11 Best Bookstores in Metro Phoenix

Gallery Books is for anyone looking for a classic or rare print.EXPAND
Gallery Books is for anyone looking for a classic or rare print.
Sara Weber

The joy of reading a good book comes from, among other things, the feeling of community. If it’s a classic, countless others will have read it before you, and if it’s new, many will read it after you. On and on the pattern goes until you and a bunch of complete strangers are bonded simply because of a book you’ve read. Bookstores facilitate this ongoing cycle and are thriving in spite of the digital age. Thankfully, Phoenix has some good ones.

We explored numerous independent bookstores across the Valley and, though each one may have a treasure hidden somewhere, we've narrowed the offerings down to 11 of our absolute favorites. Each shop specializes in its own specific stock list and general atmosphere. But mainly, each one makes us want to empty our wallets and retreat to a quiet cozy place to read. We think you’ll feel the same way. As you peruse each one, be sure to ask the owners and booksellers which their favorite item in the store is. They will surely have a good story for you.

Book Gallery
Book Gallery is an antique bookstore that specializes in rare copies of books from the biggest names in literature. The store, located in Arcadia, sells first editions and signed copies of all your high school English teacher's favorites, including extremely limited early copies of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, early works from Hemingway, and a beautifully crafted Dumas collection. And though there are some incredible obscurities (don't miss the $5,000 dollar book written by an Italian doctor studying the plague and a copy of the first Bible to ever be printed by a woman), this store is for the literature aficionado, the die-hard collector, and those who treat books like family. Most items are in pristine condition and are meant to be collected.

If you're looking to grow your own personal library, Half Price Books specializes in gently used, low cost copies of the classics.EXPAND
If you're looking to grow your own personal library, Half Price Books specializes in gently used, low cost copies of the classics.
Sara Weber

Half Price Books
The best part of Half Price Books is that it lives up to its name. At its Camelback location, the store carries tons of books sold at a percentage of what their competition charges. The store carries collectibles, classics, cheesy romance novels, and everything in between. There’s also a decent selection of records and comics, if that’s what you’re into. And, as if you needed another reason to support a local bookstore, its website says it has donated more than 750,000 books to various children’s groups this year.

Zia on Camelback is has new and used books for every taste and budget.EXPAND
Zia on Camelback is has new and used books for every taste and budget.
Sara Weber

Zia Records Exchange on Camelback
Zia Records Exchange's biggest store is located on Camelback and 19th Avenue and sells a variety of books, records, and curios that would elicit a giggle or smile from anyone. This particular location has a much larger selection of books than its sister stores, and offers them at great prices. Make sure to head toward the one-dollar baskets in the back. The store carries an array of science fiction books and, somewhat surprisingly, has a decent selection of gardening books as well. Buyers can find new releases, as well as the classics in new and used conditions. They also have an impressive selection of collectible and popular graphic novels that range in price from $1 to $50. Be sure to seek staff help if you’re in a hurry. They are friendly and informative — and often necessary to navigate the massive space.  

The inside of Lawn Gnome Publishing is warm and cozy, like your own personal library.EXPAND
The inside of Lawn Gnome Publishing is warm and cozy, like your own personal library.
Sara Weber

Lawn Gnome Publishing
The epitome of hip and independent, Lawn Gnome in the Roosevelt Row District is the perfect hideaway in downtown Phoenix. There’s usually only one employee and aside from the initial greeting, they leave you to browse in peace. Miles Davis or electronica plays softly through the speakers and creates the perfect ambience for book browsing. Inside the store, you can find some classics, but the real treasure are the silly forgotten publications, like an Ellen Degeneres’ coffee table book. The store's biggest mission, however, is its dedication to promoting local, first-time authors. Shoppers can purchase local art, pick up homemade zines and show their support by attending frequent exhibits and readings on Lawn Gnome's patio. Though it only takes a couple minutes to see every product in the store, there’s a life in Lawn Gnome that can only come from a bookstore surrounded by a strong arts culture and community. 

A signed copy of The Call of the Wild, which Alquin books proudly displays in its antique collection.EXPAND
A signed copy of The Call of the Wild, which Alquin books proudly displays in its antique collection.
Sara Weber

Alcuin Books
Alcuin Books in Scottsdale is a veritable gold mine of rare Arizona texts and other invaluable pieces of literature. For example, local history buffs can purchase the original copies of the Arizona Historical Review Volumes I and II, which includes articles and accounts by some of the state's most famous historians. Along those lines, visitors can also find old copper maps and business listings. Over the years, the store has acquired many libraries full of classics and antique books. Some of the most impressive selections include signed, first-edition copies of books by Jack London and James Joyce. Some of Alcuin’s books were created before the printing press was invented, but you’ll have to ask to see those. At Alcuin, you’ll come for the books, but you’ll stay for the conversation. Owner Richard Murian expresses such a deep passion for all things Arizona, that it’s hard to leave for fear you’ll miss a good story or well-placed Bob Dylan quote. 

Though small, Ash Avenue Comics fits a huge selection of graphic novels for all tastes.EXPAND
Though small, Ash Avenue Comics fits a huge selection of graphic novels for all tastes.
Sara Weber

Ash Ave Comics and Books
Ash Avenue Comics and Books has provided shoppers with some of the best comics in the Valley for more than a decade now, and it shows no sign of slowing down. Owner Drew Sullivan keeps a well-curated selection of bound versions of comics and graphic novels. From the moment you enter the small store, you’re confronted with both modern and classic comics, all at prices that will cause sporadic spending you won’t later regret. Comics and graphic novels aside, Ash Ave also has an impressive collection of local zines that are worth checking out. Though the store's footprint is small, you won't have to look far to pick up an interesting new science fiction title that you won't find elsewhere.   

With its busy events calendar, Changing Hands serves as a community gathering spot as well as a bookstore.EXPAND
With its busy events calendar, Changing Hands serves as a community gathering spot as well as a bookstore.
Sara Weber

Changing Hands
It is truly impossible to leave Changing Hands empty-handed. Owners Gayle Shanks and Cindy Dach, a mainstay in the Phoenix art scene, continue to maintain what is perhaps the most popular bookstore in the area. With locations in Tempe and Phoenix, you shouldn't have to travel far to visit one. The Tempe bookstore carries used stock and will buy books if you're looking to change up your personal library. Though the Phoenix location does not buy used books, its large selection is worth a visit. The prices are little higher than some other bookstores, but are not unreasonably so, as the quality of the used books is what makes this store so impressive. As well as being a local hot spot for avid readers, Changing Hands hosts multiple events throughout the year. From former presidents and professional wrestlers to authors willing to share their advice, both stores draw big crowds. You should plan on staying for a while when you visit Changing Hands, particularly if you go to the Phoenix branch. First Draft, the conveniently located bar inside the store, is enough to keep you there for at least an hour.

Though admittedly kitschy, The Poisoned Pen in Old Town has an impressive of crime-based literature.EXPAND
Though admittedly kitschy, The Poisoned Pen in Old Town has an impressive of crime-based literature.
Sara Weber

Poisoned Pen
For fans of crime and pulp fiction, the Poisoned Pen in Old Town is a treasure trove of reasonably priced thriller literature. From the sconces outside the brick-and-mortar building to the chalk outlines on the ground, this store maintains its sleuth-y vibe in spite of the tourist crowd that flocks to fill the small space. The walls are also lined with signed photographs of authors who have visited, including Gillian Flynn, Diana Gabaldon, and many others. The Poisoned Pen also hosts many events, around 300 each year, where avid crime readers can come together under one roof and discuss their favorites, sometimes with their favorite authors.

Guidon Books in Old Town specializes in Civil War and Americana books.EXPAND
Guidon Books in Old Town specializes in Civil War and Americana books.
Sara Weber

Guidon Books
With its door flanked by two terrifying mannequins dressed like soldiers from both sides of the Civil War, this small bookstore makes a quick impression. Though it seems like too narrow of a niche, Guidon Books in Old Town Scottsdale cashes in on the historical charm of its city by selling a very specific set of books, mainly those about Western history and the Civil War. Guidon opened in 1964 and has since expanded its collection to include rare and out-of-print books that include highly sought after presidential collections. Selections include old collectables about guns, like "Axis Pistols" by Jan Still and John O' Connor's "Complete Book of Shooting." Guidon also keeps a large stock of classic western novels by the likes of Zane Grey and Louis L'Amour. The inside is small, but stacks its books up to the ceiling and covers its walls with Americana paraphernalia. Confederate flags, old maps, and mounted steer skulls adorn the walls and add to the old-timey feel. Books are both new and used, and give shoppers an opportunity to look back in time.

Bookmans has the one of the biggest book selections in the Valley with shelves that reach the ceiling and wrap around corners.EXPAND
Bookmans has the one of the biggest book selections in the Valley with shelves that reach the ceiling and wrap around corners.
Sara Weber

Bookmans
Regardless of what time you visit Bookmans on 19th Avenue and Northern, or any of the locations for that matter, there’s always a steady flow of shoppers. If you turn a corner in its maze of shelves too quickly, you will likely run into or trip over someone whose nose is buried deep inside a novel. In terms of genre varieties and types of books, this store trumps many. Aside from the general sections you’d find at a typical bookstore, Bookman’s has massive collections of generally underrepresented books, like career planning, language, and banned literature. There is also a certain level of comfort you can find in Bookman’s that comes from the strategically placed displays and notes, which give gentle reminders to read and ask for help. 

All About Books and Comics keeps an impeccable store in spite of their huge inventory.EXPAND
All About Books and Comics keeps an impeccable store in spite of their huge inventory.
Sara Weber

All About Books and Comics
All About Books and Comics is home to the largest selection of comics, one it has been growing since Marsha and Alan Giroux opened the store more than 30 years ago. At their newly relocated Camelback store, the selection includes classics and lesser known series ranging from the Marvel and DC staples (including the "non-tie-ins") to this year's Stringers. It also carries a diverse range of contemporary comics, like East of West and The Covenant. The staff keep the hefty inventory organized and neat, which make it easy to find what you’re looking for but difficult to stay focused. There are also weekly deals and specials that reinforce the store’s status as one of the Valley’s best. 

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Related Locations

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Zia Record Exchange

1850 W. Camelback Rd.
Phoenix, AZ 85015

602-241-0313

www.ziarecords.com

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Alcuin Books

4242 N. Scottsdale Rd.
Scottsdale, AZ 85251

480-946-1969

www.alcuinbooks.com

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Lawn Gnome

905 N. 5th St.
Phoenix, AZ 85004

www.lawngnomepublishing.com

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Changing Hands Bookstore

6428 S. McClintock Dr.
Tempe, AZ 85283

480-730-0205

www.changinghands.com

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Changing Hands Bookstore

300 W. Camelback Rd.
Phoenix, AZ 85013

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Bookmans Entertainment Exchange

8034 N. 19th Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85021

602-433-0255

www.bookmans.com

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Poisoned Pen

4014 N. Goldwater Blvd.
Scottsdale, AZ 85251

480-947-2974

www.poisonedpen.com

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Guidon Books

7109 E. 2nd St.
Scottsdale, AZ 85251

480-945-8811

www.guidon.com

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Half Price Books

2102 E. Camelback Rd.
Phoenix, AZ 85016

602-954-4653

www.halfpricebooks.com

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Ash Avenue Comics & Books

806 S. Ash Ave.
Tempe, AZ 85281

480-858-9447

www.ashavecomics.com

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Book Gallery

3643 E. Indian School Rd.
Phoenix, AZ 85018

602-508-0280

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All About Books and Comics

24 W. Camelback Rd.
Phoenix, AZ 85012

602-277-0757

www.allaboutcomics.com


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