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Baltimore’s Iconic Book Stores and Libraries

One of Baltimore’s many mottos collected over the years is “The City That Reads.” Originally coined decades ago by former mayor Kurt Schmoke to encourage literacy, today the slogan resonates in many other ways. The city has long been home to great public libraries, most notably the George Peabody Library and the Enoch Pratt Free Library, and Baltimore’s modern cultural renaissance has also fostered a thriving bookstore community, with must-visit shops found all over the city. Check out our list of literary hot spots to discover in Charm City.

Atomic Books
3620 Falls Road
“Literary finds for mutated minds” is the slogan of this independent Hampden bookstore, which also serves as the fan mail collection point for famed Baltimore native, artist and filmmaker John Waters. Atomic Books has been curating an eclectic selection of comics, books, zines and art for more than 20 years, and features a cozy bar in the back for hosting events.
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George Peabody Library
1 E. Mount Vernon Place
As the inspiration for the library in the Disney film “Beauty and the Beast,” the George Peabody Library is considered one of the most beautiful libraries in the world by the likes of Architectural Digest. This iconic, 19th-century space holds more than 300,000 books and features five tiers of ornamental cast-iron balconies as well as a magnificent skylight.
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Enoch Pratt Free Library – Central Library
400 Cathedral Street
The Enoch Pratt Central Library is the main branch of Baltimore City’s free public library system, one of the oldest in the country. Its stunning architecture, quiet atmosphere, H. L. Mencken room and Edgar Allan Poe special collection are some of the reasons why more than half a million people visit every year.
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The Book Escape
805 Light Street
Don't let the small storefront in historic Federal Hill fool you; The Book Escape has endless shelves of new, used and rare books. Unlike typical used bookstores, this shop neatly organizes its tomes by category. In addition to the ones on shelves, The Book Escape has more than 40,000 books in storage that are searchable through its website.
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Charlotte Elliott & The Bookstore Next Door
835-837 W. 36th Street
Stopping by Charlotte Elliott in Hampden is a must for antiques hunters and vintage lovers, while The Bookstore Next Door features two levels of books from fiction and science to poetry and cookbooks. Charlotte Hays, owner of Charlotte Elliott & The Bookstore Next Door, is the fourth generation of antiques and arts dealers in her family.
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Bird in Hand
11 E. 33rd Street
For an elevated bookstore and coffee shop experience, visit Bird in Hand in Charles Village. It’s a collaboration between Spike Gjerde, James Beard award-winning chef and owner of Artifact Coffee, and Ed and Ann Berlin, husband-and-wife owners of The Ivy Bookshop. This inviting space is lined with must-read titles and holds book readings every month.
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The Book Thing
3001 Vineyard Lane
Russell Wattenberg started collecting and passing out used books for free from the back of his van in 1999, which evolved to a warehouse in Baltimore’s Waverly neighborhood in 2005. The Book Thing is a staple for literary Baltimore, allowing people to take as many books as they like with no purchase or exchange necessary.

The Ivy Bookshop
6080 Falls Road
The Ivy Bookshop is a well-stocked independent bookstore with everything from bestsellers to niche titles. Find your perfect book with the help of knowledgeable book advisers, join a book club or meet national and local writers. Since Ed and Ann Berlin took over in 2012, The Ivy Bookshop has become the official bookseller for the Baltimore Book Festival and has collaborated with many universities and museums in the city.

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