Best reading across the country -- Jackie Collins, John Grisham, and other authors take us to their favorite bookstores

David Rieff on Books & Books Inc., Coral Gables, Fla.:
Books & Books is what a great bookstore should be — an incredibly civilizing influence on its community. It’s become a cultural center in Miami. In a community where the divisions between various ethnic groups are very pronounced, Mitchell Kaplan [the store’s co-owner] has bridged that divide, and has done it gracefully. (Rieff is the author of Going to Miami.)

Michael Chabon on Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle:
The staff’s really knowledgeable — none of what I call the ‘Catcher in the Rye phenomenon’ — you know, you ask for The Catcher in the Rye and they send you to the sports book section. (Chabon is the author of A Model World.)

John Grisham on Square Books, Oxford, Miss.:
I know a lot of people who’ll drive an hour or two into Oxford just to come to the bookstore. I go there every day — it’s my hangout. Always a crowd, always lots of writers. There’s a balcony upstairs where you can sit down, look out over the town square, drink coffee — they make great cappuccino — and loaf for hours. (Grisham is the author of The Firm.)

David Carkeet on Left Bank Books, St. Louis:
What can I say? It’s a terrific place. The hardbacks are 10 percent off. It’s politically liberal in a city that needs it. There’s a good selection of alternative books and a staff that does more than make change. (Carkeet is the author of The Full Catastrophe.)

Jackie Collins on Book Soup, Los Angeles:
Besides a great selection — they’ve got everything, including the English newspapers — I like it because it’s open late. I can go to Spago and dash over to Tower Records and then spend the rest of the evening in Book Soup. Also, the people-watching is fabulous. I’m a voyeur. I love lurking in the aisles, pretending to study a book and really studying the people around me. Recently I saw Madonna and her boyfriend there, at the magazine rack. (Collins is the author of Lady Boss.)

Russell Martin on the Chinook Bookshop, Colorado Springs:
I went to college in Colorado Springs, so I’ve been around the Chinook since 1970. It’s relaxed and easygoing — you don’t feel overwhelmed by the scale of things. And the staff is wonderful. They live for books. If you walked in and said, ‘What Texas writers should I be reading?’ they’d all chime in with answers. (Martin is the author of A Story That Stands Like a Dam.)

Lee Smith on the Regulator Bookshop, Durham, N.C.:
The Regulator may be a little shabby, but it’s about selling books, not mugs with cats on them. The people who work there seem to be mostly novelists. They put out this newsletter about what they’ve been reading. And they don’t care if you hang out there all day reading. (Smith is the author of Me and My Baby View the Eclipse.)

David Mura on the Hungry Mind Bookstore, St. Paul:
The owner is a wonderful supporter of literature and publishing in the community. There’s a terrific poetry section; they do lots of readings; they publish The Hungry Mind Review. I love settling down on one of their couches with a stack of books, reading through them, figuring out what I’m going to buy. (Mura is the author of Turning Japanese.)

Clyde Edgerton on Chapter Two Bookstore, Charleston, S.C.:
It’s in an old building, and it’s rickety and wooden and comfortable, very unplastic. It’s got high ceilings, too, and the walls have books going clear up to the top. And the selection’s nice. They have a healthy literary criticism section, something you don’t find too often. (Edgerton is the author of Killer Diller.)

Joy Williams on Unabridged Books, Chicago:
It’s a little, very intense shop, owned by some avid people who mark all their favorite books with notes on large yellow index cards. Sometimes they can’t cram all their enthusiasm onto an index card very well; their writing will get smaller and smaller and smaller… They’ve even got their own best-seller list. (Williams is the author of Escapes.)

Ellen Gilchrist on Hays and Sanders, Fayetteville, Ark.:
The store was opened by a poet (Sanders) and a novelist (Hays) — both inveterate readers and book collectors who know and love books. It’s one of those stores where real literature — books that can’t be read in front of the TV — is still considered important. (Gilchrist is the author of I Can Not Get You Close Enough.)