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Get Out of Town, | Apr 21, 2015

Shelf life

812 explores three of our thriving independent bookstores.

Village Lights Bookstore welcomes customers in downtown Madison. /Photo by Lexia Banks

If you’re looking for a gallery of books ranging from the newest bestseller to a frayed anthology of Southern Indiana tall tales, visit one of the cozy independent bookstores that dot the 812 region.

These quaint and quirky bookstores have long been a source of international, otherworldly and local knowledge. Step inside and you’ll find comfy chairs to curl up in and maybe a cat or two to scratch behind the ears while you read.

812 traveled Southern Indiana to find three independent bookstores worth a special trip.

Viewpoint Books

548 Washington St., Columbus
Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday

Viewpoint Books has been the go-to bookstore in Columbus since 1973. The light-brown brick building calls to book lovers from a street corner downtown. Owners Terry and Susan Whittaker go to great lengths to get books for customers, says clerk Joseph Dosterglick. “The owner loves books, and he wants people to read,” he says and that means making sure “the right book goes to the right person.”

The walls and bookshelves are splashed with bright red, yellow and muted blue paints warmed by the expanse of windows near the front door. A front room houses shelves of new books and a few racks of merchandise. A small alcove offers a diverse collection of children’s toys and games. The last room in the back has cases of used books and inviting red leather armchairs.

Owner recommendation? Terry suggests reading “Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah.

Village Lights Bookstore

110 East Main St., Madison
Hours: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday

Be careful when roaming this Victorian bookstore, or you might step on Oscar Wilde’s tail. Oscar is just one of three cats darting about or napping in one of the wingback chairs in Village Lights Bookstore.

The soft warm lights cast a vintage glow across the dark hardwood flooring of the store. The walls are lined with books, ranging from national bestsellers to regional tales. “We’re a carefully curated store because we’re so small,” says owner Nathan Montoya. “And we want everything on the shelf to have a reason to be there.” Artists can tour the Twain Room, the store’s small art gallery. Children can find their own little world in the tiny reading nook under the stairs.

Owner recommendation? Nathan suggests “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr.

Destinations Booksellers

604 East Spring St., New Albany
Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday

Randy Smith always wanted to own a bookstore. His wish finally came true in 2004 when he opened Destinations Booksellers, giving New Albany its first bookstore in decades. Destinations only sells new books, save for one rack of remainder books. These extra copies were printed but never sold, and Smith sells them by the pound. “Treat books as a raw commodity,” he advises.

The front half of the store is a maze of shelves and cases with a comfortable blue couch that’s perfect for opening a book you just can’t wait to start. Toward the back of the store, stainless steel machinery and racks of pots and pans flank the polished counter of the store’s bakery.

Owner recommendation? Randy suggests “World Gone” by Dennis Lehane.

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