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9 Fantastic Bookstores Dedicated to a Single Genre

Explore your favorite genre--or discover a new one--at one of these specialized bookstores.

Are you a reader who knows exactly what you’re looking for in a book? Maybe you’re always on the lookout for your next whirlwind romance, twisty mystery, or mouthwatering recipe. Luckily, there are specialty bookshops ready to cater to your very specific literary whims.

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Idlewild Books

WHERE: New York City

Everyone knows a good book can transport you to another place figuratively, but at Idlewild Books (with locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn) the books will show you how to go to another place. Named for New York City’s original airport (it was renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport in 1963), this independent Manhattan bookstore specializes in travel guidebooks that cater to a wide range of travelers. And if you’ve been inspired enough by one of the books to travel to one of the destinations you’ve read about, they offer language classes in French, Spanish, Italian, and German.

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PHOTO: Jenn LeBlanc
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The Ripped Bodice

WHERE: Culver City, California

Even if you don’t believe in love at first sight, you might change your mind after a glimpse at the always eye-catchingly decorated storefront of The Ripped Bodice. This bookstore, owned by sisters Bea and Leah Koch, specializes in selling a diverse array of romance fiction. In addition to providing a remarkably well-curated collection of romance novels, The Ripped Bodice also takes on additional projects, such as the annual State of Racial Diversity in Romance Publishing Report.

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Dark Delicacies

WHERE: Burbank, California

After you’ve stocked up on all your romance novel needs at The Ripped Bodice, hop on the I-10 east, head north on the I-5, and you’ll be well on your way to another Los Angeles-area specialty bookstore. Dark Delicacies has been selling horror titles in sunny Burbank for over 25 years. Even directors Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, The Shape of Water) and James Wan (Saw, Insidious) expressed their support for the store during a 2019 fundraiser.

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Sleuth of Baker Street

WHERE: Toronto, Canada

Given that its name is a nod to literature’s most famous detective, one might easily deduce what genre can be found at Sleuth of Baker Street. But for the sake of clarity, we’ll confirm that this Toronto bookstore specializes in the selling of mystery, crime, and detective fiction. Even if you’re not going to be in the Toronto area anytime soon, mystery lovers should be sure to sign up for the shop’s newsletter—The Merchant of Menace—which features owners Marian Misters’ and J.D. Singh’s latest recommendations.

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PHOTO: Regina Mogilevskaya
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Archestratus

WHERE: New York City

Everyone from experienced chefs to novice cooks will enjoy indulging (like really indulging) their love of food and cooking at this combination bookstore and café. Located in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Greenpoint, Archestratus (named for a Sicilian poet who is said to have authored one of the first cookbooks) is dedicated to cookbooks as well as other books that heavily feature food and cooking. And while the books provide inspiration, Archestratus’ offerings of groceries and prepared foods allow visitors to put that inspiration into delicious action.

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PHOTO: Matteo Deiana
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La Libreria del Mare

WHERE: Milan, Italy

The sea and seafaring have inspired some of the world’s most enduring works of literature as far back as The Odyssey. So it stands to reason that there should be at least one bookstore specializing in all things aquatic. Milan’s La Libreria del Mare (which translates to “The Library of the Sea”) does exactly that. The Italian store is outfitted with everything from graphic novels to nautical charts.

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Grolier Poetry Bookshop

WHERE: Boston, Massachusetts

Boston’s Grolier Poetry Bookshop originally opened its doors in 1927, making it the oldest store in the U.S. that is dedicated to selling only poetry. Over the decades, the store has become an institution, serving as a communal place that has hosted such poets as e.e. cummings and T.S. Eliot.

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Murder by the Book

WHERE: Houston, Texas

Houston’s Murder by the Book specializes in all things mystery. If the greatest mystery you face is what you should read next, they’ve got you covered with Murder by the Box subscriptions with three options. The Best of the Month (which includes a bestseller and access to a Zoom book club with the author), the Crime Fiction Legends (which includes two iconic entries in the genre), and the Cozy Corner (which includes one staff recommended traditional mystery).

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PHOTO: Sarah K Marr
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The Second Shelf

WHERE: London

While not specializing in a single genre, The Second Shelf is singular in its dedication to curating a collection made up of rare and antiquarian books by women. What started as a presence at the Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair has become a sunny, London-based brick-and-mortar outfit. In addition to their collection of rare books, The Second Shelf also sells new books representing a range of genres and forms, including fiction, non-fiction, chapbooks, zines, and more.

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