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Wednesday, September 23, 2020 — Houston, TX °

How to Support Houston’s Independent Booksellers

Photo by John Schiffmayer, Courtesy Lit Reactor

By Morgan Gage     8/25/20 3:41pm

While the pandemic is keeping us all inside, it’s not stopping us from keeping up with our to-read lists. With small businesses severely impacted by financial hardships brought on by public health and safety necessities, what better way to support Houston’s literary community than by cozying up with a brand new book purchased from local, independent bookstores? 

To support Houston businesses and the local literary scene, consider purchasing books from local bookstores — a win-win since you can start a new, intriguing book while local bookstores benefit from your purchase.

This is by no means an exhaustive list — unfortunately, many stores in the city have closed for the time being and are not offering online retail options, but here are a few stores to look into and consider supporting by attending virtual events and purchasing books.

Brazos Bookstore

Around a mile walk from campus, Brazos Bookstore offers a robust website to purchase in-store titles from the comfort and safety of your home. Founded in 1974 to help foster Houston’s growing literary scene, it saw many iconic literary figures pass through its building like Larry McMurtry (a Rice University alumnus), Edward Albee and Donald Barthelme, according to its website.

Since the original founder retired in 2006, Brazos Bookstore has been locally owned by 27 different Houstonians, and hosts readings and signings with both emerging and established writers. 

When it’s safe to visit, Brazos Bookstore should be at the top of any Houstonian booklover’s must-see list. In the meantime, you can participate in several online events such as the Brazos Book Club, other weekly book clubs catering to a variety of readers, as well as online readings. 

Murder by the Book

Also a mile away from Rice’s hedges, Murder by the Book is a dream for any crime or mystery novel lover. Though the shop is not currently allowing in-person browsing, they are still processing online orders, so take a look at their website to find the perfect book for your quarantine read. 

Every year, they host over 200 figures in mystery and fantasy literature for book signings. If you are interested in online literary events, keep an eye on their website where they update shoppers with information to attend readings and other events hosted over Zoom. 

Their website features recommendation lists including Black Lives and Voices Matter and those from members of their staff. 

Blue Willow Bookshop 

Farther from campus located off Memorial Drive, Blue Willow Bookshop has a host of resources for staying involved in literary events and keeping up with your reading list through COVID-19. With a whole page dedicated to resources such as educational material for students at home, links to museums open for virtual tours and engaging writing prompts, Blue Willow Bookshop is thoughtfully serving their patrons through the current public health crisis. 

All of their events from book clubs to readings have moved to a virtual format. They also offer several book subscriptions and bundles specially curated for  readers of all ages. 

Menil Bookstore

Art lovers will enjoy poring over the Menil Collection’s titles, available for sale on their website to be shipped or for curbside pickup. Many of them are related to exhibitions and collections hosted by the Menil; by offering these books, the museum strives not only to create a record of past exhibitions, but also to encourage further scholarship and engagement from the viewer. 


While not Houston-specific, Bookshop aims to aid independent bookstores by competing with large online corporations, namely Amazon, that have claimed a sizable amount of the bookselling market over the course of several years. It lets independent bookstores create storefronts to sell their books in easily searchable ways that consolidate titles from across the United States onto one website.

One particularly exciting feature is a map that lets you find nearby independent bookstores, allowing you to buy directly from the sellers. 

The map is a crucial feature since, like many online services that present multiple stores for consumers to browse and purchase from, Bookshop keeps a portion of the proceeds. However, it directs more money from the sales towards independent bookstores than comparable booksellers such as Amazon. If you’re looking for a certain book that a Houston bookstore just doesn’t seem to have in stock, Bookshop is a wonderful alternative to Amazon, and you can have all of your reading needs delivered directly to your doorstep. 

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