Read Up on Pittsburgh’s Best Independent Bookstores

January 28, 2019
Culture & Art
jason wolfe
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When digital and audiobooks began to become so accessible, everyone declared printed books were dead, and independent bookstores would be soon to follow.

Books sales are up this year over last, and indie bookstores are flourishing. No where is that more true than in Pittsburgh with a wonderful selection of independent and specialty bookstores around town.

We’ve compiled a list of the best independent bookstores and local shops with great book selections in Pittsburgh for your reading pleasure.

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White Whale Bookstore

filled bookshelf in White Whale Bookstore

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4754 Liberty Avenue

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Tue-Sat 11am-7pm
Sun 11am-5pm

White Whale Bookstore is the reincarnation of the former East End Book Exchange.

“It is clear how much love and care the people who run this shop put into selecting books and curating the store...My favorite part though was the combo of new books and used books. The best of both worlds honestly...” - Yelp review

When the new owners took over in June of 2016, they freshened up the shop and decided to shift to focus to more new books.

While they still retain a great selection of used books, they felt Pittsburgh had a nice selection of used bookstores but lacked options when it came to independent shops featuring new books. They chose to expand the new options to be about 50% of the inventory.

They still aim to provide the loyal Exchange patrons with what they love, by offering fiction, non-fiction and poetry, used options, especially what they were best known for, philosophy.

They host frequent literary events and readings, as well as children’s story time on Sundays at 11am.

Amazing Books and Records

Amazing Books and Records Pittsburgh storefront

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929 Liberty Avenue

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Squirrel Hill
2030 Murray Avenue

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Tue-Thu 11:30am-9pm
Fri 11:30am-3pm
Sun 11:30am-6pm

Amazing Books started as a Pop Up shop Downtown and now hosts an extensive collection of gently used books.

“Insane amount of treasures in this book and record store! Highly recommend going! People who work here are super helpful and very kind!...” - Yelp Review

The downtown location has also recently started offering records as well.

They carefully curate their inventory to cater to their customers, with a focus on scholarly texts, text books, counter culture authors, religion and philosophy.

They also carry a handful of new books from local authors. Records wise you’ll find a diverse range of musical styles from classical to electronic.

City Books

Books in City Books Pittsburgh

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908 Galveston Avenue

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Tue-Fri 11am-6pm
Sat-Sun 12pm-5pm

Open since 1987, City Books is Pittsburgh oldest used bookstore.

“Pleasant little spot nestled off Western Ave...Could browse for a couple hours. Well categorized...A comfy reading chair, good light music and friendly owner make it a welcoming environment...” - Yelp Review

Nestled in the Northside, the inviting space is perfect for an afternoon of browsing accompanied by soft jazz tunes.

They’re happy to help you acquire any books you aren’t able to find on the shelfs. In addition to reading events, they also host a literary tour around the Northside visiting the birthplace and homes of such Pittsburgh greats as Andrew Carnegie, Gertrude Stein, and Stephen Foster.

The Big Idea

books on shelf in The Big Idea bookstore

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4812 Liberty Avenue

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Mon, Wed-Fri 11am-9pm
Tue 11am-5pm
Sat -Sun 11am-7pm

This revolutionary book shop is an anarchist collective, hosting a space for exploring radical ideology and putting it in action.

This is a terrific, off the beaten path, liberal leaning bookstore for the rebel and activist audience...

They carry new and used books, pins, patches and stationery items all promoting anti-capitalist, intersectional values.

They also have a cafe on site serving local organic vegetarian food and drink.

“...If you are looking for underground, not quite legal, and risky lit with an edge, your in the right place!...They don't call it Big Idea for nothing!” - Yelp Review

Penguin Bookshop

lots of books in Penguin Bookshop

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417 Beaver Avenue

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Mon-Sat 10am-5:30pm

Penguin Bookshop has been a vital community institution in Sewickley since 1929.

“This is a great independent book shop in the heart of Sewickley Village that regularly has author signings and readings, and carries a great selection of new and classic titles for its small size...” - Yelp Review

They offer a well-curated and extensive collection of fiction and non-fiction for all ages, as well as cards, journals, newspapers and magazines.

There’s a lovely childrens nook in the back for little ones to explore.

They host quality literary events and book clubs as well as a Writers Series.  They’ll also  ship orders to any of your friends and family across the country.

Mystery Lovers Bookshop

books in Mystery Lovers Bookshop

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514 Allegheny River Boulevard

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Mon-Sat 10am-5pm
Sun 11am-2pm

Is suspense and mystery is your cup of tea, Mystery Lovers won’t disappoint.

This was my first time here and oh my goodness, this might be my new favorite bookshop!!!...

If you’re looking for a little more range from thrillers and and crime noire, they also carry non-fiction, general interest and children’s books to explore.

Nestled amongst the other local retailers in the quaint Oakmont business district, the cozy shop and friendly staff are definitely worth the visit.

“...the lady who was working there definitely knew her stuff!! She was so knowledgeable about the authors and their histories...Definitely recommend you stopping by if you are I the area!” - Yelp Review

Rickert and Beagle Books

books from Rickert and Beagle Books

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3233 W Liberty Avenue

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Mon-Wed & Fri-Sat 10am-7pm
Thu 10am-6pm

Specializing in perfectly strange and strangely perfect genres from sci-fi and horror to the occult and fantasy, Ricket and Beagle Books is the best spot in Pittsburgh for all the used literary oddities you’re craving.

I specifically travel to Pittsburgh just to visit this amazing bookstore...

When the owner took over the former Eljay’s Used Books in 2013, they breathed new life into the focus and structure of the shop.

“...While it specializes in genre fiction (sci-fi, fantasy, horror), I've found gems in other areas as well (fiction, history, erotica, poetry). Everything is organized, easy to find, and fairly priced. The owner is super-friendly and genuinely passionate about books and her offerings!...” - Yelp Review

Riverstone Bookstore

books in Riverstone Bookstore

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8850 Covenant Avenue

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Mon-Thu 10am-8pm
Fri-Sat 9am-9pm | Sun 12pm-6pm

One of the newest independent bookstores on the block, Riverstone has stepped up to fill the void after the big box bookstore in the North Hills closed.

This is why you want independent bookstores. Not only does Riverstone offer an awesome assortment of genres and top shelf books, but the staff is incredible...

Featuring a well-curated selection of literary and popular fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books, they also offer a variety of gift items, greeting cards, and children’s puzzles, educational games, and literary stuffed animals.

The Children’s section is extensive with quality title for all ages.

They aim to make it worth the trip in to a shop by having very knowledgeable staff to guide you in your picks, something you just can’t get ordering online.

Buy a GiftYa To Riverstone Bookstore >

“...I walked in to browse the stacks and was approached by the most knowledgeable helpful staff person who seemed to know every novel on the shelves. I walked out with a few fantastic books that I NEVER would have found, much less bought in my aimless browsing. This is the perfect bookstore and a great asset in the north hills.” - Google Review

Classic Lines

lots of books inside of Classic Lines bookstore


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Squirrel Hill
5825 Forbes Avenue

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Sun-Tue 11am-5pm
Wed-Sat 10am-7pm

Classic Lines offers new and used books, vintage housewares, home decor, fine art, gifts, gardenalia, and more in Squirrel Hill’s vibrant business district.

This store is something special.  Everything is laid out well and things are easy to find...

The bookshelves are made of repurposed wine cases and are overflowing with a unique hand picked collection.

Rather than focus on “best sellers” lists, the owners cater to more unique off the beaten path options you can’t find in a big box environment.

They also host readings and a robust book club.

“...The selection is excellent with a heavy dose of local writers.  I like that there are comfy chairs and great places to sit and read.  The whole store evokes more of a library vibe rather than a bookstore...This is a marvelous addition to Squirrel Hill, and a great alternative to the chain bookstores...” - Yelp Review

Honorable Mentions - Not Exclusive Bookstores, but Great Book Selections!

Kards Unlimited

books from Kards Unlimited Pittsburgh

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5522 Walnut Street

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Mon-Sat 9:30am-9pm
Sun 12pm-5pm

While Kards Unlimited carries a range of greeting cards, stationery items, gag gifts, and housewares, their thoughtfully curated book selection is worth making to the trip to for bibliophiles.

Kards Unlimited is a book nerd's heaven!...

They also steer clear of best seller type titles and carry a great selection of counter culture, provocative books, sci-fi, fantasy, radical non-fiction and an adorable children’s nook with quality selections.

“...They not only sell a ton of really cool and hilarious cards for any occasion, but they sell all kinds of knick-knacks like posters, toys, coffee mugs, beer glasses, t-shirts, (some of which may be appropriate or inappropriate) and SO MANY BOOKS...” - Yelp Review

Journeys of Life

books from Journeys of Life

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810 Bellefonte Street

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Mon-Tue & Thu-Sat 10am-5:30pm
Wed 10am-8pm
Sun 12pm-5pm

Journeys of Life began as a hub for people in addiction recovery.

This store is an amazing little find...It has a soothing energy and you can feel the love that is put into the selection of items...

The main floor of the shop houses a lovely gift shop focusing on metaphysical interests, think crystals, essential oils, angels and astrology.

Upstairs is the bookshop home to a range of genres but leaning towards, new age, self-home, recovery, and mythical subjects. They also host several psychic and tarot card readers if you’re seeking other-worldly guidance.

“...Upstairs is full of wonderful books on a variety of subjects: Wicca, Spirituality, Buddhism, Crystals, the Chakras, and a significant amount of self-healing tools. There is a special section completely dedicated to addiction recovery...More important than the actual items contained within the walls of the shop is the atmosphere. It is one of healing, compassion, and understanding. I can sense the amount of love that has been freely given and received in here. I am so glad that I found this place.” - Yelp Review


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