11 Radical Bookstores to Help You Plan a Revolution
One-stop shopping for all your leftist reading needs
Electric Lit relies on contributions from our readers to help make literature more exciting, relevant, and inclusive. Please support our work by becoming a member today, or making a one-time donation here.
If the political landscape in America today has you longing for radical transformation, it might be time to head over (virtually, for now) to your nearest radical bookstore. Often volunteer-run nonprofit collectives, radical bookstores are the type of place where you can find whole sections of anti-racist, anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchal, and anti-imperialist readings. Whether you’re looking to challenge gender binaries, demystify the prison-industrial complex, understand the finer differences between anarchism and communism, or just find fun new stories by historically marginalized writers, radical bookstores can help you get ahold of the titles you need.
During the pandemic, many are hosting virtual events and shipping online orders, making now the perfect time to connect with radical bookstores across America even if you don’t live near one. Below are eleven great stores to get you started. (If you’re looking for radical bookstores around the world, this website can help you search.)
Red Emma’s (Baltimore, Maryland)
Named for 19th-century anarchist Emma Goldman, who dedicated her life to “the struggle against state tyranny, capitalist exploitation, and patriarchal oppression,” Red Emma’s is a “worker-owned, cooperatively-managed bookstore, community events space, and restaurant in Baltimore.” Their aim is to bring together people who have long been involved in struggles for justice as well as people newly interested in radical, anarchist, and communist ideas. You can connect with Red Emma’s on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Bookshop.
Boneshaker Books (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Boneshaker Books is a “volunteer-run, radical bookstore” that aims to introduce readers to leftist politics, facilitate conversations, and support ongoing movements. During the pandemic, the store has launched four virtual book clubs — Abolition Book Club, Politics of Pandemics, Trans Book Club, and Utopias Book Club — with more in the works. Find Boneshaker on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Bookshop.
Firestorm Co-op (Asheville, North Carolina)
Firestorm is a queer, feminist “collectively-owned radical bookstore and community event space” dedicated to supporting “grassroots movements in Southern Appalachia.” When someone broke into the store and emptied the register in early May, staff didn’t call the police because “there really isn’t anything that cops could do for us that we can’t do for ourselves and if someone is desperate enough to risk their freedom for $150, maybe we’ve all failed them.” You can find Firestorm on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Red Scare Infoshop (Tulsa, Oklahoma)
Located at the crossroads of the Osage, Cherokee, and Muskogee (Creek) Nations (also called Tulsa, Oklahoma), Red Scare Infoshop “affirms and promotes values of mutual aid, direct democracy, anti-authoritarianism, autonomy and solidarity” while opposing “capitalism, imperialism, patriarchy, heterosexism, transphobia, ableism, racism, colonialism, and all other forms of oppression.” They offer books and zines on leftist literature, subversive history, radical theory, and more. You can connect with them on Instagram, but during the pandemic they remain most active on Facebook.
Left Bank Books Collective (Seattle, Washington)
Collectively owned and operated by its workers, this decades-long fixture of the Duwamish Territory (also known as Seattle) radical community specializes in “anti-authoritarian, anarchist, independent, radical and small-press titles.” Before the pandemic, they had a long-standing tradition of being open every day except May Day and New Years. Now, they remain most active on Instagram and can also be found on Facebook.
Wooden Shoe Books (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Located in Philly’s edgy and alternative South Street neighborhood, this all-volunteer anarchist bookstore collective “seeks to embody the principles of anarchism and other movements for social justice.” Founded over 40 years ago as an anti-profit bookstore, they remain nonprofit today. When telemarketers phone asking for the owner, workers enjoy pointing out that there is no owner; telemarketers usually get confused and hang up. Find Wooden Shoe Books on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
The Peace Nook (Columbia, Missouri)
This non-profit, volunteer-based community resource space refers to itself as “an information and social change activism referral center. It is also a storefront offering books, fair trade imports, natural foods, environmental products, posters, jewelry, T-shirts, magazines and much, much more!” They stock approximately 5,000 alternative book titles “including progressive literature and politics, feminist, African American, LGBT, Native American, personal growth and spirituality, holistic health, sustainable living and vegetarian cooking.” You can connect with The Peace Nook on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Microcosm Publishing Store (Portland, Oregon)
Looking for graphic narratives about precursor movements to Black Lives Matter, instructions on how to not get arrested at a protest, anarchist analyses of the COVID-19 pandemic, or perhaps just some good old-fashioned vegan Scottish recipes or tips for talking to your cat about evolution? Microcosm Publishing’s catalog of books and zines has got you covered. They also have a brick and mortar storefront currently open for socially distanced pick-ups. Connect on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Bluestockings Bookstore (New York, New York)
This beloved queer, trans, and sex worker collectively run bookstore describes itself as 98% radical, 2% glitter, and 100% volunteer powered. While staff are currently searching for a new physical space that will better accommodate the store’s disabled community, they are also maintaining an active calendar of virtual events and continuing to sell books online. You can find Bluestockings on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Bookshop. You can also support their GoFundMe, which seeks to raise $150,000 towards helping the store move into new premises.
Charis Books & More (Decatur, Georgia)
The South’s oldest independent feminist bookstore has been celebrating radical and independent voices in the heart of the South since 1974. Their mission is to foster sustainable feminist communities, work for social justice, and encourage the expression of diverse and marginalized voices. The store is currently hosting a number of online events, including recurring offerings such as Black Feminist Book Club, LGBTQ+ Book Club, Trans and Friends Discussion Group, Gender Creative Parenting Collective, Race Conscious Parenting Collective, and more. Find Charis on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Bookshop.
Monkeywrench Books (Austin, Texas)
This all-volunteer event space, radical bookstore, and social hub serves up “insurgent literature for aspiring partisans.” They host an anarchist study group, a Jacobin socialist/leftist reading group, zine making and overdose prevention events, and more. Monkeywrench is ready to connect with you on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.