This past weekend, my husband and I celebrated five years of marriage (five!) by taking a little weekend trip to Austin, Texas. Despite having lived in Texas for (almost) three years, it was our first time visiting the capital city. We had a great time visiting the Capitol Building, walking around downtown to check out the shops and restaurants, watching hundreds and hundreds of bats fly out from under Congress Bridge to go searching for food, and swimming at Hippie Hollow Park. And while the entire trip was awesome, by far one of my favorite things we did the whole time we were there was visit an independently owned bookstore called Book People, located on Lamar Boulevard near downtown Austin.
Because I’m a bookworm and a giant nerd, before traveling to Austin, I spent some time looking up the best bookstores in Austin. Hey, if you’re going to be in a different city, you might as well take advantage of the shopping, right? And in my case what I love shopping for most…is books. My research seemed to bounce back one general consensus: that Book People was far and away the best bookstore in Austin.
So, obviously I had to check this place out.
A lot of times when you think of independent bookstores, you picture smaller places, maybe tucked away in a little row of shops, like South Congress Books on Congress Street.
Not Book People.
Book People surprised the hell out of me by being TWO STORIES of bookish amazingness. When we first rounded the corner and I laid eyes upon the two story building housing Book People, I was like a stunned kid in a candy store before I even stepped inside.
The first thing I noticed about Book People, of course, was that it’s huge. The second thing I noticed is that as soon as you walk in the door, they have a counter directly to the right with a friendly employee waiting to greet you and help point you in the direction of anything specific you might be looking for. This is not a bookstore that wants to doom you to wander until you find something if that’s not what you’re into (sometimes wandering is good, but when you’re on the hunt for something specific, it’s not exactly ideal).
Walking around Book People was less like going book shopping, and more of an experience. Around every corner, you’ll find not just rows and rows of books, but also shelves of all types of bookish products—bookmarks, socks, mugs, totes, magnets, stickers—but also other types of gifts and goodies that seem to correspond with the sections where they’re housed. For example, in the section housing books about Texas history and culture, there was a collection of Texas-themed mugs, buttons, and other memorabilia that really brought the section to life. Another area celebrated the road tripping nature of summer with a whole table full of travel related objects, like cute luggage tags, tins and storage containers, camp-themed stationery for writing home, and even dry bags for all your outdoor festivities. It was as though Book People, despite having a huge selection of books, had evolved into more than just a bookstore.
That being said, let me be clear, this is Book People, so they don’t skimp on the books—and with two stories, they’ve certainly got plenty for rows upon rows of them. Some independent bookstores have smaller selections, but the selection at Book People was huge—even bigger than some Barnes & Noble locations. It was also really well organized, with a huge fiction section, but then separate sections for mystery and sci-fi/fantasy, breaking it down even further, as well as an extensive (and I mean extensive) YA section on the second floor, where I was squealing with excitement over locating a copy of Burning by Danielle Rollins, when I had only been able to find the books she had published under the name Danielle Vega in other bookstores I’ve checked. They also have well organized non-fiction, children’s books, magazines, and even a few sections specifically for local authors, which is really great to see.
In addition to the selection, many shelves featured Book People employee picks, which were designated with these cute cards describing why they liked these particular titles—like getting a personalized recommendation without all that scary face-to-face-human-interaction stuff.
Of course, because I’m me, I also raided their rather large stationery section, where they offer not just journals, but also pens, sketchbooks, page flags, gift wrap, cards, magnets, and other small knick-knacks like little office supplies and headphones.
I grabbed this pair of chevron headphones while I was there so that I could listen to videos on my phone in our hotel room without keeping my husband awake, and they turned out to be really cute and comfortable.
Also in the stationery section, I picked up these two notebooks by a company called APICA from Japan. If you’re not a writer/stationery lover/giant nerd like me, this may sound weird, but they literally have the nicest paper. It’s so soft and smooth, the kind of paper that pens just flow across with ease. They were extremely affordable, as well, with the large one being only $6, and the little one coming in at just $2.50. Seriously, you can’t beat that.
I ended up getting four books, two journals, headphones, a cute bookmark, and the most adorable pair of bookworm socks—so, not a bad trip to the bookstore at all!
When I was done piling things into my arms, I was rung out my a super friendly cashier who gushed over the bookworm socks I was buying, and had been really sweet to the little boy in front of us with his mom, giving him a free bookmark and explaining to him what bumper stickers were for.
One final perk of Book People before I’m done expounding on all its wonderful qualities: it’s got its own huge parking lot out front where you can park for free, which is a bit rare to come by in the heart of the city, especially the downtown Austin area. I think I paid to park every single place I went on this trip, and Book People was the only place where it wasn’t required. This is a big deal for book shoppers—it saves us the cash so we can afford more books, of course!
Overall, I was thrilled with this store and I could very easily see why reviewers have made it the number one bookstore in Austin. It’s really heartening to see an independent bookstore do as well Book People is doing. If you’re ever in the area of Austin, TX, I highly, highly recommend stopping in! I know the next time I’m up that way, I’ll be heading over there, PARKING FOR FREE, and browsing until I can’t see straight anymore. And I’ll love every second of it.
Has anyone else ever visited Book People, or been to Austin, Texas? Do y’all seek out bookstores to visit on your vacations, or am I the only one on that level of nerd? Let me know in the comments! You know I’d love to talk. <3