Few things may be as satisfying as cozying up with a good book and a cup of coffee or glass of wine. Reading is more than just an act of escapism and consumption of knowledge, it’s a hard reset and tactile experience that allows people to disconnect from their increasingly busy lives.
As independent bookstores enjoy renewed interest from avid readers looking to shop locally, some Atlanta booksellers are now providing people a place to pair their love for reading with food, coffee, and wine and beer.
The bookstore cafe isn’t a new concept, but these businesses have typically focused on the book experience rather than what’s served on the menu. That’s starting to change.
When Read Shop first opened in Vinings six years ago, it only sold books and magazines. Owner Dan Collier, who also owns the Merchant and Collier Candy Company in Atlanta, soon realized he could increase books sales and provide a gathering space for local residents by serving coffee and pastries. The care taken by baristas with the coffee served at Read is equal to the books stocked on its shelves. The shop includes seating and actively encourages people to relax after ordering to read and enjoy a cup of coffee.
For Katie Barringer, co-owner of Lucian Books and Wine in Buckhead, the idea for the business came while she and partner and sommelier Jordan Smelt were sitting at the Swans Bar in Maison Assouline in London surrounded by books as they sipped cocktails and wine.
Lucian revives a version of Barringer’s former bookshop Cover and serves as a platform for Smelt to share his breadth of wine knowledge with guests.
“The genesis of Lucian was a bookstore very much like I had with Cover, the format of which was not just a retail bookstore, but a more social, interactive setting,” Barringer says.
Books on the shelves at Lucian focus on subjects related to art, fashion, design, and food, particular passions of Barringer. Most books sales occur after a meal, as people peruse the titles with a glass of wine. There are over 250 bottles to choose from at Lucian and a dedicated sommelier in Smelt to help guide people in selecting.
As a bookseller, adding food and drinks to the mix helps open up conversations, Barringer says. People ultimately end up discovering a new book to read on a chef, cuisine, artist, photographer, or designer. And that’s the point. Everybody wins.
Candace Walker, owner of Stone Mountain wine bar and bookstore the Vibrary, says the business is a way for her to give back to the community where she grew up, while also tapping into her love for reading and wine.
Most of the books on the shelves at the Vibrary are by Black authors and authors of color or feature main characters who are Black or persons of color. Wines served on the menu are mainly organic or biodynamic and can come paired with charcuterie and cheese.
Walker sees the Vibrary as a “peaceful oasis for the mind and senses,” a place for the Stone Mountain community to relax and gather over shared interests. She regularly hosts book signings, author readings, and wine tastings, too.
“A great bottle of wine can transport you to the countryside or an exotic locale across the globe,” Walker says. “In the same way, books have always been a gateway to adventure and escape.”
According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, one third of adults in America read books both in print and by digital device, such as a Kindle. A typical American adult reads approximately five books per year. That figure might seem low to a voracious reader, but there’s hope for the future of books, as people between the ages of 18 and 29 are reading more books on average than other age groups, including their Boomer and GenX parents.
That younger demographic of readers is also helping to drive the rising trend in bookstores doubling as cafes and bars opening around the country. And Atlanta appears to be here for it.
Below are six bookstore cafes and bars to check out around Atlanta.
Read Shop — Vinings
Located at Vinings Jubliee, this quaint coffee shop and bookstore carries everything from the latest best selling novels, travel books, and cookbooks to glossy coffee table books and magazines. Head here for coffee and lattes made with Stumptown beans and fresh pastries in the morning. Grab a seat to read at the window rail or in the chairs near counter.
Dr. Bombay’s Underwater Tea Party — Candler Park
A charming spot for tea and books in Candler Park, Dr. Bombay’s is like slipping into a cozy library in someone’s home with its eclectic assortment of furniture and books lining the dark wood shelves throughout the shop. This is the place for people seeking a quiet nook in which to read or to order afternoon tea and scones with friends. A percentage of all sales benefits the Learning Tea, Dr. Bombay’s philanthropic arm offering housing and educational opportunities to young women in India. High tea service is also available.
Maomi Bookstore — Chamblee
This bookstore and tea shop at Atlanta Chinatown in Chamblee specializes in Chinese titles, sells and serves a variety of teas, and even hosts Chinese calligraphy classes. In addition to tea and books, the shop also sells calligraphy writing tools, gifts, Chinese tea service sets, and children’s books and games. Table seating is available after ordering to read, meet up with a friend, or do a little work.
The Vibrary — Stone Mountain
Come for the wine and books, but stay for the vibes. Located in the heart of Stone Mountain Village, the Vibrary merges Candace Walker’s love for wine with her lifelong love of reading and books. Most of the books sold at the Vibrary are by Black authors and authors of color or center Black people and people of color as main characters and in the storylines. Wines lean mainly organic and biodynamic and can be paired with charcuterie and cheese. Keep an eye on Instagram for events, including wine tastings, book signings, author readings, and book clubs.
Lucian Books and Wine — Buckhead
Located at the corner of Peachtree and Pharr, Lucian Books and Wine specializes in titles centered on art, fashion, food, and design and carries nearly 250 wines by the bottle and 15 wines by the glass. It’s here that owners Katie Barringer and Jordan Smelt merge their love for reading, wine, and food in an understated yet sophisticated space. Dine on oysters, raw hamachi with seasonal fruits, and beautifully confit duck or even a bowl of crispy fries served with horseradish aioli for dipping while sipping champagne. Wines range from plucky albariños and buttery chardonnays to zippy zweigelts and full-bodied mourvedres. Reservations required for dining.
Bold Monk Brewing — Underwood Hills
The Underwood Hills brewpub centers its beer menu around old-school, European styles paired with a menu that includes dishes like Belgian fries, steak frites, wood-grilled salmon, and a knockwurst and pastrami sandwich. Spacious seating arrangements give patrons several options spread out over two floors and outside in the tiered beer garden behind the building. But Bold Monk Brewing also features an extra special spot upstairs: a library/bookstore overlooking the brewing facility below full of titles on beer, cocktails, drink culture, and travel. The lounge area and nearby bar on this level are great spots to grab coffee in the late morning or a beer in the afternoon, while reading quietly or finishing up some work.