For the avid bibliophile, there is nothing quite like browsing through shelves stacked high with titles and stories you have yet to explore. Next time you are looking for a good read, try stepping away from Amazon.com or a big book chain, and instead, find your next favorite book at one of Houston's best independently owned bookstores.
Step through Brazos Bookstore's front door, and one thing is abundantly clear: these people love their books.
"We read what we have," says store manager Mark Haber — and it shows. Everything in Brazos is highly curated. Staff picks and recommendations are placed throughout the store, and a large shelf of the top titles changes from week to week. Not sure what you are looking for? Ask any employee, and they are always happy to make suggestions. You can also hop onto the store's website to read more about staff picks (including kids' recommendations!), as well as info on their favorite genres and original book reviews.
The store's events calendar is jam-packed, with something happening nearly every day of the week — from book signings to their book club, to kids' programs. A sizeable children's section is set up in the back, and story time for young kids happens every Saturday.
Tip: Follow Brazos on Twitter or Instagram for their top picks of the week.
2421 Bissonnet Street
Houston, Texas 77005
Murder by the Book
If mystery or crime thrillers are your genre of choice, Murder by the Book has it in spades. As the largest crime fiction bookstore in the country, it has stacks and shelves dedicated to fantasy espionage and mystery thrillers.
When Houston-native McKenna Jordan bought the store from its original owner in 2009, she maintained the same ambience and integrity established since the doors opened in 1980. The store itself is bright and open, with plenty of space to browse. Hand-written notes along the shelves offer advice from the knowledgeable staff, and book signings and author readings are frequent occurrences.
A modest children's section also has some great selections for young readers, and non-book items like tote bags and clever coffee mugs are also available. A monthly discussion group also meets in the store, typically the third Wednesday of the month. Discussion topics vary month-to-month, but include themes like historicals, new authors, and award nominees.
Tip: Follow Murder by the Book on Twitter to find out about upcoming events and book signings.
2342 Bissonnet Street
Houston, TX 77005
Kaboom Books has 83 sections and 72,000 titles of used books, but you won't find a single copy of 50 Shades of Gray inside. That's because, as co-owner John Dillman says, "I only sell what I know."
Because used bookstores often acquire their inventory book by book — with individuals bringing in their copies to sell — Dillman says he only accepts items that he has some knowledge of. Which is really impressive when you consider the massive amount of information lining the walls of Kaboom. Books are crammed into simple pine shelves from the floor to the very tall ceilings, often requiring a ladder to reach the top. And that doesn't even include the thousands of duplicate copies not on display.
It's easy to imagine spending hours inside Kaboom, browsing shelf after shelf of gently faded paperbacks of poetry or fiction or psychology. In fact, many do. And it's not just those in the neighborhood that swing by. Dillman says people come from all over the country to visit the store. "Used bookstores are a destination," Dillman says. And Kaboom Books is definitely one worth the trip.
Tip: Swing by Kaboom Books' Instagram for shots of the owners' sweet bookstore pups.
3116 Houston Avenue
Houston, TX 77009
Blue WIllow Bookshop
Blue Willow Bookshop is not just a bookstore, it is a neighborhood hub. In addition to book signings and author readings, the store has several active book clubs — even independent neighborhood book clubs can get discounts on their book selections if they register with the store — and kids are welcome for "storytime" every Thursday morning at 10 a.m. for book readings, art activities, and songs. Blue Willow is also a big supporter of local book-related events, including Teen BookCon, and the Bookworm and Tweens Read festivals.
The staff at Blue Willow Bookshop like to call themselves "a merry band of booksellers with opinionated advice." And that is exactly what you'll get. The book selection is sizeable — with an impressive collection of children's and young adult titles — but there's no hint of "big-box" feel. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, with great suggestions if you are not sure what you are looking for. If they don't have what you need, they are happy to order it.
14532 Memorial Drive
Houston, TX 77079
Every available nook, cranny, and corner in Becker's Books is filled with books. The Becker family opened the renovated-home-turned-bookstore in 1994, and it now houses an expansive collection of used, rare and out-of-print titles in just about every genre.
At first glance, the sheer quantity of books and seeming lack of organization can be overwhelming — books are stacked up wall to wall and up to the ceiling, sometimes even in haphazard piles on the floor. But if you are up for a little exploring, there is no shortage of leather-bound treasures to be found. Be prepared to spend a couple of hours roaming and browsing the winding shelves. If you find something you like, you can always curl up on one of the many cozy chairs set up throughout the store and read a few pages while breathing in that delightful old-book smell.
Tip: An online inventory is also available on the store's website if you are looking for something specific.
7405 Westview Drive
Houston, TX, 77055