Queen Village: 709 South 4th Street
The books in Patrick Richardson Graham’s shop are displayed like artwork: Beautiful covers face outward, all arranged on a floor-to-ceiling grid of shelves. Here, it’s not volume that delights, but the relentlessly curated selection. A smattering of new books shares space with used ones (many under $10). But most worth seeking out are the rare editions. Patrick’s favorite? His collection of Aspen, a mid-’60s multimedia magazine (these run from $500 to $900 each).
Go here for: Art books in a gallery-like setting.
Rittenhouse: 1724 Sansom Street
There’s an air of sophistication in this 60-year-old, shoebox-shaped bookstore. The scent of new books permeates the place, and those books are stacked to the ceiling. You’ll find all the literary heavyweights, along with an impressive selection of gorgeous, glossy hardbacks. There’s a healthy dose of whimsy as well, thanks to the well-stocked kids’ section (ah, The Phantom Tollbooth, Joan Walsh Anglund, Heidi) and Julius and Olivia, the shop’s resident pups.
Go here for: The well-stocked architecture section.
Baldwin’s Book Barn
West Chester: 856 Lenape Road
“First time to the barn?” This is what you’ll be asked upon entering this circa-1822 dairy barn-cum-antiquarian bookstore. Say yes and you’ll be handed a map of the building’s five floors. And you will wander, and wander, and wander, up narrow stairways, through hobbit-like doors, along a maze of rooms that house more than 300,000 used and rare books—from vintage sets of Tom Swift to modern literature, film and art books—most of which are organized in antique fruit crates. You’ll be thoroughly enchanted by the time you leave, likely two hours later than you planned on staying.
Go here for: Indulgent browsing.
New Hope: 44 South Main Street
This charmer is all you’d expect an independent bookstore to be: tight nooks, narrow aisles, a lazy cat—and books, piles of them, on tables, spilling from shelves, tucked into crannies. It’s also what you’d expect from Mister Rogers, who, along with James Michener, helped the Farleys open the shop back in 1967. Warning: Farley’s lacks sufficient air conditioning. But roam the right aisle and you’ll be greeted by the sweet breeze of an oscillating fan.
Go here for: The small-town bookshop experience.
Queen Village: 529 Bainbridge Street
Don’t come to this gritty, cavernous bookshop for a quick find, or for atmosphere. Come to browse, to pluck through the masses of used books (some 50,000 of them) and random curiosities. You can think of it as a museum for old books, but owner Joe Russakoff—who, with his crazy mop of gray hair and skittish manner, looks a bit more mad scientist than used-bookshop owner—will correct you: “No, it’s more like an amusement park.”
Go here for: Treasure hunting.