Monday, December 9, 2013

Wordcraft -- Indie bookstores beyond metro city limits

Discovering the number of independent booksellers in Dallas with shops I could actually walk into, inspired me to expand the search to outlying cities. The choices in smaller cities within comfortable drives from Dallas were fewer, but always interesting.

(Given road conditions during the past week’s ice storms, I limited my search to areas other than Fort Worth and its neighboring cities. I’ll get to Fort Worth, which looks like promising territory for books, when the weather forecast looks less dire.)

Archer City -- I admit, this city about two and a half hours driving time from Dallas doesn’t fit into either the Dallas or Fort Worth orbit. Consider it a trip into Texas literary history to visit the home town of Pulitzer Prize winning Texas writer Larry McMurtry and Booked Up, Inc., the bookstore he opened on the courthouse square of this tiny town (population slightly under 2,000). The one-building store is considerably smaller than before McMurtry liquidated his three other warehouses of inventory in August 2012. But small is relative. Booked Up’s remaining Building No. 1 still holds 150,000 to 200,000 of McMurtry’s finest collectible volumes. At 216 South Center (although you couldn’t miss it if you tried), it’s open six days a week, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., closed Sundays. For searching and browsing information, see

Denton -- Recycled Books, 200 N. Locust, is also on its county’s (former) courthouse square. (Courthouse squares, often home to late nineteenth century buildings that, like Archer City’s and Dallas’s Old Red Courthouse, seem to vye for the title of most bizarrely-gothic public buildings in Texas.) Recycled Books itself resides in the 1901 Opera House. Although the stock is less elegant than McMurtry’s, the selection is vast, and more likely to be within the budget of noncollectors. I almost got lost wandering through the maze of shelves in the basement’s history section.

And that doesn’t include the main floor’s array of general fiction and nonfiction, children’s fiction, and owner Don Foster’s incredible record collection. The inventory is not computer-searchable, but volumes are arranged by subject, and usually alphabetically by author. Open seven days a week, 9 a.m. - 9 p.m. For additional information, see

McKinney -- The Book Gallery, 207 N. Tennessee, a block off its county’s courthouse square, is smaller than either of the two previous gargantuan bookstores, but still far from tiny. It specializes in collectible, signed first editions by major modern American authors. But there’s room for works of classic non-U.S. authors and the popular but less famous, such as the late Tony Hillerman, and collections of Texana, military history, science fiction, religious and children’s books. It’s housed in a 1906 building, originally a bank, according to co-owner Jim Parker, with original tin ceiling. Open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., it sells online as well as through the store. Contact by phone, 972-562-0533 or email,

Roanoke -- The Book Carriage and Coffee Shop, 304 N. Oak, is the newest of these stores, at five years, according to owner Angie Granados. Located in Roanoke’s historic downtown, it specializes in current books, including children’s, Texana, and works of local interest. An open mezzanine includes display space for artists from the area and Roanoke schools, and music. And along with its resident Wonderland Coffee Shop, The Book Carriage combines bookselling with community events, including signings by local and regional authors. It’s open Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. - 6 p.m., Saturdays 9 -9, closed Sundays. For a calendar of events and contact information, see

(Next Monday -- I follow up on what promises to be an interesting session at the upcoming Mystery Writers of America class in Dallas.)

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