Now, it is the season. Not the season for candy and costumes. That was October. Not the season of good cheer. That is December, yet to come. For now, we drift through November, that in-between time when I cannot tell whether it is autumn or winter, and Thanksgiving lies either weeks away or yesterday.
In the meantime, what are we to do? Are we meant to simply shiver over our hot-cocoa, full of guilt, because we meant to save our cocoa mix until at least December 1st? I say no, there is a better way to live, especially in Asheville. Trapped indoors, we can read, and that is good. To that end, here I’ve compiled a list of five of the best bookstores in Asheville, for your edification and entertainment.
As a member of a national chain, Barnes & Noble may not be the most Ashevillean of bookstores in Asheville but I can’t deny the advantages of its location, and broad selection of products. From bestsellers to vinyls to boardgames, everyone already knows Barnes & Noble has them covered. But this particular Barnes & Noble happens to lie in south Asheville’s Biltmore Park, within walking distance of ice cream, barbecue, and a Regal Cinema.
Countless are the hours I’ve spent here, perusing the shelves. Exactly one time I was thrown out due to an ill-remembered misunderstanding. Fond memories indeed.
What to Read: If you have an interest in juvenile fantasy or are a parent to an avid reader, I suggest starting out on the Edge Chronicles by Paul Stewart. The series is long, illustrated, and peppered with a signature British strangeness.
Located on downtown’s North Lexington, near the oft-mentioned Dobra, and reliable parking, Downtown Books and News specializes in used and rare books. Ashevilleans of all kinds are known to come here in search of such mystical texts as Kombucha: The Taste of Truth, and How to Tell if Your Dog is a Psychic, lending this place a thoroughly local feel.
Their classics section boasts some delightfully hefty hardbacks; they make for great gifts and collectibles. If you’re feeling adventurous, Downtown Books and News also offers “blind date” books. Just like actual blind dates, one finds these books wearing paper bags over their faces, on which are scrawled intriguing synopses
If you seek a pleasant surprise, Downtown Books and News may be the choice for you out of all the bookstores in Asheville.
What to Read: This bookstore’s knowledgeable proprietors offer curated “grab bags,” starting at $20, based on your personal preferences. I would jump at an opportunity to send someone off in search of books on “the History of Vegan Skiing.” Its subject I’ve long sought to educated myself on, to no avail.
I find that in many self-described literary circles comic books are somewhat overlooked. For shame, I say. There are some absolute gems out there and many can be found at Asheville Comics.
Despite an unassuming exterior and a location far outside the main tourist-lanes, this comic store boasts a comprehensive selection of comics and comic-merchandise. Whether you’re new to comics, or seek to embrace some childhood nostalgia, Asheville Comics is an excellent stop on your tour of bookstores in Asheville.
What to Read: I suggest Alan Moore’s Watchmen, if they’ve got it in stock. Fantastic coloration, complex themes, and unforgettable characters.
This excellently decorated used bookstore lies in the Grove Arcade, one of downtown’s densest collections of top-notch retail and dining. If that hasn’t yet caught your eye, Battery Park isn’t just a bookstore, but a champagne bar. Talk about class.
By the nature of the used-book business, Battery Park’s selections are constantly changing. And yet they endeavor to keep a good stock on local history, a fact appreciated by both the curious tourist and the avid researcher.
To solidify their most unmistakable character, Battery Park will trade wine for certain used books. I expect you’ll find this offer unique among bookstores in Asheville, and for that matter, the country.
What to Read: It is near impossible to predict the particulars of Battery Park’s current offerings. In any case, the pleasure here lies in exploration and surprise-finds.
Long considered to be the heart of Asheville’s book-business, this final bookstore lies in walking distance of crepes, truffles, and every other manner of downtown delight. Their staff-picks section offers an excellent way to tap into Ashevillean culture, as do their many, many book clubs.
Malaprop’s is a callback to the small, local bookstores of times long-past, most of which have been strangled by online dealers. It brings me pride to say Asheville has kept our own alive.
What to Read: Like Downtown Books and News, Malaprop’s sells “blind date” books, but instead of bearing intriguing synopses, they bear evocative adjectives—which as we all know, is even more intriguing. I would spring for any such book which wears the word “effervescent,” and/or “serendipitous.”
Barnes & Noble (Biltmore Park)
33 Town Square Blvd #100, Asheville, NC 28803
Downtown Books & News
67 N Lexington Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
2270 Hendersonville Rd #4, Arden, NC 28704
Battery Park Book Exchange
1 Page Ave #101, Asheville, NC 28801
55 Haywood St, Asheville, NC 28801