25 of the best indie bookstores in Iowa, according to Iowans

By Nikoel Hytrek
September 28, 2023
&nbsp &nbsp The nights are getting longer, and the days chillier, and there’s never a better time to get lost in a new book (except maybe the dead of winter).

If you’ve exhausted the library shelves and you’re tired of giving your money to big corporations, you’re going to need to get your new books somewhere. And we have just the suggestions for you. (Or, rather, you have suggestions for each other!)

We asked, and 107 of you told us on Facebook what your favorite independent bookstores are in Iowa.

At the top of the list, with almost 50 recommendations, was Dog-Eared Books in Ames.

“Progressive and not quiet about the terrible direction our state is going + a bookstore dog,” said Kelsi M.

The Dog-Eared Books location in Ames opened in 2021 and is run by two women who graduated from Ames High in 2001. They met and bonded when their children were in the same preschool class, and over volunteer work with national gun violence prevention group Moms Demand Action.

And the bookstore dog is actually two: Lovie and Honey are the two bookshop dogs who will hang out while you read.

Cindy P. called Dog-Eared Books, “Top-notch, a beacon of hope in Ames, Iowa.” She also praised their events and the clubs for young readers.

Very few people were able to limit themselves to one answer, and we’ve got all 25 of them right here. Enjoy!

Top 3:
1. Dog-Eared Books, Ames

2. Prairie Lights Books and Cafe, Iowa City

3. River Lights Bookstore, Dubuque

Alphabetically:
Beaverdale Books, Des Moines

Book People, Sioux City

The Book Shoppe, Boone

Book Vault, Oskaloosa

The Book Vine, Cherokee

The Book Worm, Bellevue

Brick Road Books, Winterset

Burlington by the Book, Burlington

Dragonfly Books, Decorah

Dungeon’s Gate, Ankeny

The Haunted Bookshop, Iowa City

The Insomniac Bookshop, West Des Moines (online only)

The Latest Edition, Creston

Next Page Books, Cedar Rapids

Pageturners, Indianola

Paper Moon, McGregor

Plain Talk Books, Des Moines

Prologue Books & Wine, Charles City

Reading in Public, West Des Moines

Sidekick Books, Iowa City

Storyhouse Bookpub, Des Moines

Wall of Books, Ankeny

Starting Line’s Favorites
Nikoel: Storyhouse Bookpub, Des Moines (“It’s a cool, small space with interesting events and friendly staff who help create a welcoming, comfortable environment. And its location in the East Village is nice and convenient.”)

Amie: Soul Book Nook, Waterloo (“I hope this place is still open; haven’t seen them post in a while, but it was always so welcoming. Amber is so personable and wonderful to chat with. And you can also view, and sometimes purchase, the art on the walls done by her daughter!”)

Avery: River Lights, Dubuque (“Owned by former teachers, they have a 30% bestseller sale all the time, and a teacher discount.”)

Ty: Reading in Public, West Des Moines (“It’s newer, but it has become a valuable addition to Valley Junction and it’s a super-inclusive space that tries to make everyone feel welcome.”)

  • Nikoel Hytrek

    Nikoel Hytrek is Iowa Starting Line’s longest-serving reporter. She covers LGBTQ issues, abortion rights and all topics of interest to Iowans. Her biggest goal is to help connect the dots between policy and people’s real lives. If you have story ideas or tips, send them over to [email protected].

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