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  • Writer's pictureCheré Dastugue Coen

Take 5: Get Your Read On in Mississippi

There are so many wonderful independent bookstores in the South but the award goes to Mississippi, the state known for some of the finest American literary figures — William Faulkner, Richard Wright, Eudora Welty, Anne Moody, Greg Iles, Angie Thomas and Jesmyn Ward, to name only a few. In that vein, Mississippi is also home to many awesome indie bookstores, from Pass Christian Books on the Coast to Square Books near the campus of Ole Miss.

Square Books, Oxford

Square Books of Oxford (that's Mississippi, y'all) began in 1979 by Lisa and Richard Howorth, the latter a former president of the American Booksellers Association. Today, the three-in-one bookstore is a city landmark, offering book signings by local and nationally known authors, programs, Camp Square Books for adults and the Thacker Mountain Radio broadcast. The 3,500-square-foot Square Books, Jr. is devoted to children’s selections; Off Square Books features lifestyle topics such as cooking and gardening; and the main store (shown above) celebrates regional history and literature. If that's not enough to make you want to visit the home of Ole Miss, Square Books won Publisher Weekly’s Bookstore of the Year Award. Other area bookstores to visit include the non-profit Violet Valley Bookstore in nearby Water Valley, the state's only Queer Feminist Transinclusive Bookstore.

Square Books, Oxford

In Jackson, there’s the oversized Lemuria Books, offering not only a fabulous selection but a blog, first editions club and great book events. Some of the best names travel through Lemuria, but so do the little guys just starting off selling great titles as well. The staff is helpful, their email newsletters well done and professional, and did we mention the great selection? And there’s an awesome coffee shop and bistro downstairs so you can enjoy your purchase with a cup of Joe. Also in Jackson lies the country's oldest black-owned bookstore, according to owner Maarti Jone Primm. Marshall's Music and Bookstore, located on Farrish Street, was founded 80-plus years ago as a Christian bookstore by Primm's grandmother,

Ora Page Marshall. The store has been expanded under Primm's ownership and sells a wide selection of books on Black history and culture.

Lorelie Books in the heart of downtown Vicksburg has been locally owned and heavily supporting local authors since 2006. We've known many authors who rave about the bookstore's attention to their books. Lorelie also sells other items, so visitors may find the perfect gift here as well. On normal years (will they ever return?), the bookstore, like many others throughout the state, hosts author signings and books events.

Turnrow Books, Greenwood

Visitors flock to Greenwood, Mississippi, for its fabulous AAA Four Diamond Alluvian Hotel, its name referring to a comment Tennessee Williams once uttered, calling those living on the rich Delta soil as “Alluvians.” "The Help" was filmed here, a movie based upon the best-selling book, and the town has spawned numerous celebrities — musician Bobbie Gentry and Willye Brown White, the first American track and field athlete to take part in five Olympics. Enjoy the Alluvian's elegant rooms — some with writing tables — and sample a craft cocktail in the lobby bar, but don't miss Turnrow Books next door. The shop offers a comprehensive collection of Southern books and artwork and serves lunch weekdays in the café upstairs. The independent bookstore frequently hosts author lectures and signings so it’s not unusual to find an event on the week of your visit.

Other Delta bookstores to visit:

Cotton Row Book Store in Cleveland (again, that's Mississippi!) sells a nice variety of books plus gift items. Stay at the Cotton House boutique hotel and sample Cleveland's finest at the Delta Meat Market.

A great place for breakfast, lunch or a coffee break is Cat Island Coffeehouse, situated overlooking the Gulf of Mexico in Pass Christian. The tiny but oh so sweet coffeehouse of Coastal Mississippi, with its unique architecture that allows for cozy places to sit and savor, includes Pass Christian Books. So, while you're enjoying those craft coffees and locally produced — and delicious — Cat Island cookies and cheese crackers, pick up a book penned by a Mississippi author. Other bookstores to visit on the Mississippi Coast include Wonders of the World Book and Toy Store in Biloxi, Bay Books in Bay St. Louis and Southern Bound Book Shop in D'Iverville.

Other Mississippi bookstores to visit:

Milestone Christian Bookstore in Pearl

Do you have a bookstore to recommend? Write us and let us know.

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