story sanctuaries

10 most unique LGBTQ+ bookstores in the United States

York, UK - March 11, 2022: A display of queer art and gay pride books on sale at York Art Gallery, UK.

Among the warm, oaky scent of books, the satisfying smell of espresso in the air, and the hum of intelligent conversations, LGBTQ+ bookstores have been the preferred haunt for queer bookworms since the beginning. These literary sanctuaries draw those of us still smitten with the written word, offering safe spaces filled with the works of our cherished authors, poets, and friends.

Incredibly, although the United States is notorious for banning books, there remains a surprising number of exceptional bookstores. However, what sets our favorites apart is that they are owned and operated by LGBTQ+ people or are powerful allies to our queer community.

To celebrate these special spaces, we’ve created a list of the ten most unique LGBTQ+ bookstores nationwide:

Burdock Book Collective, Birmingham, Alabama

A group of ten people smiling and holding a Burdock Book Collective banner.
Image credit: Burdock Book Collective

Burdock Book Collective

Intersectional, feminist bookstore 4413 5th Ave S · Birmingham, AL 35222

Website

Burdock Book Collective, an LGBTQ+ bookstore in Birmingham is a volunteer-driven, women-led space that goes beyond simple bookselling. With an intersectional feminist approach, it curates works by authors from diverse backgrounds, prioritizing marginalized voices from the South. Also, Burdock Book Collective co-founded the Alabama Books to Prisons Project. This life-changing program connects incarcerated individuals with pen pals and fulfilling book requests, helping create a positive impact in the lives of those in prison.

Fabulosa, San Francsico, California

A picture from inside Fabulosa Book's shop. Wall-to-wall books.
Image credit: Fabulosa Book’s website

Fabulosa Books

Colorful and queer bookstore 489 Castro St · San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 658-7015
Website

Fabulosa, San Francisco’s colorful LGBTQ+ bookstore in the historic Castro district, welcomes book lovers of all ages, races, and creeds. With a colorful, casual vibe and walls filled with David Bowie posters, this LGBTQ+-owned gem has a fantastic selection, from best-sellers to rare finds, and everything in-between. The bonus? They’re trans-friendly, and with their BOOKS NOT BANS initiative, you can contribute to a great cause while shopping.

The Ripped Bodice, Los Angeles, California

LGBTQ+ Bookstores: The Ripped Bodice's owners in their LA shop
Image credit: The Ripped Bodice website

The Ripped Bodice

Looking for romance? 3806 Main St · Culver City, CA 90232
(424) 603-4776
Website

In these touch-starved times, we could all use a little more romance in our lives. If you’re nodding along, saying “YES!!!”, then the Ripped Bodice in Los Angeles (Culver City, specifically), is among the LGBTQ+ bookstores you HAVE to visit. It’s trans-owned and specializes in steamy, scandalous romance reads. This indie bookseller frequently hosts book clubs and parties for new releases, making it the perfect place to get your hands on some queer lit or, let’s be honest, some spicy smut.

Tombolo Books, St. Petersburg, Florida

A picture of books on the shelves at Tombolo Books.
Image credit: Tombolo Books on X

Tombolo Books

Bright and cheery bookstore 2153 1st Ave S · St. Petersburg, FL 33712
(727) 755-9456
Website

Among the swaying palm trees and sunny skies is Tombolo Books in St. Petersburg, Florida. With wall-to-wall books, it’s a place that welcomes folks of all ages, orientations, genders, and backgrounds with open arms. (Surprising, considering Florida’s harsh anti-trans laws.) Regardless, what’s really cool is the mix of ownership here. LGBTQ+ and straight folks teaming up. Together, as allies, they’ve crafted an inclusive and diverse bookstore where everyone can discover amazing literature.

Unabridged Bookstore, Chicago, Illinois

LGBTQ+ bookstores: A picture from inside Unabridged Bookstore in Chicago.
Image credit: Unabridged Bookstore’s website

Unabridged Bookstore

LGBTQ+ bookshop & safe haven 3251 N Broadway · Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 883-9119
Website

With over four decades in business, the historic Unabridged Bookstore proudly served the Chicago LGBTQ+ community with its warm and welcoming atmosphere. (That is, by Chicagoan standards.) Unabridged is known for its dedication to its authors and personalized book recommendations to patrons. They’re also a must-visit for LGBTQ+ travel guides. One GayCities reviewer mentions, “Plan your next trip AFTER you check out all the travel books downstairs. You just may end up discovering a whole new world!”

Tubby & Coo’s Book Shop, New Orleans, Louisiana

An image of the owner of Tubby & Coos traveling book shop selling books at an event.
Image credit: American Bookseller Association

Tubby & Coo’s Traveling Book Shop

Friendly and unique book shop 432 N Anthony St · New Orleans, LA 70119
(504) 345-8491
Website

Once housed in a classic Victorian New Orleans-style home, this cute, queer-owned shop recently went mobile. However, it’s still a crucial ally in the fight for justice and equality. (Catch their rotating shop schedule here.) Tubby & Coo’s dedicated efforts for supporting BIPOC communities helps give power to multiple marginalized populations within NOLA. How do they do it? Owner Candice Huber takes calculated steps, like as promoting antiracist and pro-queer materials front and center.

Left Bank Books, St. Louis, Missouri

The storefront of Left Bank Books, St. Louis.
Image credit: YouTube

Left Bank Books

Cheery St. Louis institution 399 N Euclid Ave · St. Louis, MO 63108
(314) 367-6731
Website

Left Bank Books has been a vibrant part of the St. Louis LGBTQ+ community for over 50 years. We love this LGBTQ+ bookstore because it’s deeply rooted in “the family”, supporting locals with their River City Readers Program, which gives books to underprivileged children. Plus, there’s always something happening here! With 300+ events each year, from book clubs, including the Gay Men’s Reading Group and Lesbian Reading Group, to poetry readings, there’s something for everyone.

The Ripped Bodice, Brooklyn, New York

LGBTQ+ bookstores: A picture of three employees at the register of The Ripped Bodice in Brooklyn, New York. They all appear happy and smiling. Above them are pages from books hanging from the ceiling.
Image credit: Yelp

The Ripped Bodice

A steamy selection 218 5th Ave · NY 11215
(347) 227-8899
Website

No, you’re not seeing double! The Ripped Bodice is on our list twice. But, this time, the spotlight is on its funky and fun New York location. Same awesome inclusive chain, just with a Brooklyn accent.

Bureau of General Services Queer Division, Manhattan, New York

An author reads an excerpt from their latest book at the front of a crowded room.
Image credit: Yelp

Bureau of General Services—Queer Division

New York City’s only Queer Bookshop 208 West 13th Street, Room 210 · New York, NY 10011
(646) 457-0859
Website

In the heart of New York City, one of the most unique LGBTQ+ bookstores awaits: the Bureau of General Services—Queer Division. Founded by lovebirds Donnie Jochum and Greg Newton in 2012, this LGBTQ+ cultural center is an essential stop for anyone seeking an extraordinarily gay bookish experience in the Big Apple. The Bureau offers a diverse collection of books, publications, and art and has a calendar packed with events, from readings and performances to film screenings and workshops.

Bishop & Wilde, Portland, Oregon

A picture of Bishop & Wilde's owners, Melissa Amstutz and Tyler Dolan.
Image credit: Bishop & Wilde’s website

Bishop & Wilde at Tin House

Much more than just a bookstore 2601 NW Thurman St · Portland, OR 97210
(503) 309-8005
Website

Absolutely dripping in Portland vibes, Bishop & Wilde isn’t just a place for books; it’s a unique neighborhood hub that offers everything from new and used reads to plants, records, gifts, and art. Precisely why it made our list of the coolest LGBTQ+ bookstores! According to owners Melissa Amstutz and Tyler Dolan, this queer-friendly space embodies LGBTQ+ culture and values. It’s not just a bookstore; “it’s a community space.”

Firestorm Books, Asheville, North Carolina

The inside of Firestorm Books.
Image credit: Firestorm Books website

Firestorm Books

Third wave coffee and feminism 1022 Haywood Rd · Asheville, NC 28806
(828) 255-8115
Website

Firestorm Books in Asheville is an inspiring crossing of small-town culture, coffee, and feminism. With a worker-owned, anti-capitalist ethos, it’s the place to enjoy a “damn fine cup of coffee” while supporting local, progressive ideals. Run by an LGBTQ+ feminist collective, Firestorm Books focuses on marginalized communities in the commonly right-winged South Appalachian region, offering a sober and anti-oppressive space where you can sip your latte and stir up your radical agenda.

Philly AIDS Thrift @ Giovanni’s Room, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Patrons lining up outside of Philly AIDS Thrift at GIovanni's Room.
Image credit: Philly AIDS Thrift at GIovanni’s Room

Philly AIDS Thrift @ Giovanni’s Room

Gay Philly Must 345 S 12th St · Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 923-2960
Website

Talk about a piece of history! Founded in 1973, Giovanni’s Room is the oldest LGBTQ+ bookstore in the country. Its iconic storefront is considered a launching pad for queer literature and a hub for renowned gay authors in Philadelphia and beyond. After a brief closure in 2014, it was revived by Philly AIDS Thrift, now known as Philly AIDS Thrift@ Giovanni’s Room. Today, the bookstore continues to offer a wide selection of LGBTQ+ books, clothing, and more while also supporting the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Under the Umbrella, Salt Lake City, Utah

A close-up of LGBTQ+ books in Under the Umbrella Bookstore.
Image credit: Under the Umbrella Bookstore

Under the Umbrella Bookstore

Queer bookstore and gathering place 511 W 200 S · Salt Lake City, UT 84101
(801) 922-0923
Website

Salt Lake City ranks among America’s top 10 queerest cities. Yet, queer-specific and all-ages accessible LGBTQ+ bookstores (among other things) are hard to find! Under the Umbrella Bookstore is changing that with its shelves overflowing with gay literature. The store also provides a range of resources for community engagement, including a gender-affirming closet and events like drag queen story hours, open mic nights, queer tarot readings, and book clubs, making it an epicenter for the LGBTQ+ community in SLC.

BookWoman, Austin, Texas

A close-up picture of an old publication created by BookWoman, one of the LGBTQ+ bookstores in our list.
Image credit: Austin-American Statesman

BookWoman

Local feminist bookstore 5501 N Lamar Blvd #A-105 · Austin, TX 78751
(512) 472-2785
Website

Texas is historically resistant to embracing women, trans individuals, and LGBTQ+ folks. Still, BookWoman is a beacon of inclusivity and representation in the Lone Star State. Originally known as The Common Woman Bookstore Collective, it has championed feminist, lesbian, and women-focused literature in Texas. This Austin gem is not just a unique LGBTQ+ bookstore, but a hardy part of the LGBTQ+ and feminist community, promoting empowerment, diversity, and the written voices of women.

Kramers, Washington, DC

A picture of Kramer's bookstore.
Image credit: Kramer’s website

Kramers

Landmark bookstore and upscale cafe 1517 Connecticut Ave NW · Washington, DC 20036
(202) 387-1462
Website

Although it’s in Washington DC, Kramers isn’t just for politicos (though they might need a drink.) One of the quirkiest LGBTQ+ bookstores on the list, you can grab a cocktail, savor a meal, and explore an extensive gay and lesbian book section, all under one roof. Whether you’re looking for your next book on analingus or just thirsty, Kramers is the place to read between the wines.

A Room of One’s Own, Madison, Wisconsin

The shelves of LGBTQ+ bookstore, A Room of One's Own.
Image credit: Yelp

A Room of One’s Own

Local, Independent, feminist bookstore 2717 Atwood Ave · Madison, WI 53704
(608) 257-7888
Website

A Room of One’s Own, unquestionably one of the coolest LGBTQ+ bookstores in Wisconsin, has been dishing out feminist and LGBTQ+ literature since 1975. Plus, the friendly folks here aren’t just booksellers. And they’ve got a big heart, supporting organizations like Wisconsin Books to Prisoners, Madison Reading Project, Arts + Literature Lab’s Queer Youth Book Club ALL, and Goodman Community Center’s Transition Academy.

What’s your favorite LGBTQ+ bookstore?

From the Burdock Book Collective in Birmingham to A Room of One’s Own in Madison, these LGBTQ+ bookstores offer a welcoming, inclusive environment and the chance to explore the brilliance of queer voices. Every visit to these bookstores celebrates the written word and LGBTQ+ culture. If you get the chance on your next vacation, we highly recommend visiting one (or two, or all) of them!

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