To borrow from Mark Twain, rumors of the death of record stores and bookshops are greatly exaggerated.
In fact, people are rediscovering — or continuing to appreciate — the joy of shopping for books and music in real-life, brick ‘n’ mortar bookshops or record stores.
In fact, if you’re anything like us at RAVE Reviews, you know exploring a record store or bookshop you’ve never been to before is pretty much the best way to spend an afternoon — especially if it’s your first time in a new city.
So get yourself a cup of coffee (from a local coffee shop, of course), and get ready to spend some serious time digging through crates of records or sifting through stacks of books. Here’s our ranking of the 25 best record stores and bookshops.
Acquired quite a pile of records and books, have you? Or maybe you’re dragging around your old record collection from college, or your parents’ collection from when they were in college.
No doubt you have sentimental favorites — books and music that changed your life, helping you to become the person you are today.
But could there be anything valuable in those stacks?
Here are some of the most valuable books and records. Do you have any of these finds hiding in your collection?
Which albums are worth a lot of money?
Tommy Johnson, “Alcohol and Jake Blues”: $37,100
In 2013, an Oregon-based collector paid handsomely for this rare 78-rpm recording released in 1930 on the Paramount label.
The Beatles, “Yesterday and Today”: $125,000
Released in the U.S. and Japan, but never in the U.K. or Europe, the infamous “butcher cover” was deemed too incendiary for the time, so it was switched out for much more wholesome album artwork.
Copies with the original imagery are some of the most valuable and sought-after records in the world. A mint copy sold at auction in 2013 for $125,000.
Elvis Presley, “My Happiness”: $300,000
In 2015, Jack White (of The White Stripes and Third Man Records) bought this rare test pressing of Elvis’s very first studio recording.
Bob Dylan, “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan”: $35,000
Last minute changes were made to the tracklisting of Bob Dylan’s second album.
Some stereo and mono copies with the original tracklisting made it to market, however.
They are now some of the most valuable LPs ever sold at auction!
David Bowie, “Diamond Dogs”: $3,550
Original album artwork of this 1974 Bowie classic featured dogs’ genitals. At the 11th hour, the record label got nervous and airbrushed them out.
Some label employees kept copies with the original artwork though, and in 2003, a copy sold on eBay for $3,550.
Which books are worth a lot of money?
Your record collection isn’t the only place you might find a goldmine. Here are some books that may be on your shelves and could be worth a lot of money:
Post-2000 Harry Potter books signed by J.K. Rowling
Signed copies of books from the Harry Potter series have started commanding some serious coin.
In 2007, a signed copy of the fifth book in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, sold for over $7,500!
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, signed first edition
Because of its small initial print run, signed first edition copies of this widely-acclaimed novel now command up to $3,000.
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, signed first edition
Author Dan Brown doesn’t make a lot of appearances to sign autographs, which makes signed first edition copies of his 2003 mega-selling The Da Vinci Code extra special, going for as much as $575.
Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer, signed first editions
Maybe Twilight-mania isn’t what it once was, but Stephenie Meyer didn’t sign a lot of books, so signed first editions still command a fair bit of cheddar.
A full set of signed first edition Twilight books went for $4,000, and individual signed first editions from the series have raked in as much as $700.
Life of Pi by Yann Martel, Canadian edition
Canadian Alfred A. Knopf editions of this popular and critically acclaimed novel go for between $2,000 and $4,000!
Do you have any of these records or books already in your collection? If not, what other gems might be hiding in plain sight?
Keep these rare books and records in mind next time you’re at the bookshop or record store.
When putting together this ranking of America’s 25 best record stores and bookshops, RAVE Reviews drew on personal experience and referenced similar rankings by trusted and reputable sources from across the internet.
The first step was to find 25 American cities and towns known for still having good bookshops and record stores. For some cities, we remembered the stores we love to frequent while visiting, and for other cities, we painstakingly researched what the locals and regulars had to say before making our choice.
We picked a bookshop and record store from each city in the ranking. When evaluating each store, we considered the following:
- Selection: Does the store carry both new and used books and records? Is there a variety of other products (gifts, collectibles) available at the store? Does the store carry a broad range of music styles and literary genres? Size of sales floor doesn’t always mean a good selection. Lots of great bookshops and record stores are small but very well-curated.
- Length of time in business: For any bookshop or record store to still be in business in 2019, they must be doing something right. That’s not to say start-ups didn’t make the ranking, but we did give a little extra love to any survivors that are still in the game.
- Special events: Does the record store host live performances or participate in Record Store Day? Does the bookshop host author events, book clubs, or special readings? The time and effort put into special events such as these go along way to help keep stores relevant in the 21st century.
With this methodology, we’re confident you’ll enjoy visiting any one of these great businesses. Or try to visit them all!
Up next is our ranking of America’s 25 best record stores and bookshops. Happy digging.
The Best Record Shops and Bookstores
Los Angeles, CA
The Los Angeles location of Amoeba Music is arguably the most well-known independent record store in the world.
Originally founded in California’s Bay Area, the Southern California location opened in 2001.
At that time, the store carried roughly 250,000 new and used titles from all genres, in all kinds of formats — making it one of the largest indie record stores in the world.
Amoeba also has a great selection of movies on DVD, VHS, Laserdisc, and Blu-Ray Disc.
Additionally, the store carries a broad selection of posters, artwork for purchase, and Amoeba-branded merchandise, and hosts special events.
LA’s The Last Bookstore is California’s largest independent bookstore.
The store has been in business in one form or another since 2005, and they currently buy, sell, and trade an estimated 250,000 new and used books in a 22,000 square foot space in downtown LA.
Founded in 1968, Electric Fetus carries an estimated 50,000 titles at two locations around the Minneapolis area.
The store is widely regarded as one of the pre-eminent indie record stores in Minnesota and across the U.S., stocking a comprehensive selection of new and used CDs, DVDs, and LPs from different genres, styles, and eras.
Minneapolis has a great musical history, so Electric Fetus is privy to tons of local exclusives.
Additionally, the store carries great gifts including books, toys, clothing, jewelry, accessories, turntables, and a whole lot more.
Magers & Quinn Booksellers is Minneapolis’s largest independent bookseller.
Opened in 1994, the store has over 18,000 square feet of sales and storage space for roughly 250,000 new, used, rare, and antiquarian books from all different genres.
Also, the store hosts author appearances and lots of other special events.
In 2019, Portland record store Music Millennium celebrated its 50th year in business.
The store stocks all sorts of rare, hard-to-find new and used tunes on a variety of formats, from LP, 45, reel-to-reel, and 8-track to cassette, DAT, compact disc, mini-disc, DCC, and CD-ROM.
The store is also known for hosting great in-store artist appearances from such artists as Randy Newman, Cheap Trick, and Sheryl Crow.
In addition to music, Music Millennium has all kinds of merchandise.
In some ways, Powell’s Books has become synonymous with Portland. The rare bookstore is also a tourist destination.
Since 1978, Powell’s Books has taken up an entire city block — meaning 68,000 square feet, or 1.6 acres, of retail space and an inventory of roughly 2 million books.
There are now a few Powell’s locations all over Portland. In addition to selling books, Powell’s hosts 500 author events each year, as well as children’s story times, writing workshops, game demonstrations, and book clubs.
Since 1989, Chicago’s Reckless Records has grown from one to three well-stocked locations, including a 5,000 square foot “megastore.”
Chicago’s a great music town, and famous musicians have been known to stop by Reckless Records whenever they’re in the Windy City — Jack White even played a secret in-store gig!
In addition to all that, Reckless Records is said to be the inspiration for Championship Vinyl in the movie “High Fidelity.” And, you’ll find plenty of staff-written recommendations to inspire your next musical discovery whenever you shop at Reckless Records.
For over 20 years, Chicago’s Myopic Bookstore has become widely accepted as Chicago’s best bookstore, stocking 70,000 new and used books on all subjects by a variety of authors.
And that’s not just an opinion. The store is a three-time award winner from Chicago-based publications, including Chicago Reader and Chicago magazine.
In addition to selling books, Myopic Bookstore hosts live music, readings, and a poetry series.
Austin is a major music destination in the U.S., so it makes sense it’s also home to one of the best record stores.
Since 1982, Waterloo Records has sold a wide selection of new and used music on CDs, vinyl records, DVDs, and Blu-Rays.
In addition to music, the store also carries turntables, music magazines, t-shirts, concert tickets, and other memorabilia.
Waterloo is known for all kinds of great special events and live performances — particularly during Austin’s South by Southwest conference and festival.
Artists who have appeared live at Waterloo include Sonic Youth, Jeff Buckley, and Norah Jones.
Since 1970, BookPeople has not only been Austin’s leading independent bookshop but the largest independent bookshop in the entire state of Texas. In fact, readers of the Austin Chronicle voted Bookpeople best bookstore for 15 years in a row!
As well as a great selection of new and used reading material, the store also offers numerous kids reading programs, author events, and more.
Nashville is known as “Music City,” and Grimey’s New and Preloved Music is a must-stop for any music fan in Nashville.
After 20 years in business, Grimey’s recently relocated to East Nashville.
Grimey’s new location means even more selection and even more space for live performances from artists like John Prine and Metallica.
In fact, Grimey’s is known almost as much for their live in-store appearances, many of which get released as limited-edition recordings, as they are for records!
Not a lot of bookshops can count a famous author as a partial owner, but Nashville’s Parnassus Books can: The store is co-owned by Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto and several other best-selling novels.
Part of the Parnassus experience is a bookmobile, bringing books to all corners of Nashville. The store also offers all sorts of special events, from author appearances to Saturday story time for kids.
There are actually 28 Newbury Comics locations around the New England area, but we like the Boston location most.
Newbury Comics started in the late 1970s as a comic book shop before expanding into the world of CDs, LPs, singles, and DVDs, as well as all sorts of other pop culture-related merchandise, focusing primarily on independent artists and alternative culture.
The stores are known for tons of exclusive releases, and a small amount of comic books and graphic novels continue to be sold.
Since 1984, Boston’s Trident Booksellers and Cafe has offered a great selection of best-selling reading material alongside an extensive food menu.
In addition, the store frequently schedules special events, such as author appearances, book clubs, and trivia nights.
New York City, NY
Open since 2005, New York’s Good Records has been the place to go for vintage records.
The selection ranges from jazz, soul, rock, and funk to disco, rap, and house music, spanning from the 1950s to the present. Good Records also carries a strong selection of international music.
This store is a great source for used turntables, amplifiers, tape decks, speakers, and audio equipment, as well as music-related posters, artwork, books, and paper goods.
NYC’s Strand Book Store is said to be “18 miles of new, used, and rare books.” The famous bookstore, founded in 1927, carries about 2.5 million titles on subjects ranging from the occult to philosophy.
The $1 carts, where you can find great books cheap, are a customer favorite.
The Strand also offers author events from big names in the literary world like Junot Diaz and Hilton Als, and a wide selection of gifts and merchandise.
Rolling Stone and Time magazine both consider Easy Street Records one of America’s best record stores, and RAVE agrees.
Since 1988, the store has been selling CDs, vinyl records, new books, magazines, and Easy Street-branded merchandise. Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam is a former employee!
Easy Street also has an accompanying cafe/bar, serving coffee, breakfast, lunch, beer, and wine.
They have held plenty of special events over the years, including live appearances from artists like Lane Del Rey, Lou Reed, and Elvis Costello.
Elliot Bay Book Company is also in Seattle. Carrying over 150,000 titles, Elliott Bay Book Company has been in business since 1973 in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.
Even in the hometown of Amazon, this independent bookshop continues to thrive, with live author appearances, special events, and a knowledgeable staff.
Located in Memphis, TN, a city rich with musical legacy, Goner Records is part record label, part record shop.
Opened in 2004, Goner Records’ specialty has been punk, garage rock, new wave, post-punk, and synth-based music.
The store sells LPs, as well as CDs, 45s, and 78s. While you’re there, be sure to take a 25 cent tour of the “Elvis Impersonator Shrine.”
Goner Records’ associated record label also produces Gonerfest, showcasing live performances by artists from all over the world.
Our pick for Memphis’s best bookstore is Burke’s Book Store. With a variety of Memphis locations in business since 1875 (that’s right — just shortly after the Civil War!), Burke’s Book Store sells new, used, and rare books.
In addition to amazing rare books, you’ll also find a great selection of staff favorites and current best-sellers. The store also presents author events and readings.
San Francisco, CA
Originally a record label, 1-2-3-4 Go! Records opened a retail arm in Oakland, CA in 2003. Since then, another location has been added in San Francisco.
1-2-3-4 Go! Records is known for selling punk rock, indie rock, garage rock, and related genres, both new and used. The stores also host frequent special events and art shows — Green Day has performed there!
This record store has won four Best of the East Bay awards from the East Bay Express. It won the Best Punk Record Store award in 2009, and the Best New Business award in 2008.
There are great bookshops, and then there are legendary bookshops. San Francisco’s City Lights Booksellers & Publishers is a legendary bookshop.
A popular hangout for Beat Generation luminaries like Allen Ginsburg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, City Lights has been in business since 1953, specializing in events and readings with a broad selection of new, used, and rare books.
Also, picking up some City Lights-branded merchandise is part of the Bay Area visiting experience for fans of the literary arts and countercultural history and lifestyle.
Since 1988, Twist and Shout has not only been Denver’s best record store, but one of the very best record stores nationwide.
The 2,000 square foot store began as a vinyl LP shop before adopting CDs. Now, with the vinyl revival, it has come full circle. There’s also an amazingly well-curated selection of movies and TV shows.
At the store, you’ll find new and used music across a variety of formats and tons of lifestyle products like t-shirts. The store is also known for live appearances from artists like My Morning Jacket and Patti Smith. It’s also centrally located near many of Denver’s best live music venues.
Denver’s Tattered Cover Book Store has been providing the selection of a large store with the cozy feel of a small shop since 1971.
With an accompanying cafe, Tattered Cover carries a broad selection of new and used books, as well as discounted bargain editions.
In addition to being a legendary record label, Rough Trade is also a group of independent record shops located in the U.K. and the U.S.
In 2013, Rough Trade opened a location in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, becoming New York City’s biggest record shop. The store also has a cafe counter and a performance space, drawing many of the music industry’s biggest artists.
Our pick for Brooklyn’s best bookshop is Word Bookstore. The small shop has made a name for itself with a great selection, book clubs, writing groups, and author appearances.
While you’re there, ask about Word’s Book Matchmaking service to help you find your next favorite read. There are also plenty of activities for kids.
Cactus Music is Houston’s oldest independent music store, having been in business for over 30 years.
This store is known for a great selection of new and used music in all formats, drawing on, but not limited to, the rich legacy of Texas music.
Aside from a great selection, Cactus Music is also known for tons of special events, artist meet and greets, and a homey atmosphere.
Houston’s best bookshop is, without a doubt, Blue Willow Bookshop, with a great selection of new, used, and hard-to-find books since opening in 1996.
You can even get eBooks and audio-books from Blue Willow, and they also offer summer reading and kids programs, book clubs, and educator resources.
In addition to books, Blue Willow Bookshop also sells games, puzzles, stationery, and more.
St. Louis, MO
With over 10,000 square feet in a former library space, Record Exchange houses one of the U.S.’s largest used record, CD, and music memorabilia selections.
Founded in 1977, Record Exchange also deals with used electronics, including stereos, CD players, turntables, and speakers. They also carry posters, DVDs, and music memorabilia.
If you’re shopping for books while you’re in St. Louis, head over to Subterranean Books, where you can choose from a great selection of new and used books in all categories.
Opened in 2000, Subterranean Books also offers staff picks, a book of the month club, and special events. There’s also a frequent buyer program and a weekly story time for kids.
There’s a lot more than books at Subterranean: The store also sells shirts, socks, pins, prints, magazines, and more.
The award for most outrageous name for a record store would definitely go to Columbus, OH’s Magnolia Thunderpussy.
Opened in 1969, the store continues to sell new and used CDs and LPs in all sorts of genres and categories, as well as band t-shirts, patches, buttons, posters, and other pop culture memorabilia.
Located in a pre-Civil War building in the heart of Columbus’s historic German Village neighborhood, the Book Loft is a 32-room bookshop offering a great selection, special events, and a whole lot more.
Opened in 1977, the Book Loft started as a simple three-room bookshop before going through eight expansions to reach its current size.
While you’re there, you can find best-sellers, staff picks, bargain books, and other merchandise like shirts, cards, and tote bags. The Book Loft also sells music.
Boise, ID is home to Record Exchange, Idaho’s largest independent record shop that sells a whole lot more than music.
The music selection is pretty impressive though, in different genres, categories, and formats — including cassette, which is undergoing a resurgence.
On top of all that, Record Exchange sells books, jewelry, homewares, and more. They offer plenty of live shows and artist appearances, particularly during Boise’s popular Treefort Music Festival.
Opened in 2006, the Rediscovered Bookshop has over 30 book clubs, popular Book & Booze nights, as well as many author events.
And every Tuesday night, the store partners with Boise’s Guru Donuts for Tasty Tales, a family event where tots can enjoy donuts and story time while the grown-ups have coffee (and donuts).
Founded in 1989 as CD World, back when it carried only CDs, Skip’s Records & CD World has since expanded into new and used DVDs, vinyl LPs, gifts, posters, cassettes, and much more.
This store, one of the largest between Portland and San Francisco, also hosts frequent artist appearances and live performances.
Plus, Skip’s Records and CD World has recently added used stereo equipment and turntables.
Eugene is also home to J. Michaels Books, one of the 10 best independent bookstores in the West, according to the Washington Post.
Since 1975, J. Michaels has offered a compelling hand-picked selection of new, used, and antiquarian books.
In addition, J. Michaels has a broad selection of discount books and literary-themed gifts, and is known for special ordering and frequent events.
Jerry’s Records, located in Pittsburgh, PA, has been in the business of selling music for nearly 40 years.
The store carries over a million used vinyl LPs and 12” singles in all genres — from metal to reggae to big band.
The store also stocks EPs and 45s, and there are several listening booths so you can preview before you buy.
Our pick for Pittsburgh’s best bookshop, Caliban Books, buys, sells, and appraises books, autographs, photographs, printed material, and original art.
In the store, you’ll find everything from quality paperback fiction, poetry, and philosophy, to scholarly books in many fields — even rare books dating back to the 16th century.
The store also offers a well-curated selection of indie books and zines by local Pittsburgh authors.
At the time of its founding in 1988, Madison’s Strictly Discs was a CD-only retailer.
But right around 2000, Strictly Discs added new and used vinyl to the mix to accommodate its growing popularity, particularly among college-aged customers attending the University of Wisconsin.
Now, Strictly Discs is one of the Midwest’s best independent music retailers, expanding into miscellaneous merchandise, vinyl LP cleaning and storage solutions, and a whole lot more.
Our pick for Madison’s best bookshop is A Room of One’s Own Books & Gifts. Founded in 1975, A Room of One’s Own carries a wide selection of current and classic fiction, nonfiction, periodicals, graphic novels, local interest titles, gifts, and greeting cards.
The store also has a robust selection of children’s and young adult books, women’s studies, and LGBT fiction and nonfiction.
The store also frequently hosts special events and author appearances.
Missoula’s Rockin Rudy’s has been in business since 1982. What was once strictly a music store has now grown into Missoula’s go-to for gifts and a whole lot more.
But Rudy’s is foremost a quality record store, with Montana’s biggest selection of new and used CDs and vinyl LPs.
Missoula bookshop Shakespeare & Co. has been in business since 1998, selling new books, cards, blank journals, gifts, and magazines.
The store also hosts frequent special events with local and national authors, as well as kids and adult book groups.
While you are shopping at Shakespeare & Co., be sure to pick up one of their popular store-branded t-shirts.
Santa Cruz, CA
Of its two locations, we picked Streetlight Records’ Santa Cruz location as one of the 25 best record stores.
Streetlight Records has been in business for close to four decades, buying, selling, and trading CDs, LPs, 45s, Blu-Rays, DVDs, video games, and music memorabilia such as vintage concert posters, programs, and classic toys.
This store’s philosophy is “all music’s cool, or is so uncool that it’s cool again, or soon will be.”
Bookshop Santa Cruz has been in business since 1966 with over 20,000 square feet of sales floor full of new, used, and sale-priced books. They carry a particularly strong selection of travel, politics, cooking, science, fiction, and children’s books.
The store also sells magazines, cards, gifts, and toys, and hosts author appearances and other special events.
Originally founded in Salt Lake City in the ’90s, Indy CD and Vinyl relocated to Indianapolis in 2001.
Now, Indy CD & Vinyl is one of Indiana’s largest record stores. Like the name suggests, they sell both new and used CDs and vinyl LPs.
In addition to music, Indy CD & Vinyl sells turntables, needles, record cleaners, speakers, and tons of merchandise.
Also in Indianapolis, Indy Reads Books is an independent bookshop making a difference. Partnered with the nonprofit organization Indy Reads, the store helps promote adult and family literacy in Central Indiana.
They carry a broad selection of used and new books for both adults and children alike.
Since 1975, Peaches Records has sold a great selection of new and used music in a variety of formats.
They also carries all sorts of merchandise, including headphones, turntables, and t-shirts. The store-branded Peaches shirts and hoodies are particularly cool.
New Orleans’ best bookshop is Garden District Book Shop, located in the historic property called “The Rink,” built in 1884.
The store is known for carrying a large selection of regional titles both new and used, including books on design, art, and gardening, as well as fiction, non-fiction, and children’s books.
The store also hosts tons of special events and reading groups.
Long Beach, CA
The last record store and bookshop in our ranking of the 25 best bookshops and record stores bring us to Long Beach, CA.
Fingerprints Music is one of the best-known record stores in the U.S., with a broad selection of new and used music on CD and vinyl LP, as well as assorted pop culture merchandise.
The store frequently hosts live performances, many of which have been released as exclusive live recordings.
Long Beach’s Gatsby Books calls itself the “literary heart of Long Beach,” with a broad selection of new and used books on all subjects.
Plus, Gatsby holds many reading groups, frequent author appearances, and book readings. The store-branded merchandise is also particularly desirable!