As any avid reader will attest to, there’s nothing quite like getting lost in a good book. Reading can transport us to another world and provide an escape from everyday stress. The benefits of reading, obvious to the bookworm, are now also being backed by science: it ignites our imagination; it improves empathy; it can reduce stress, make us happier and smarter — it might even make us live longer.
Despite all these perks, Americans are reading less than ever. What’s also been dwindling in the past few decades is the amount of independent booksellers. In the five years following the 1995 launch of Amazon, the number of independent bookstores fell by 40 percent.
But, in difference to our reading habits, the brick-and-mortar bookstores have bounced back in recent years. Between 2009 and 2015, the number of independent bookstores in the United States grew by 35 percent, despite challenges in the form of big box stores, online retail, and the ascension of the e-book.
This recent increase seems to indicate that, despite the infinite distractions of the digital world, there are some things that can’t be replaced by an easy search and click. Thumbing the pages of a book, chatting with the bookseller, discovering a rare treasure on a shelf; there’s a sense of authenticity in a bookstore often lost in the digital space. Beyond the benefits of this individual experience, independent bookshops also play an important role in our community; as businesses supporting the local economy and as gathering places for a diverse group of people.
To celebrate our local independent booksellers, and to encourage more reading, we’ve created a book-lover’s guide to Sonoma County. Click through the above gallery for some of our favorite neighborhood bookstores (and don’t forget to support your local library, too). Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments.