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Local bookstores to spice up your holiday shopping

Charlottesville bookstores offer a wide variety of reads perfect for gifting to family and friends this holiday season

The holiday season is around the corner, and there’s no better gift for a family member or friend than a thoughtfully selected book or two. Before loading your Amazon cart though, browse a few bookstores in Charlottesville. Supporting a local bookstore is not only more economically and personally ethical, but it gives you the opportunity to invest in the community.

Blue Whale Books

Located between Bizou and Miller’s at the Downtown Mall, Blue Whale Books is a Charlottesville staple. The shop sells antiquarian books spanning in genre from biography to poetry. In addition, Blue Whale Books boasts an impressive inventory of maps — some over 500 years old — depicting an array of places across the globe. They also sell beautiful prints belonging to categories like art deco, botanical, butterflies and moths, medicine and ornithology.

“What makes us truly different is our selection of graphic arts,” University alumnus and Blue Whale Books owner Scott Fennessey said in a February interview with The Piedmont Virginian. “In Europe it’s common for bookstores to also sell maps and prints, but you hardly ever see it in the United States.”

Fennessey founded Blue Whale Books in 1994 after working for Rare Book School on Grounds during graduate school. Support an alumnus-founded shop and grab a few niche books, maps or prints for those on your holiday shopping list — and yourself.

Daedalus Used Books

In close proximity to the Downtown Mall, Daedalus Used Books stands at 123 Heather Heyer Way. A gem of Charlottesville, the shop holds three floors crammed with out-of-print books — around 100,000 books in total. Although specializing in fiction, Daedalus carries practically every genre of literature except for textbooks. 

Daedalus Used Books owner Sandy McAdams intended to name the shop after Stephen Dedalus — a character in James Joyce’s novel “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.” However, he spelled the name wrong — in keeping with the Greek Daedalus myth — when he painted the sign in 1974 and never fixed it. 

Nonetheless, visit Daedalus Used Books to find rare used books to gift the nostalgic reader on your shopping list. McAdams staffs the shop Monday through Thursday, happily assisting customers find books that fit their interests — whether they be broad or specific.  

Heartwood Books

A bit closer to Grounds, Heartwood Books is located on the Corner along Elliewood Avenue — before you reach Grit Coffee. The shop carries antiquarian books, balancing renowned classics and scholarly works about Virginia with cookbooks and mystery novels. As a member of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America, Heartwood Books is home to rare and used collections of books belonging to a wide variety of categories that range from folklore to politics. 

Bibliophile Paul Collinge founded Heartwood Books over 40 years ago. He takes pride in his shop’s extensive offerings and is a fixture in the Charlottesville community himself. Collinge co-founded the Virginia Festival of the Book — a popular literary tradition that draws writers and readers to Charlottesville annually. 

Pop into Heartwood Books to stock up on tried and true reads for the book lover in your life. Browse the books on display between the window panes and adventure inside to find books that have been well loved and well cared for!

New Dominion Bookshop

On the Downtown Mall as well, New Dominion Bookshop is the oldest independent bookstore in Virginia, and the sole all-new independent bookstore in Charlottesville. Housing about 20,000 books, the shop focuses on personalized service — customers are able to engage in conversations with booksellers who make individualized recommendations based on their interests. New Dominion Bookshop even sells books written by University graduates and professors, offering University students local access to works authored by professors they might know or study under.

“We try to be both a retail institution and a cultural institution here,” said Julia Kudravetz, general manager and owner of New Dominion Bookshop. In addition to selling books, the shop is active in the Charlottesville community by holding a storytime for school-age kids and hosting the U.Va. MFA Reading Series, which features University students in the MFA Creative Writing Program.

In an effort to be a welcoming space where University students can browse and buy books, New Dominion Bookshop is also open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.

“I really encourage that exploration of Charlottesville and supporting a business in the college town you’re at,” said Audrey Parks, University alumna and assistant manager of New Dominion Bookshop.

Stop by the shop to grab new books and recent releases for your family and friends — their holiday market begins Nov. 15. University students even receive a 10 percent discount on purchases — just mention it at the register.