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Can’t-Miss Independent Bookstores in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is home to over a dozen independent booksellers

by Cassidy Swanson
August 5, 2021

This story was written for Very Local by Cassidy Swanson.


“Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated” – local bookstores

There’s nothing like wandering the streets of your favorite Pittsburgh neighborhood—coffee or tea in hand—and stumbling upon an independent bookshop. With our guide to the best independent bookstores in Pittsburgh, you’ll find endless bookshelves to peruse as you search for your next great read or an old favorite. There has been a resurgence of independent bookshops in the last decade, and Pittsburgh is home to more than a dozen independent booksellers. These local businesses are vital to the community and they provide a unique experience for Pittsburgh bibliophiles. Visit old favorites that have been around for decades or shop a newer independent bookshop like The Tiny Bookstore.

This list is organized by neighborhood. Whether you live in the city or just outside, there is almost certainly an independent bookstore nearby! And for those of you who’d like to shop from the comfort of your couch, we’ve provided online shopping and curbside delivery options for each bookstore. Go ahead, smell all the old books you want!

Our must-see favorites:

  • White Whale Bookstore
  • Caliban Book Shop
  • Penguin Bookshop
  • Mystery Lovers Bookshop

We’ve organized this list by neighborhood. Whether you live in the city or just outside, there is almost certainly an independent bookstore nearby!

Aspinwall Indie Bookstores

Spark Books

📍 14 Brilliant Ave Aspinwall, PA 15215

📚 New Books

🗓 Opened: October 2018

Spark Books sells books for kids to young adults and has become a haven for kids. Indie booksellers at Spark Books stress the importance of early literacy and encourage kids to empower themselves with knowledge. Whether you’ve got kiddos or you’re looking to get in touch with your inner child, it’s a great independent bookshop to visit in Pittsburgh.

Follow Spark Books

Bloomfield Indie Bookstores

White Whale Bookstore

📍 4754 Liberty Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15224

📚 New Books

🗓 Opened: Was originally called East End Book Exchange, but the new owners renamed the shop in 2016.

White Whale Books is located on Liberty Avenue in the heart of Bloomfield. This family-owned independent bookshop is within walking distance of several coffee shops and is the perfect spot to browse for new books. They host author readings, poetry nights, book clubs, and more. And don’t miss the beautiful mural on the side of the building! Bonus: you can shop online and have books shipped to you or pick up books curbside.

Follow White Whale Books

Dormont Indie Bookstores

Beyond Bedtime Books

📍 1453 Potomac Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15216

📚 New and Used Books

🗓 Opened: March 2010

Located in the heart of the Dormont business district, Beyond Bedtime Books sells new and gently used books. They also carry rare and out-of-print books and will happily order a book for you if they don’t have it in stock. Hours are limited to midday, so check to make sure they are

open before you go. You can also shop the locally-owned independent bookseller via their eBay store.

Follow Beyond Bedtime Books

Downtown Indie Bookstores

Amazing Books and Records

📍 929 Liberty Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15222

📍 5858 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15217

📚 New and Used Books

🗓 Opened: 2013. The current owner purchased the Awesome Bookshop that was located on Penn Ave. Amazing Books and Records opened their second Pittsburgh location on Murray Ave in 2014.

This bookstore sells both books and records and has locations in Downtown and Squirrel Hill. You can read more about how the owner, Erick Ackland, moved to Pittsburgh and became a bookseller in this 2017 Post-Gazette article. As you browse the shelves of this independent bookshop, keep in mind that the shop runs a deal where you will get a free book or record with every three you purchase. Just be sure you don’t stop in on a Saturday, as both shops are closed. You can also shop Amazing Books on AbeBooks, Amazon or Alibris.

Follow Amazing Books

McCandless Indie Bookstores

Riverstone Books

📍 8850 Covenant Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15237

📍 5825 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15217

📚 New Books

🗓 Opened: The McCandless location opened in 2017. The Squirrel Hill location, previously called Classic Lines, was reopened by Riverstone Books in 2021.

Riverstone Books is located in the North Hills, just up the road from Ross Park Mall. The independent bookstore carries a wide range of books for kids and adults and hosts a number of events in their shop. In addition to books, Riverstone has puzzles and gifts for sale. You can shop Riverstone Books online here or call the store to place an order for curbside pickup or delivery.

Classic Lines in Squirrel Hill, another favorite independent bookstore in Pittsburgh, was recently purchased by Riverstone Books. Stay tuned to their social media accounts for upcoming events and offerings.

Follow Riverstone Books

North Side Indie Bookstores

City of Asylum Books

📍 40 W. North Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

📚 New Books

🗓 Opened: 2017

The City of Asylum Bookstore is located in the Alphabet City building. The independent bookseller is a project of the Pittsburgh nonprofit, City of Asylum, that provides a residency program for writers who have been exiled from their home countries. You can shop City of Asylum Bookstore online and books will be shipped to you or you can choose to pick them up.

Follow City of Asylum Books

City Books

📍 908 Galveston Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15233

📚 New and Used Books

🗓 Opened: City Books was located on Carson Street in the South Side neighborhood. In 2016, the new owner purchased the inventory and moved the shop to the North Side.

City Books claims to be Pittsburgh’s oldest bookstore. The independent bookstore boasts free Wi-Fi, smooth jazz music, and a great location. You can follow City Books on Instagram for book sales or order through their Bookshop virtual storefront. You can also support CityBooks through its new customer loyalty plan.

If you are interested in learning more about local authors, check out the TV show, Shelf Life, hosted by City Books owner Arlan Hess on PCTV21.

Follow City Books

Oakland Indie Bookstores

Caliban Book Shop

📍 410 South Craig Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

📚 Used Books

🗓 Opened: 1991

The Caliban Book Shop is arguably the largest used bookseller in the Pittsburgh area. In addition to the bookshop on Craig Street in Oakland, Caliban also has a warehouse in Wilkinsburg. You’ll find a wide selection of books, including rare books, zines, and books written by local Pittsburgh authors. They also sell records and CDs. Get lost in the stacks, opt for curbside pickup, or shop online with Caliban Book Shop.

Follow Caliban Book Shop

Oakmont Indie Bookstores

Mystery Lovers Bookshop

📍 514 Allegheny River Blvd, Oakmont, PA 15139

📚 New and Used Books

🗓 Opened: 1990

Mystery Lovers Bookshop is an independent bookshop that specializes in mystery books. As the third largest mystery bookstore in the United States, the bookstore is perfect for Pittsburgh residents and tourists looking for a thrilling read. The bookshop holds author events for local and national authors and they also host book clubs. You can shop from the Mystery Lovers Bookshop website. If you’d like a book delivered right to your door each month, you can sign up for one of their mysterious book subscriptions. 

Follow Mystery Lovers Bookshop

Ross Township Indie Bookstores

The Tiny Bookstore

📍 1130 Perry Hwy Suite 106, Pittsburgh, PA 15237

📚 New and Used Books

🗓 Opened: 2018

The Tiny Bookstore is both the smallest bookstore in Pittsburgh and the only Black-owned bookstore in Pittsburgh.  The independent bookstore sells both new and used books as well as gifts, but don’t look for only New York Times bestsellers here. Lea and Bill Bickerton–husband and wife–own The Tiny Bookstore and Lea curates the book selections based upon what appeals to her. You’ll find children’s books, cookbooks, independently published authors, and a whole lot more in this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it bookshop. You can shop the Tiny Bookstore online and choose delivery or curbside pickup.

Follow The Tiny Bookstore

Shadyside Indie Bookstores

Shadyside Books

📍 5900 Ellsworth Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15232

📚 Used Books

🗓 Opened: December 2018

Shadyside Books is Pittsburgh’s newest used bookstore. You’ll find books in every genre but the bookstore specializes in history, arts, and science. They’re open seven days a week but you can also shop online and have books delivered to your doorstep.

Follow Shadyside Books

Sewickley Indie Bookstores

Penguin Bookshop

📍 417 Beaver Street, Sewickley, PA 15143

📚 New Books

🗓 Opened: 1929

The Penguin Bookshop probably owns the title of Pittsburgh’s oldest continually operating bookstore. Located in Sewickley, about a 15-20 minute drive from Downtown Pittsburgh, this independent bookshop sells new fiction, nonfiction and children’s books. Penguin Bookshop frequently hosts author events and workshops for writers. Shop all the best indie bestsellers through the Penguin Books website or from the Penguin Bookshop page on Bookshop.org.

Follow Penguin Bookshop

More resources for Pittsburgh Readers


This story was originally published in December 2018. 

📸 Header photo: Photo courtesy Jamie Grassman/Beyond Bedtime Books.

A part-time freelance writer and full-time copywriter, Cassidy is a lover of all things Pittsburgh. She fell in love with the bridges, the rivers, the culture, and the food from the first moment she stepped foot in the city in 2015. She has a passion for storytelling, whether it’s working on her creepy thriller novel at night or writing about incredible food and must-see locations. When she isn’t writing, you’ll find her practicing yoga, tending to her plants, crafting a new recipe in the kitchen, buying more books than she’ll ever be able to read, or daydreaming about the next...

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