The American West has always celebrated the independent spirit. Of the hundreds of indie book purveyors who put bland, big-box chains to shame, the following should make any bibliophile's bestseller list.
Powell's — Portland. Powell's flagship, the City of Books, offers more than a million new and used volumes, a city block's worth shelved side by side. (866) 201-7601, www.powells.com.
Tattered Cover — Denver. Hungry minds love the Tattered Cover in Cherry Creek as much for its fine, book-lined restaurant as for its four uncommonly elegant floors of new books. (800) 833-9327, www.tatteredcover.com.
Elliott Bay Book Company — Seattle. Cedar shelves in this superstore hold some 200,000 new and used books—and many handwritten staff suggestions. (800) 962-5311 or (206) 624-6600, www.elliottbaybook.com.
City Lights Bookstore — San Francisco. Locals are still soft on this landmark Beat generation store-cum-publishing house. Founded in 1953 as the nation's first all-paperback bookstore, it has superlative poetry, philosophy, and progressive politics sections. (415) 362-8193, www.citylights.com.
Moe's Books — Berkeley, Calif. Moe's stocks 100,000-plus new and used books in a slightly scruffy, collegiate atmosphere perfectly suited to its location, four blocks from the UC-Berkeley campus. Collectors flock to the fourth-floor specialty art and antiquarian section. (510) 849-2087, www.moesbooks.com.
Book Passage — Corte Madera, Calif. Check out the books in the Passage's fine travel and literature sections, stay for the almost-daily author events, or put pen to paper in a writing class. (800) 999-7909, www.bookpassage.com.
Kepler's Books — Menlo Park, Calif. Kepler's reputation stems from its political pedigree as an activists' hangout in the '60s, its proximity to Stanford University, and its great new literary fiction. (650) 324-4321, www.keplers.com.
Page One Bookstore — Albuquerque, N.M. The state's largest indie, Page One serves up a superior general collection of new and used books, heavily spiced with Southwest-specific literature. (800) 521-4122, www.page1book.com.