Bookstore Review: Letters Bookshop in Durham, NC

Letters Bookshop in Durham, NC

Bookstore: Letters Bookshop in Durham, NC
Type: New and Used Bookstore
Hours: Tues-Sat 11am-8pm / Sun 12-5pm
Address: 313 W. Main Street, Durham, NC 27701
Phone: 919.973.2573

Pros: What can I say about the store, other than it’s beautiful and has the feel of an art gallery when you walk inside. Even though the day was gloomy due to the incessant rain, the bookstore wrapped me in warmth from abundance of wood and subtle lighting. The store also had a huge front window, that would let in lots of light on a sunny day. When I first walked into the store, at my left, there was an inviting nook with a cushioned seating area. Just perfect for catching a quick read while browsing.

Front window area Front display area and cashier Front display area and cashier

The store’s inventory consists mainly of used books with a few new books available. Even though the store had just opened a few days earlier, the selection of books was impressive. Along the large right-hand wall was the fiction section focusing mainly on contemporary literary fiction with a sprinkling of classic literature. It’s obvious that the owner, Land Arnold, carefully selected his inventory to ensure there’s a plentiful supply of books you actually want to read. Throughout the store there are various displays of books. While not all of the displays have their signage yet, Land offered assistance several times with any questions I might have.

The display that immediately caught my eye, was one that offered Room by Emma Donoghue, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, and Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. A good sign of what was to come, as I have read the first two books and have the Eugenides on my huge TBR pile. The store also offered local flavor with a North Carolina display of books. There was a table that displayed a selection of new books, including How Not to Lose Her by Junot Diaz and Blasphemy by Sherman Alexie. Have I said I fell in love with this bookstore, yet? Other genres for sale include, Mystery, History, Essays, Reference, Travel, Cookbooks, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Biography, Cultural Criticism, Young Adult, Poetry (I saw a Derek Walcott I plan to pick up if it’s still there on my next visit), Drama, Non-Fiction, Health, Business, Religion, Philosophy, True Crime, Graphic Novels.

Books on display Featured Fiction Display

The store had a section for Kids which had an area where they could lounge and read as their parents browsed. While there is no separate section for African American books, there were several books dispersed throughout the store (particularly in the Fiction section). My only suggestion is to add a New/Incoming Books display near the front of the store for those days where I only have time to pop in but want to quickly see new inventory.

The other positive was definitely the owner as he pointed out things to me that didn’t currently have a sign, such as the area of autographed books behind the cashier’s station. By the way, I loved the newfangled cash register. I used my finger to sign for a credit card transaction. Gave me the feeling of being in an Apple store.

North Carolina Display New Books Display

Anyway, it’s great having a bookstore back in downtown Durham. Though I have to time my visit a little bit better — when Dame’s Chicken and Waffles, a few doors down, isn’t quite so busy ;-)

Cons: Parking is the biggest issue. Because the store is located in a revitalized downtown Durham, the closest parking is street parking — there is no dedicated parking lot for the store. However, if you are unable to find street parking nearby, you can park at one of the city garages. The day I went was very rainy, so I drove around the block a few times and eventually scored a free parking space right across from the store.

The only improvement on selection I look forward to would be more books in the Sci-Fi and Fantasy section. It was a little skimpy but considering the store had only opened a few days before, I expect this section to expand as the store matures.

Great Finds: I scored four books on my first visit: Child of God by Cormac McCarthy, The Queen’s Man by Sharon Kay Penman, The Labyrinth of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers, and The Information by James Gleick. All books were used but in terrific condition. In fact, the Gleick and Moers books were in near mint condition.

Trade-in Policy: The store does have a trade-in policy. Please call the store for specifics as I think the policy was still evolving.



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