Bookstore Crawling in Columbus

[Note: This post was updated April 23, 2019 with info about store closures, moves, and an actual upcoming bookcrawl on April 27, 2019]

I’ve heard of wine-tasting tours, gallery hops and pub crawls in Columbus, Ohio. I’ve yet to hear of a bookstore crawl in Columbus and I’m kind of wondering when the booksellers around here will get their stuff together to pull one off. Searching online, I found a San Francisco Bookstore and Chocolate Crawl, a London book crawl, a blog post about book crawling in Houston, a Literary Crawl in Nevada, a Cambridge book crawl (a GREAT place for a bookstore crawl), and more.

B & N

Barnes and Noble Easton Town Center

But I think we have the makings for a great bookstore crawl in Greater Columbus. I would have no problem spending a day visiting some of the great bookstores in our area. So I’ve come up with my own book crawl itinerary. In some cases, there are multiple outlets for some stores and I’ve chosen a favorite out of these. Since I live on the north end of the city, I’ll start there and work my way south.

1. Barnes and Noble Easton Town Center. This is probably the biggest and classiest Barnes and Noble in the city and if you were to go to one retail outlet for new books, this is it. Biggest danger here is being distracted by all the other boutiques in this trendy shopping district.

Village Bookshop

Village Bookshop

2. Village Bookshop2424 W Dublin Granville Rd Columbus, OH 43235‎. This is a used and remaindered bookstore located in an old church building, with both first and second floors. You can ramble from room to room, from sections of children’s books, to a table of biographies, to sections of American, world, and military history (including a great selection of military prints) to literature, philosopy, fiction, and much more. Update April 2019: This store is now closed.

3. Cover to Cover Books for Young Readers, 3560 N High St, Columbus, OH 43214. I have to admit that I’ve never visited this indie bookstore focused on children’s books but they’ve been around a long time and must be doing something right. The pictures on their website suggest this is a delightful place for children! Update April 2019: This store has moved to an Upper Arlington location.

4. Karen Wickliff Books, 3527 N. High St., Columbus , Ohio 43214. They claim to be the oldest and largest used bookstore in Columbus. This is the place to go for out of print, scholarly, and collectible books. I’ve found their religion section among the best of any used bookstore I’ve visited.

5. Half Price Books, 1375 W. Lane Ave. Columbus, Ohio 43221. Half Price Books is a national chain of used and remaindered books, music, and video. I’ve been to all their Columbus locations and think this is the best (though we like them all!). It’s located just west of Ohio State, and because of this has a bit more academic selection of books including a great section of $1 and $2 books.

6. Acorn Bookshop, 1464 West 5th Avenue, Columbus, OH 43212. Even the entrance to their website is fun and what makes this store, located in Grandview, to the west of Ohio State, is the effort all the booksellers make to know their customers and how much they love bookselling. George Bauman is co-owner and has been bookselling for 50 years. On one visit, I met Norman Knapp, who “Norman-izes” their books which includes cleaning, repairing, and on books with dust jackets, putting a protective plastic sleeve like libraries use to protect the book. Make sure to go down to the basement, which has more extensive selections in all the categories you find upstairs. [Update: Acorn Books closed its doors in March 2018 after 25 years of bookselling.]

The Book Loft

The Book Loft

7. The Book Loft, 631 South Third Street, Columbus, OH 43206. This store, in the heart of German Village, can be entered from a brick walkway lined with flowers along the side of the building. The store consists of a series of rooms on a couple levels and you will want to print out or pick up a store directory.

Read It Again Books and Gifts

Read It Again Books and Gifts

8. Read it Again Books, 4052 Broadway, Grove City, Ohio. This is a charming used bookstore off the beaten path a bit on the southwest side of Columbus in Grove City’s renovated downtown district. The booksellers have expanded their hours recently and have great selections of the latest fiction as well as a broad selection of children’s books, history, biography and cookbooks (one of which we bought on our last visit there). What impressed me was how they worked with children in the store to find “just the right book.” Update April 2019: This store is now closed.

Columbus is a great place for booklovers. I’ve probably missed some good places and would love for my Columbus friends to add to the list in the comments. And if you are visiting town this summer and love books, I hope this might help you plan your own bookstore crawl.

[Update: Gramercy Books in Bexley opened in January of 2017, the first retail independent to open in Columbus in 20 years. For more information, read my review of the store.]

April 2019: Several new stores have opened in the Columbus market since 2015. Six stores are hosting a book crawl April 27, 2019. Here is a publicity graphic:FB_IMG_1556038889368


Books for the Bibliophile in Your Life

People in my family have this dilemma. Given how many books I have and read, it is hard for them to know what to buy me short of asking.

That may be one way of finding out. If you don’t want to give yourself away the trick is being indirect, and probably far enough away from the time you are giving the gift that they might not remember. Asking them about what they’ve been reading or what kinds of things they like to read might give you some clues of genres to look in. Family members of the person may be of help if they know the person’s habits and don’t mind that they are a bibliophile!

If you have access, you can always try snooping around their homes and seeing what books they have. The challenge here, of course, is remembering what they have, and more importantly, recognizing what they don’t have, and all of this without being obvious. If you are a fellow bibliophile, they will totally get your book-snooping. Chances are they do the same at your house!

Once you have an idea of genre or genres in which you are looking, get some help. A good bookseller is a great resource at this point. In many cases, what you probably want are new titles that your friend may not yet have acquired, particularly if they like to wait to pick them up in second hand shops, a habit of many of us bibliophiles. They can point you to recent releases, particularly ones that have gotten a lot of notice or good reviews. This probably won’t be as cheap as Amazon, but this kind of service is worth extra, particularly if it is offered by an indie bookseller!

There are some indie booksellers that focus on particular genres. Friends who want to buy me theological books, for example, might not get much help at the local B & N. But if you contacted Hearts & Minds Books (probably via the web) I bet you can find something (and the bookseller sort of knows me!). There are stores around for everything from mysteries to feminist literature. You may have to check online–they may not be in your hometown.

There is some help online as well. If you have purchased on Amazon, you know you can create a wish list. Did you know you can also look up the wish lists of your friends? Of course, this presumes that they have created a wish list and it is current and that their name is not really common, like “John Smith”. To do this, just go to your wish list and you will see a box in the upper right hand corner that says, “Find Someone’s Wish List.”

You might also consider social media. If the person is a Facebook friend, their profile may show what books they have read. If they are on Goodreads (and you are) you can see what books they’ve read by genres and their favorite genres (or shelves). Some users also have a “wishlist” shelf. You can also look at their top-rated books and click on the book which takes you to the Goodreads page for that book and look in the upper right corner at the “Readers Also Enjoyed” recommendations. While Goodreads provides recommendations for books you might like based on what you’ve read, they don’t yet do this for your friends (I’ve suggested it!).

My son wins the award for the best book gift. For my birthday, he bought me A Heritage to Share: A Bicentennial History of Youngstown and Mahoning County, Ohio. He knew I was blogging on Youngstown because I grew up there and like all things history. He went to Acorn Bookshop here in town and found this book. Little did he know that I had been in there and had seriously considered buying it, had leafed through it, and put it on my mental “sometime” list but passed up the temptation.

How have you figured out what books to buy your bibliophile friends?


In Praise of the Indie Bookstore

I’ve been seeing lots of posts decrying Amazon’s recent conflict with the Hachette Publishing Group. I don’t intend to add to that outcry with this post, other than to say, if we think Amazon is a monster, then it is one we have helped create and it is just doing what it thinks are in its best business interests. There is a brutal, bottom-line logic to how these companies (Hachette as well as Amazon) operate. I suspect in the end they will come to some kind of compromise — neither wants to kill the goose laying the golden eggs. My son did a post on his blog that argues this point in far more detail, so I don’t need to.

Acorn Bookshop (from

Acorn Bookshop (from

What I would rather talk about are the great brick and mortar Indie bookstores, whether selling used and collectors book, or new. I was reminded these treasures during a visit this week to the Acorn Bookshop in Grandview Heights, a couple miles west of Ohio State’s campus. Acorn sells used and antiquarian books. George Cowmeadow Bauman is the co-owner and known widely as “bookstore George”. His love of collecting books and selling them came from his aunt, to whom the store is dedicated. He tells the story wonderfully!

This was my second visit to the store (I mentioned it in a post early in this blog’s history). I was in the neighborhood and decided to use a gift card a kind friend sent because she liked some of the posts on this blog! Who was I to complain? I hadn’t explored the basement before and in the process came across Norman. George calls what he does “Normanizing”. Before books are shelved, Norman repairs, cleans, and for books with dust jackets, puts a protective sleeve like those you see on library books over the dust jacket. I think for this reason, the store doesn’t have the musty, dusty feel I encounter in most bookstores of its type.  I’ve not been to a bookstore before that did this and I thought it was quite a nice touch!

My purchase. Notice the protective sleeve on the Modern Library edition

My purchase. Notice the protective sleeve on the Modern Library edition

One of the things that marks this store is the friendly relations between all the booksellers and the customers, those who are selling books and those who buy. I was looking for a hardcover copy of the first installment of Rex Morris’s biography of Teddy Roosevelt but could not find this. They had a paperbound copy which I ended up buying but they searched downstairs to see if they had it. On their website, they speak of this store as having an atmosphere kind of like the old comedy, Cheers, where everybody knows your name.

There is an experience in wandering around a bookstore like this, not only of discovering things you’ve not heard of before that are interesting, or finding that book you’ve been looking for. There is also the experience of being among a community of book lovers, of people you don’t have to explain your quirkiness to, because they get it. While I’ve not decided to boycott Amazon, I want to patronize places like this as often as I can because these people genuinely care about the love of books (as well as making a living at it), and fostering a culture where books and ideas and conversation about them are valued. It seems to me that places like this are part of what make a good city and a good society.

I’d love to hear your stories of the physical bookstores you love and value.

“So Where Do You Get All These Books?”

That’s a question my friends ask when they visit our home–and perhaps they are trying to tell us something.  Truth is, we probably have enough books around the house to take care of our reading needs for the rest of our life!  I found some comfort from Winston Churchill, who said something to the effect of “don’t feel bad about the books on your shelves you haven’t read, just fondle them!”  Part of what he meant was that it doesn’t hurt to just page through some of our unread books to be familiar with what is in them–you never know when that might become relevant.

A major source of the books around our home is InterVarsity Press.  I work as a staff director with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, their parent organization and so I am the recipient of some complimentary books and other highly discounted new releases.  InterVarsity Press publishes books that relate closely to our work in the university world, addressing issues of the day and matters of spiritual formation from a thoughtful and biblical perspective.  You will see reviews of a number of their books because, professionally they relate closely to my work in collegiate ministry, and personally, I’ve appreciated the thoughtful writing and the willingness to tackle hard issues.  That doesn’t mean that all my reviews will be glowing, however!

Another source of books around our home are the numerous used book stores around Columbus.  Of these, Half Price Books has probably made the most significant contribution.  They have five locations around our city (and we’ve visited them all!) preferring the Carriage Place and Lane Avenue locations.  I love to explore the $2 section, where there is lots of trash, but often a few “treasures”.  Another store we periodically frequent is The Village Bookshop in northwest Columbus.  Located in an old church building, they have childrens books, lots of used and remaindered books and an old book room upstairs (be sure you go upstairs).  A new find for us is Acorn Bookshop in Grandview Heights, just west of Ohio State.  The proprietors love talking with customers about books and I suspect a few more items from their store will eventually find their way to our home!

Some of the other miscellaneous sources of books over the years are our local Friends of the Library book sales–dangerous because you can acquire so much so cheaply, booktables at conferences–I have a “buy only one book” rule these days, and the used bookshops in other cities.  I’ve enjoyed some great ones in or near State Street in Madison, a now closed store off the beaten path between Ashland and Wooster, and a now closed store in my home town of Youngstown known as Twice-Loved Books.

Since my son gave me a Kindle a couple years back, I now get more of my books as e-books.  There are a number available for free and many titles are periodically discounted to under $3.  I’ve found the Englewood Review of Books one good source for information about thoughtful Christian works available at good discounts. Amazon is also my “go to” place (other than my local library) when there is a book I need for something I’m working on.

In a future post, I will talk about my increasing need to purge my shelves and how I’m thinking about that as I grow older.  For now, I’d love to hear from others about their favorite sources of books, and also their ideas of “downsizing” their collections.