Since I was young, libraries and bookstores have occupied a special place in my heart. Story time at the local library was my favorite weekly activity; books were some of my closest friends. When Borders was overtaken by Barnes and Noble back in the day, it was cause for much tears and consternation (to be fair I’ve made my peace with Barnes and Noble).
There are so many things I love about visiting a bookstore – the beautiful cover art, the thick weight of a new book in your hand, the calming scent of ink on paper, the soft craaaack as you open a new cover. The endless possibilities.
During a recent vacation to Florida, I made it my mission to visit a few different bookstores so that I could share my experiences. My brother, who lives in Orlando, asked his friends for nearby suggestions and I did a bit of my own research before the trip. From a list of seven potential bookstores, we ended up visiting three – one in Tampa and two in the greater Orlando area.
If finding the best local bookstores ranks high on your list of fun vacation activities, read on for one bookish tourist’s take on Florida bookstores.
1. Inkwood Books – Tampa, FL
Inkwood Books is a beautiful independent bookstore housed in a cute teal building in the middle of downtown Tampa. Of all the Florida bookstores I read about online, Inkwood Books was one I knew I had to visit.
There were so many things I wanted to take home with me, not the least of all a few books I was dying to add to my collection. Inkwood Books’ selection of books was large, though not enormous, and well-curated. The store was highly organized and visually appealing, with a separate room for children’s books and multiple floor-to-ceiling bookshelves designated for staff recommendations. I spent far too long wandering through the two main rooms of adult literature, touching and previewing all the books.
I enjoyed skimming through the graphic novel section, though I still haven’t read any yet, and my husband liked looking at some of the new age and philosophy texts. He also loved finding Matt Taibbi’s Insane Clown President, particularly in Florida where the Insane Clown President’s supporters are in high numbers.
Aside from books, there are a variety of wonderful bookish products on display throughout the bookstore. There is even a section of clearance merchandise on a small table towards the front of the store.
I was just as excited about the cute bookish things I found as I was about the actual books that were available at Inkwood Books. There were so many things I wanted to take home with me, ranging from art prints and notebooks to lithographs. I was particularly tempted by a cute Vintage Dictionary Art print of a cat sitting on a stack of books that was printed on an authentic antique dictionary page, pictured to the right.
My mom’s favorite part of the bookstore was the library card catalog being used as a display for cute bookish goods.
I only allowed myself to buy one item from Inkwood Books because we visited at the start of our Florida trip and I didn’t want to waste my entire souvenir budget at the first stop. Because I really loved their large staff recommendation section, I chose a book from among those shelves to take home. The book I bought, The Girls by Emma Cline, was recommended by a staff member named Donovan who also happened to be working that day. He told me that it was his favorite read of 2017, and it was only slightly awkward to tell him I chose to buy the book based primarily on the fact that a picture of his face was sticking out of the front cover.
2. The Book Rack – Ocoee, FL
The Book Rack in Ocoee, Florida is a used bookstore where one can find anything from The Day the Crayons Quit (a picture book which I bought to read to the kids at work) to the fantasy novel Monster (which I also bought, for plane reading) to erotica (which my husband “accidentally” picked up). Although I wasn’t aware until I began doing research for this post, the location I visited is one of over 80 stores in Canada and the United States.
The store was overflowing with books, from the cart of hardcovers out front on the sidewalk to the cramped children’s section in the last row. For the most part the sections were well-sorted and organized, except for the scifi/fantasy section which the owner said was far too busy and thus difficult to keep in order. The owner was incredibly sweet and showed me around the store, pointing out the different genres.
I didn’t take any pictures of The Book Rack because it wasn’t the most visually inspiring store I’ve ever seen but it was a fully-packed, quality used bookstore that I could see myself visiting time and time again if I were a local.
As I mentioned above, I purchased two books during my visit to The Book Rack: The Day the Crayons Quit and Monster by A. Lee Martinez. The kids at work loved The Day the Crayons Quit, and I quite enjoyed Monster, my review of which you can read here.
3. Barrel of Books and Games – Mt. Dora, FL
Barrel of Books and Games, located in Mount Dora, Florida is a local bookstore that also offers puzzles, board and card games, and even a wall full of Funko POPs!. I didn’t find Barrel of Books and Games through my online bookstore research but instead visited on recommendation from my grandma who lives in Mt. Dora.
The store is well-organized and the shelves are fuller than those at Inkwood Books; I get the impression it’s more important to fit all the stock onto the shelves than to display popular books and recommendations. That’s not to say that there aren’t any book displays. There was a large display of children’s books in the front window when we visited which included a cute little picture book called My Grandma Lives in Florida.
The different sections of the bookstore were marked by words fashioned out of Scrabble letters, a detail I found cute and charming. Some of the Scrabble letters, like the I in the “HISTORY” sign, have gone missing and been replaced with letters made out of other materials.
I didn’t buy anything at Barrel of Books and Games, but my mom did. She got my brother a book and bought a copy of The Bob’s Burgers Burger Book for my husband and I. I can’t wait to try out some of the creative recipes!
BONUS: Fictional bookstores located in Universal Orlando
While you sadly can’t go inside any of these bookstore storefronts located around Universal Orlando in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, they do make for some good photo opportunities.
Have you ever scoured your vacation destination for bookstores and other literary locations? What was the coolest place you’ve found? I’d love to know!
Thank you for reading my post about Florida bookstores, and for visiting Erynn Loves Books. Did I miss out on any fantastic Florida bookstores during my vacation? If you have a favorite Florida bookstore that I missed, make sure to share it in the comments so that I can add it to my list for the next trip.