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66 bookstores on Route 66 – the ultimate road trip for bibliophiles

The ultimate bibliophile road trip – 66 Bookstores on Route 66

Some years ago, a man called Larry Portzline introduced me to something called Bookstore Tourism – vacations planned around bookstore visits. His goal was to support independent bookstores by promoting them as travel destinations. A most worthy goal.

Larry organized bookstore tourism trips where bibliophiles piled onto buses and visited bookstores in New York and Washington D.C. and elsewhere. He even wrote a book about the phenomenon.

As the years went on, I talked to countless booksellers who admitted that they organized their holidays around visiting bookstores in order to pick up books that they could sell in their own stores. A busman’s holiday.

I have also talked to dozens of AbeBooks customers who explained how they selected particular destinations due to the presence of particular bookshops – a trip to Portland, Oregon, means a visit to Powell’s, a weekend in New York means an afternoon in The Strand, a vacation in London means a day browsing the bookshops on Charing Cross Road, and so on. I would venture that some people won’t visit certain locales unless there is a half-decent bookstore in the vicinity.

With this in mind, AbeBooks has created the ultimate bibliophile road-trip – 66 bookstores on Route 66. That’s 66 bricks and mortar bookshops stretching from Chicago to Los Angeles.

This epic list was created by Paula Lane and Dasha Minyukova. The bookstores are very diverse from classic general used booksellers to high-end antiquarian businesses to specialists in alternative religions, architecture and art, theology and mysteries, and many other subjects. Some stores are quite large affairs – such as Gardner’s Used Books in Tulsa – while others are much smaller like The Book Den in Chicago. Some of these stores have tremendous resilience – no-one more than Sleepygirl’s Used Books in Joplin, Missouri, who had their store destroyed by a tornado only to bounce back at a new location.

Sadly, Route 66 doesn’t actually exist anymore. It was erased by soulless bureaucrats rather like the Vogons in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy destroying the Earth to make way for an intergalactic highway. However, most of the original route is still driveable. It crosses eight states and three time zones, and is around 2,400 miles in length.

Route 66 has a special connection to John Steinbeck, who wrote about the road in The Grapes of Wrath. He saw the road as an escape route with thousands of impoverished Americans moving West to find a better life. There are numerous guides to Route 66, including The Ghost Towns of Route 66 by Jim Hinckley, which appeals greatly to me. A large number of people have written about it and photographed it. The road remains something truly iconic that fascinates people today.

See the bookstores on Route 66.

Route 66

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