraries! There are several of these colorful book-exchange boxes scattered throughout Baltimore. The closest one to the East Baltimore campus is in Patterson Park. These little libraries contain used books that anyone can pick up. They are also a great place to drop off textbooks or other books you’ve finished reading as a way to give back to the community.
Visiting and purchasing from independent bookstores is a great way to support local businesses as well as learn more about the community and Baltimore history in general. There are many other bookstores I’d like to visit next, including Greedy Reads (in Fell’s) and Busboys and Poets (in Charles Village), but hopefully this list provides you with a good place to start when delving into Baltimore’s literary scene.
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