Not only does Kansas City house some excellent bars and jazz ripe with literary inspiration, it also houses 21 bookstores. There’s a reason we’re ranked #2 on Livability for Best Cities for Book Lovers. Some of the greats have called KC home; Ernest Hemingway did during his Kansas City Star days, and KC is the birthplace of Evan S. Connell.
So get ready to skim shelves, crack a spine and settle into another world.
Like Hemingway, I’ll give you the brief list of the best:
Kansas City Public Library – Downtown
Kansas City’s large library system is impressive. And if you’re a local without a library card, you best be getting one soon. Beyond an extensive collection, the KCPL also has a digital library, music, and movie library, AND holds a number of activities like guest lectures, online classes, author appearances, book clubs, film screenings, and even coffee tastings.
But bookworms can get an extra dose of tourist fun at the downtown library, which is known for its giant book mural, and a massive human-sized chess board on the roof.
Prospero’s Books (39th)
This is my favorite bookstore to take friends to. Located on quirky 39th Street, Prospero’s is more than just a fun bookstore. I like to describe it as the “St. Louis City Museum of Books,” with its three stories of books shoved in every nook and cranny and artwork and witty/provocative scribblings throughout the store, Prospero’s has character at every turn.
Prospero’s is more than a bookstore to its customers. It’s home to many in the Kansas City literary community. Artists, writers, and poets meet often for readings and workshops. Prospero’s co-owner Will Leatham even works with local writers and poets to publish their work under Spartan Press. Talk to the cashier to find out more, or follow them on Facebook for happenings.
Half Price Books (Westport)
If you can’t find it at Prospero’s, you’re bound to find it at Half-Priced Books in Westport. Half-priced actually has really good prices. I can usually walk out with a good collection for less than $20 and in good condition. Half Price also has a great used movie collection. They buy a lot of overstocks, so you can usually find whatever you’re looking for.
Be aware: You can trade in your books and movies or get cash for them, but don’t expect much. They have really great prices for a reason.
Night Blooms Darkroom, Bookstore, and Coffee (Crossroads)
If you like Prospero’s, you’ll like Night Blooms, also home to the indie crowd and usually hosts poetry readings and art shows. Night Blooms likes doing things old school. Customers can take advantage of Night Blooms’ black and white darkroom facilities and film developing at hourly and monthly rates. It also doubles as a used and out of print bookstore, specializing in “International Literature, Art, Philosophy, and Weirdness.” They also serve Fair Trade coffee, espresso, tea, and juice.
Rainy Day Books (Fairway, KS – Across Stateline)
Located in a quaint little strip of shops in Fairway, KS, just across Stateline Rd, Rainy Day Books is a common place to spot your favorite authors. (David Sedaris stopped by earlier this spring!) They have a wicked lineup of author appearances (over 300 a year), a great collection of adult and children’s books, and offer personalized book selections.
KD’s Books (Lee’s Summit) – Children’s Books
Originally started as just a regular indie bookstore, KD’s has become a dominantly children’s book store with a great selection. It’s nestled right across from the train stop at Lee’s Summit and they even have an interactive train set for kids to play with. There’s also a collection of used paperbacks in the back. But the children’s section is where it’s at. Especially if you like picture books, or need to pick up a baby/children’s gift.
Barnes and Noble (Plaza)
Yeah, it’s mainstream (so is Half Price), but the Plaza B&N is actually really beautiful. It’s three stories of the latest books, with a Starbucks always busting with eager readers. It’s a magical place during the holidays and has a great selection of Kansas City specific literature.
They also have plenty of storytimes for children.
Clint’s Comic Books (Westport)
Nerds unite at Clint’s Comic Books. The store is a legend in the comic book scene in KC. It’s been around for 50 years and many locals have stories of finding treasures thanks to the former owner Jim, who died earlier this year.
Elite Comics (OP)
Elite Comics is a popular place for comic book lovers here in KC. Located in Overland Park, Elite Comics has a growing community and is a one-stop shop for comic books, graphic novels, statues, and comics-related merchandise that also hosts a lot of events for all ages and interests.
The Writer’s Place is a literary community center and gathering place for writers, readers, and the public, that provides support, resources, and inspiration. It’s located in a house in the historic Valentine district and often houses readings, workshops and more.