Dozens of famous authors, including Edgar Allen Poe, H.L. Mencken and David Simon, have lived in and drawn inspiration from Baltimore, making it a wonderful place for a literary escape and a fitting host for the Annual Baltimore Book Festival in September. In advance of the event, which is scheduled for September 22-24, squeeze in some summer reading with some titles from these four used bookstores that honor the literary heritage of the city.
Normal’s Books and Records: This perennial award-winner ranks as John Waters’ favorite Baltimore book shop, and the collectively owned operation has been selling esoterica for 18 years. In addition to philosophy, classics, metaphysics and contemporary fiction, Normal’s has a ton of vinyl and indie ‘zines from around the world. (425 E. 31st St., normals.com)
The Book Escape: This impeccably organized Federal Hill shop has both new and used titles, and exacting standards mean there are no tattered and dog-eared titles cluttering up the shelves. As a nod to its perfectionist tendencies, The Book Escape finally managed to snatch the City Paper’s Best Used-Book Store award last year, robbing Normal’s of yet another title. (805 Light St., thebookescape.com)
The Kelmscott Bookshop: The city’s largest antiquarian book dealer opened in 1977 in what used to be Baltimore’s Book Row. While the focus here is on rarities—like a first edition of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn selling for $1500—not everything is out of reach for those on a poet’s salary. (34 W. 25th St., kelmscottbookshop.com)
Royal Books: Next door to Kelmscott, this shop also deals in first editions and literature but also has a collection of vintage film posters, books on film and original screenplays. As a nod to some of the Baltimore writers that developed American crime fiction, you’ll find a vast selection of hard boiled books here, too. (32 W 25th St., royalbooks.com)
How to get there: Consult our Manhattan to Baltimore Transportation Advisor for multiple travel options.