A Tour through Durham's Local Bookstores
The thriving bookstores in Durham cast serious doubt on the idea that print is dead and iPads and Kindles and Nooks are to blame. In fact, with eight independent bookstores here, Durham is a great destination for the well-read traveler.
Though we have our fair share of digitally inclined businesses, we also have a strong team of booksellers making sure that good old-fashioned books – as in those things with bindings and pages – are available to the public.
Here we present a literary tour of Durham. Follow along with this corresponding Google Map.
- Letters: We start in the heart of Downtown Durham at Letters. This bright, modern bookstore is the newest member of Durham's bookselling scene, having opened in December 2013. Large Main St.-facing windows make for great window shopping and even better browsing. The shop focuses on contemporary fiction, but there are also shelves dedicated to children's and young adult fiction, poetry, cultural studies, and more. Letters is primarily a used book store, with some featured new books, which means prices are very reasonable. They also offer special orders so they can bring in a new copy of anything you're looking for.
- Wentworth & Leggett Rare Books: Head west down Main St. and you'll come to Brightleaf Square, a renovated tobacco warehouse that contains, amongst other things, Wentworth & Leggett Rare Books. With piles and piles of old, rare, and antique books, it's like walking into a museum – only one where you can take the items home. Wentworth & Leggett also carries prints, maps, political buttons, postcards, and magazines – some of which date back hundreds of years. It's a must see for anyone who has a penchant for the past, as well as those who simply love the history of publishing.
- Nice Price Books: A little further west on Broad St. you'll find the first of the Ninth Street District's three bookstores, Nice Price Books. As the name suggests, this is another used book store that aims to fill your bookshelves without emptying your wallet. The store is large and almost labyrinthine, with shelves stacked floor to ceiling with books that range across more subjects than we could possibly list here. Nice Price also offers records and CDs (that's right, there are physical copies of music as well!), meaning that it's a place where you can easily lose hours searching through bins and shelves and stacks for all kinds of cultural ephemera. They buy from customers as well, meaning there's always new gems coming in the door (and you might be able to trade out some of those old classics you're sick of in exchange for a new adventure).
- Books Do Furnish a Room: Just a half block away from Nice Price is Books Do Furnish a Room. It's an easy-to-miss store set back from Markham Ave. behind Heavenly Buffaloes. But take a walk inside and you'll find another impressive collection of books, records, tapes, cassettes, and comics. The stacks twist round and round through the right half of the store, so you can continue your exploration of publishing history through all kinds of subjects. Books Do Furnish a Room – as you might expect from the name – is a unique experience where you can explore all kinds of interests without the haze of postshopping guilt.
- Regulator Bookshop: Another block away on Ninth St. is the Regulator Bookshop, a local favorite that won the Indy Week's Best of the Triangle 2013 award for best local bookstore. This beloved Durham store features new releases, as well as a smaller used section. They also have a space for events and often host readings and book signings with authors. Swing by to peruse the new bestsellers or ask for a recommendation from the knowledgeable staff, and soak in the local literary community at one of its hotspots.
- The Gothic Bookshop: The last stop near downtown is the Gothic Bookshop, nestled in the corner of Duke University's Bryan University Center. With chest-high shelves and plenty of light, it's a welcoming atmosphere to browse works of philosophy, African-American studies, poetry, and more. There is also a collection of books penned by Duke's own professors, including both creative works and groundbreaking academic studies. Stop by on a tour of Duke's gorgeous West Campus and leave with a personal copy of the work done there – as well as a T-shirt from the University Store next door.
- Atomic Empire: A few miles south on Hwy. 15-501 in the South Square area is Atomic Empire, a comic book and board game with a strong local following. Stop by to browse the newest releases from Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and other favorites. Atomic also hosts weekly events, including open board game nights, nights dedicated to particular games, and book swaps so you can meet new folks and expand your tastes. They also have eight beers on tap with special brewery nights for those 21 and up.
- Ultimate Comics: A few more miles out on Hwy. 54, near Woodcroft, is our last stop at Ultimate Comics. Filled with comics new and old, as well as graphic novels, action figures, and other collectibles, this shop is another community stronghold for comic aficionados. They also offer a subscriber program so you can stay up to date and never miss a new issue. They even offer free shipping once a month if you don't live in the area, so you can stop by and check out the rest of the stock while you're in town and have the comics home delivered.
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