The novelty blog BoingBoing recently featured the westernmost bookstore in the US: Talk City Bookstore in Hanapepe, on the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i.
It got me to wondering where the other US bookstore extremities are. If you have ever wondered the same thing (or even if not), here is what I found.
The two non-contiguous states dominate this question: Alaska is the farthest north of US territories, and Hawaii is both farthest west and farthest south.
Honors go to the Northern Tide Bookstore in Lubec, Maine at -66.98 longitude. If you follow that longitude line straight south, by the time you get to the vicinity of Georgia you will find that Savannah is 827 miles to your west.
I can’t be sure, but the farthest-north bookstore I have been able to locate is Gulliver’s Books in Fairbanks, Alaska. This is at a latitude of 64.84° N, or about 46.5 miles below the Arctic Circle. (At the present time. Did you know the Circle isn’t fixed? I didn’t. It is migrating north at about 49 ft. per year now.)
There is a Barnes & Noble in Fairbanks, which is a university town, and it looks to be a bare 300 feet north of the latitude of Gulliver’s. But in this blog I assert the right to express a bias in favor of independent bookstores.
In the lower 48 contiguous states, the northernmost distinction goes to Northern Lights Book Store in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, at 47.74 N latitude (only about 300 miles north and west of here, so a visit may be in order). The store doesn’t seem to have a website of its own, but here is the listing on the Visit Thief River Falls site, which fosters confusion about the actual address and notes an inventory of “gently used books, clothing, and household items.” The establishment seems to be in the process of stretching in the direction of being a general store that has some books for sale.
Further research might be needed to locate the northernmost lower-48, traditional, pure bookstore. You may have noticed that many bookstores of late have felt the need to expand into other realms in order to keep the lights on — especially in other regions of the country. For example here are a book bar in Denver, a books / coffee / beer establishment in Biddeford, ME, and a bookstore and water-view restaurant in Wellfleet, MA.
Here in the Twin Cities we are blessed with a wild profusion of pure bookstores: Magers & Quinn, Midway Used & Rare Books, Common Good Books, Boneshaker Books, Birchbark Books, Once Upon a Crime, Uncle Hugo / Edgar, Sixth Chamber Books, and many others. What’s more, new bookstores have been known to open for business here within the last few years, even as Amazon and Kindle exert ever more pressure on struggling shops everywhere.
We head back to Hawaii for the southern extreme. Our winner is Kona Stories Book Store in Kailua-Kona, on the big island, Hawaii. It sits at 19.57 N latitude and only about 280 miles southeast of the westernmost store.
For the continental US, the southernmost bookstore is the Key West branch of the Miami-based chain Books & Books. It can be found at 24.57 N latitude.
Great read, Keith! If you’re interested in doing a global approach, one of the most southern bookstores can be found in Cape Town, South Africa. Clarke’s Bookshop has been around since 1956 and is located on the popular Long Street. I dropped by a couple times to and from my museum internship this summer and found it to be a quaint and cozy place, perfect for curling up with a good book! Here’s the link, for those interested: http://www.clarkesbooks.co.za
Hey D.J., thanks! I’m going to have to do a bit of exploring on the question of who’s farthest south, globally speaking. Seems to me that most or all of AU and NZ would have ZA beat; also Tierra del Fuego, if there are any readers there besides the penguins.
Northernmost bookstore is an interesting question too. Svalgaard? Somewhere on Siberia’s arctic coast?
Good data and research. Minor typo “regoins” which came up when I was having the screen read to me on my iPhone. Handy feature that. I can have any library ebook read to me like an audio book. Be well.
Thanks! Fixed. And good catch. I should have my iPhone read me each piece before putting it live. But then you would all miss the fun of catching the typos…
D.J., found the northernmost bookstore in the world — according to Wikipedia (an impeccable source!), it’s Nordkyn Bok & papir AS, in Kjøllefjord, Norway. 19.95° south of the Pole. (Here’s the English translation.)
Wikipedia has a list of southernmost things too, but no bookstore is listed.
Hey, the books/coffee/beer[/wine] establishment in Biddeford, Maine you alluded to is called Elements, with a very cute periodic table metaphor going, and is a frequent haunt of ours, especially after an evening at the theater. Thanks for calling it out!
Hey Valerie! Yes, I figured Elements was probably a favorite of yours. We were there for a good couple of hours on the visit before last. Wonderful place, and I too love the element-themed identity design.