The Ten Best Independent Bookstores in Denver

Mutiny Information Cafe
Mutiny Information Cafe GoFundMe
Oh, BookBar, how we miss you. The literary landscape (not to mention Tennyson Street) mourns its absence, but thankfully, Mile High readers still have a host of options from which they can fill their shelves and their time with books upon books.

Despite the digital revolution that's gutted newspapers, transitioned magazines and even begun to replace radio and cable television, books have survived, thanks in part to establishments dedicated to keeping the printed page alive. Especially in Denver.

There are a plethora of independent bookstores here, even when a stalwart like BookBar shutters. And it's not just limited to the local literary juggernaut that is Tattered Cover, either. So with a tip of the hat to the success of the late Joyce Meskis, here’s a top-ten list of independent bookstores in Denver that deserve to survive and thrive.
Black & Read
7821 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada

If you've got a nerd-tastic pursuit, a collector spirit, or just a yearning to smell the pages of some old paperback goodness, Black & Read is heaven on earth. Or in Arvada, anyway. Games? Got ’em. Vinyl? Very much so. CDs and cassettes? Check and check. And books, books, books? You bet your sweet bippy, buster. They carry titles of all sorts at Black & Read, but if you're looking for that fantasy paperback that you carried from class to class back in ninth grade, there's no better place to check than Black & Read. The kind folks behind the counter will probably agree with you as to how awesome that book was, because they are your people.

The Bookies Bookstore
4315 East Mississippi Avenue
Before Nicole Sullivan closed BookBar, she bought The Bookies. She did so in order to help ensure its future after owner Sue Lubeck passed, and it's not difficult to imagine that knowing The Bookies would carry on made the decision to close BookBar a bit easier. The Bookies has historically had a strong focus on educational materials, but it's now expanding its offerings and has already begun to pick up the literary-readings slack created when BookBar went bye-bye. The Bookies has a strong legacy, and chances are good that it's just now getting started in its new chapter.

Broadway Book Mall
316 South Broadway
Longtime local readers might remember the longstanding Denver Book Mall, which closed at the end of the summer in 2009. But the owners could not be kept from the book game, and they've continued to provide Denver readers with stacks upon stacks of used and new books, some even autographed. It's the quintessential used book store — and it even offers dog treats for your canine companions who support your reading habits.
click to enlarge a used bookstore
No no...thank you.
Capitol Hill Books
Capitol Hill Books
300 East Colfax Avenue
For more than forty years, Capitol Hill Books has served its eponymous part of the city, smack on the corner of Colfax and Grant. And much like Colfax, Capitol Hill Books has seen its share of drama, from demonstrations in the streets to a vehicle plowing through its front door to being turned down for a loan in the first round of the Paycheck Protection Program during the COVID-19 stay-at-home order. But with the help of both supporters and customers, Cap Hill Books survived, and owner Holly Brooks is looking forward to another forty years — and so are its many fans.

Hermitage Bookstore
290 Fillmore Street
As one might expect from a bookstore that's done well in the tony (and pricey) environs of Cherry Creek North, the Hermitage is not the sort of place where you're going to find a lot of 50-cent paperbacks. What you will find is both heart and history; the owners are sincere about supporting other independent bookstores, having donated to the survival of fellow book retailer Mutiny (see below). And seriously, where but Hermitage can someone find a complete set of first printings from A.A. Milne and his classic Pooh series of books?

Kilgore Used Books and Comics
624 East 13th Avenue
Here's another word for comic books: literature. You need look no further than the classics of the medium, such as Maus, Watchmen, Blankets, Fun Home, Persepolis, A Contract With God. (There's the start of an excellent reading list, just saying.) And those are just the heavy-hitters. Smaller indie comics can be powerful statements and stories unto themselves. Such small presses and DIY zines have a home at Kilgore — and so do their many devoted fans.

2134 Market Street
It’s impossible to overstate the sheer importance of a store like MATTER to not only readers in Denver, but thinkers as well. The store describes itself on its website as “an independent Black- and woman-owned design consultancy, letter-press workshop, and bookstore serving designers and other thinking persons in community.” Titles come from across the globe, and showcase “black, brown, indigenous, and queer intellectuals that are not diminished by the presence of works by the Far Right,” according to the website. MATTER’s mission is simple and vital: Present books — along with conversations, love and other tools — to transform hearts and minds alike.
click to enlarge
Mutiny is a community stalwart.
Mutiny Information Cafe
Mutiny Information Cafe
2 South Broadway
It's a bookstore! It's a coffee shop with breakfast cereals! It's a comic retailer! It's a venue! Mutiny is all these things and more. The one thing it's not — anymore — is threatened with imminent closure. This has not always been the case: Mutiny has been through the proverbial wringer these past few years, and all those woes culminated last year in a sudden seizure of the premises for unpaid taxes. But the community rallied around the beleaguered institution, and raised more than 50 large in less than a day to save it. Those supporters included the aforementioned Hermitage Bookstore, just proving that the lit-loving lot in Denver includes the owners of these stores, too — good folks with good hearts.

click to enlarge a red and purple brick bookstore
West Side Books
West Side Books
Printed Page Bookshop
1416 South Broadway
Printed Page isn't just one bookseller — it's ten different retailers coming together to offer an impressive array of literary options on South Broadway. What's more, they all pride themselves on customer service, relying on what they call a "relationship-based haven for readers and collectors to 'talk book.'" Even Printed Page's digs match this cozy philosophy — the co-op store is housed in an old Victorian, perfect for perusing the shelves, picking out something interesting and leafing through to see if it's your next great read. Chances are, it is.

West Side Books
3434 W 32nd Avenue
West Side Books has been a welcoming place to go in the historic Highland neighborhood for a wide selection of new, used and unusual books since it opened in 1997. In its first quarter-century, West Side Books has seen its share of changes in the neighborhood, but its customers have remained much the same: thinkers, debaters, philosophers and seekers. The artistic-minded, the culturally aware, those who want to invest in new people and new worlds and new stories. In short: readers. 
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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen

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