Get Lost in a Book at These Independent Bookstores in Iowa

Marble bust in front of bookshelf at Paper Moon in McGregor, Iowa

I’ve always been a big reader. As a traveler, one of my favorite places to seek out when visiting a new place is an independent bookstore. Even while exploring my home state, I love finding the places that are havens for book lovers. And luckily for us, there are lots of independent bookstores in Iowa. 

Whether you love novels or feel more drawn to nonfiction, the Hawkeye state is full of bookish places. The next time you’re in need of something new to read, check out one of these amazing Iowa independent bookstores.

Independent Bookstores in Iowa

Beaverdale Books

Stack of books on a shelf that says Beaverdale Books at Beaverdale Books in Des Moines, Iowa

Tucked in the heart of residential Des Moines, Beaverdale Books is a cozy refuge for anyone who loves books. Since I moved to Iowa, this shop has been one of my go-to places for both casual browsing and pre-ordering new books from my favorite authors.

Beaverdale Books, 2629 Beaver Avenue, #S1 in Des Moines, Iowa

Book People

Opened in 1977, Book People is Sioux City’s only independent bookstore. In addition to a wide variety of books, the shop also carries children’s toys, games, gifts and more.

Book People, 2923 Hamilton Boulevard in Sioux City, Iowa

Book Vault

White marble exterior of a historic bank now home to the Book Vault in Oskaloosa, Iowa

The Book Vault in Oskaloosa is quite possibly one of Iowa’s most unique bookstores! Located in a historic 1892 bank, this cozy bookshop still has the building’s three original bank vaults, which are now brimming with books, games and more.

Book Vault, 105 S. Market Street in Oskaloosa, Iowa

Dragonfly Books

 

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No visit to Decorah is complete without a stop at Dragonfly Books! This sweet shop is full of incredible books for readers of all ages and always has the most unique seasonal displays. Dragonfly Books also has a wonderful selection of books by Iowa born and based authors.

Dragonfly Books, 112 W. Water Street in Decorah, Iowa

The Haunted Bookshop

Maroon sign for The Haunted Bookshop in Iowa City, Iowa
Tan brick exterior of The Haunted Bookshop in Iowa City, Iowa

Don’t let the name scare you off! The Haunted Bookshop is Iowa City’s oldest secondhand bookstore with more than 50,000 used books on just about every subject imaginable. Named after the Christopher Morley book of the same name, this cozy shop is located in a beautiful 1847 home and is also home to a number of sweet shop cats.

The Haunted Bookshop, 219 N. Gilbert Street in Iowa City, Iowa

Next Page Books

 

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Located just across the street from NewBo City Market, Next Page Books is a tiny shop full of gems. The bookshop staff always has amazing recommendations and a great variety of new titles mixed in with old favorites.

Next Page Books, 1105 Third Street SE in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Pageturners Bookstore

 

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I first discovered Pageturners Bookstore earlier this year during a weekend breakfast road trip to Indianola. This indie bookstore is a delightful gem located just off the main square. Pageturners Bookstore sells a mix of new and used books for readers of all ages in addition to some truly delightful bookish gifts

Pageturners Bookstore, 101 E. Salem Avenue in Indianola, Iowa

Paper Moon

Exterior of Paper Moon in McGregor, Iowa

One block from the banks of the Mississippi River in McGregor, Iowa’s historic downtown, Paper Moon is an indie bookstore and gift shop that is truly one of a kind. Brimming with wonderful books and quirky gifts for absolutely everyone, Paper Moon is one of my favorite Iowa shops to browse. And if the promise of books wasn’t enough, they have some truly adorable shop cats as well.

Paper Moon, 206 A Street in McGregor, Iowa

Plain Talk Books

Located in Des Moines’ East Village, Plain Talk Books sells a curated selection of used books in a cozy cafe setting. In addition to ice cream and coffee drinks, Plain Talk Books has a delicious menu of (sometimes literary-inspired) sandwiches and paninis.

Plain Talk Books, 602 E. Grand Avenue in Des Moines, Iowa

Prairie Lights Books

 

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Located in the heart of downtown Iowa City, Prairie Lights Books is a book lovers’ paradise. In addition to its onsite cafe, Prairie Lights also hosts regular readings by traveling and local authors.

Prairie Lights Books & Cafe, 15 S. Dubuque Street in Iowa City, Iowa

River Lights Bookstore

Floor to ceiling bookshelves with wooden ladder at River Lights Books in Dubuque, Iowa
Floor to ceiling bookshelves at River Lights Books in Dubuque, Iowa

I’m hardly exaggerating when I say that I could spend hours browsing at River Lights Bookstore. Located in downtown Dubuque, this independent bookstore has rooms of towering shelves packed with book. In addition to books for readers of all ages, River Lights has a great selection of gifts for your favorite book lover.

River Lights Bookstore, 1098 Main Street in Dubuque, Iowa

Sidekick Coffee & Books

While the focus at Sidekick Coffee & Books was initially children’s books, this Iowa City shop has quickly expanded to cater to readers of all ages. As its name suggests, Sidekick pairs a carefully curated selection of books with a full cafe serving coffee drinks, bakery treats and more.

Sidekick Coffee & Books, 1310 1/2 Melrose Avenue in Iowa City, Iowa

The Soul Book Nook

 

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Opened in 2020, The Soul Book Nook is Iowa’s only black-owned bookstore. Located in Waterloo, the Soul Book Nook’s mission is “inspiring communities to heal through prints and publications that encompass all of us through literary works, storytelling, factual revelations, history and autobiographies of all people.” The shop sells a mix of new and used books and hosts a variety of community events.

The Soul Book Nook, 110 E 4th Street in Waterloo, Iowa

Storyhouse Bookpub

Fiction section with bookshelves and recommendation cards at Storyhouse Bookpub holiday popup in Des Moines, Iowa
Woman wearing mask holding box of pies and two books at Storyhouse Bookpub holiday popup in Des Moines, Iowa

Learning that Storyhouse Bookpub was planning to open just blocks from our home in Des Moines was truly a pinch me moment! While this unique shop doesn’t have a full-time brick and mortar location at the moment, Storyhouse Bookpub hosts the absolute dreamiest pop-up events for book lovers. With a perfectly curated selection of new and gently used books, these amazing events bring some of my favorite things about Des Moines together in one place.

Storyhouse Bookpub, Des Moines, Iowa

Swamp Fox Bookstore

Located in the Uptown Marion district, Swamp Fox Bookstore sells new books for readers of all ages. In addition to a wide variety of books, the shop also hosts author events and community-focused pop-ups with other small businesses.

Swamp Fox Bookstore, 809 6th Avenue #4 in Marion, Iowa

Share Your Thoughts

I would love to hear from you! What are your favorite independent bookstores in Iowa? Where do you find recommendations for new books?

Looking for your next read? Shop small by support one of these independent bookstores in Iowa! These cozy shops have books for readers of all ages and can be found across the Hawkeye state. #Iowa #Midwest
Looking for your next read? Shop small by support one of these independent bookstores in Iowa! These cozy shops have books for readers of all ages and can be found across the Hawkeye state. #Iowa #Midwest

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Comments (2)

We have been in the Paper Moon! It was a fabulous surprise during an Eastern Iowa road trip. My daughter loved the kitties!

It’s such a lovely shop! And the perfect road trip destination. Thanks so much for reading!

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