The Community Book Center was started in 1983 by Vera Williams, a Black woman living in the Lower Ninth. She had $300 in her pocket and a dream to have a space where her community could find books by and about people of African descent. “There’s an African proverb,” Williams says. “Until the lion tells his own story, the tale will continue to glorify the hunter.” For nearly 40 years, she has been supporting the lion with a wide selection of Black-centered tales in a variety of literary genres including a great selection of children’s books. It is the local headquarters for Kwanzaa, selling holiday supplies year-round and hosting events. It also boasts a mini grocery with items made by African American companies. And the space has been used to help survivors of hurricanes after all of the recent storms that have hit the city.
Owned by Elizabeth Barry Ahlquist, Blue Cypress Books did what many of us did over the pandemic—it grew into a bigger space. The new one looks how you want an indie bookstore to look; more cozy than cramped, naturally lit, tilted book stacks, and warm employees. The upgrade also means a second floor event space, though judging by the way their bookstore kitty struts about it, you’d think it was made for her. So, in addition to more places for Kitty Meow to stretch out, the space is also used to support literary culture bearers through a multitude of events. The store itself, owned and run by women, features one of the largest mix of new and used books you’ll find in town and 80% of their customer base are locals.
Tubby & Coo were the grandparents of Candice Huber, who opened the store in 2014 in the very neighborhood their grandparents grew up in. Huber, who identifies as they/them, is proud of the niche they’ve built as the the only queer-owned science fiction and fantasy bookstore in town. As an avid fantasy nerd myself, I’ve been guilty of buying books from Tubby & Coo’s and reading them in the most Mid-City way possible (on the bayou near Cabrini bridge, wine glass in hand). The shop is very into bringing its community together. “We do author events and book clubs online, which is great for us because our nerdfolk often live online,” says Huber. To top it off, the shop even has a partnership across the pond with Portal Bookshop, based in the UK, for an international sci-fi queer fantasy bookclub called, “Both Ends of the Rainbow.”
Located uptown, ten blocks from Audubon Park, this small bookstore is known for its well-curated selection and its architecturally compelling space. There are plans to expand, but regardless you can expect the staff to know what's new and exciting in the book world—as well as the fantastic suggestions from its associates. Owner Tom Lowenburg credits a big part of its success to localism having come into its own. “People want to support locally-based places,” he says. “We're not a fast food town and the same applies for shops like independent bookstores, maybe more so because we do things that make us a community center. That’s true for most local bookstores to a degree.”
Baldwin & Co. takes the responsibility of bearing James Baldwin’s name seriously. The Black-owned store is chic, lined with walls of books and art to peruse while sipping on house-brewed coffee. While the shop boasts a great culturally-curated book selection, it also serves the community with onsite tutoring, weekend story time, and back to school and book giveaways. It pairs authors with local schools to speak in classrooms, and the majority of the events it offers are free. It even has an in-house podcast studio for community members to use, understanding the different mediums that stories are presented through today.
All ye who seek geek culture, enter this purveyor of nerdom for a diverse selection of comics and graphic novels. It has one of the largest collections of graphic novels in the state and staff prioritizes keeping their stock filled with variety. This is not your Marvel/DC dedicated comic shop. Owner Les Arceneaux, along with manager, Leo McGovern, have always been proponents of genre comics; everything from true stories to sci-fi to fantasy. If you’re a Neil Gaimen fan, you’ll be happy to find Sandman, Preacher, and Hellblazer at your fingertips. Independent series like Serabis or more modern pop culture phenoms like The Boys and Locke and Key can also be found among the stacks. “We enjoy proselytizing comics for sure," says Leo. “There's a big readership here in the New Orleans area. We have three major comic shops which is fairly uncommon for a city our size.” With all the dress up and cosplay that happens in this town, it’s no wonder.