Juneau, Alaska’s capital city, is a cruise ship destination and a town of about 36,000 people, and it has only three bookstores, all independently owned. One has two branches and carries only new books, one is the local dumping ground for used books, and one provides a combination of new/used/and rare.
Two are situated downtown, easily accessible by foot from the cruise ship docks, and two are closer to the airport and geared more towards serving the local population. If you’re short on time, however, a couple of the more popular tourist destinations have gift shops with great Alaskan book selections too if you’re looking for books on Alaska as vacation souvenirs.
Tip: Check out these books for great Juneau, Alaska reads.
If you’re visiting Juneau and looking for an Alaskan read, any of these bookstores are a good option, and they’ll give you a little taste of local life too.
Hearthside Books & Toys
Hearthside Books and Toys is the biggest of Juneau’s three bookstores, with two locations, and it’s also the only official bookstore in town for new books (besides Gift Shops, see below). It’s also the only bookstore that sells book related goodies and doubles as a puzzle, game, and toy shop.
Hearthside has been a Juneau institution since 1975, although it has gone through a few ownership and location changes since opening. In fact, just this past winter the downtown branch moved into a building on the waterfront close to the cruise ship dock and restaurants.
If you arrive in Juneau on a cruise, you won’t have very far to go to find a book to read during your journey. The new location is quaint and offers a great selection of books about and that take place in Alaska. You’ll also find popular YA novels and classics on the shelves as well.
For a more local experience, you can visit the other branch which is located in a now half-empty one-story strip mall. Although the mall is dated and half dark, the bookstore is bright, cheery, and welcoming. This branch keeps a busy schedule with book signings and author talks. They also do bulk orders for local book clubs and keep a display of what the local clubs are currently reading.
The YA section always carries the newest popular read and the current Battle of the Books books and the whirling and colorful toys just beyond that are hard to pass by without a peek no matter your age. Besides the toys, you’ll also find brain teaser puzzles and games.
Addresses: 2 Marine Way, Suite 119 (Downtown/Merchants Wharf), 8745 Glacier Hwy (Nugget Mall)
Rainy Retreat Books
Rainy Retreat Books is located in Juneau’s downtown, just a few blocks from the cruise ship docks. It sells new, used, and rare books and records, and has that pleasing old book smell and creaky wooden floors you’d expect of a small second-hand bookstore.
If you’re looking for a good read, perhaps with a previous owner’s inscription under the cover and don’t mind if it’s in a slightly worn state, duck in here and take some time to peruse the tall wooden bookshelves.
Within the last few years this bookstore underwent a change in ownership and the new, younger, owners have revitalized the shop. One of the owners, actually an acquaintance of mine from high school, is in a band and his or other musical groups play in the bookstore for First Friday evenings. The once quiet shop with flagging visitorship is now usually buzzing with people, music, and good cheer.
And if that’s not enough to entice you inside, there’s also Mabel, the dog, just waiting to trail you around the shop and help you pick out your next book.
This little shop also has one more claim to fame. Author J. K. Rowling stopped by and made a certain shelf label Twitter famous:
Address: 113 Seward St
Amazing Bookstore: Friends of the Juneau Public Libraries
The Amazing Bookstore, or Friends of the Juneau Public Libraries, is the place where locals go to dump their tubs of reject books and the staff, made up entirely of volunteers, loosely sorts the donations into broad categories.
If you’ve got the time to search and you’re not after anything in particular, you can often find gems hidden among the shelves and piles in this second-hand bookstore. All the books are priced between a few cents to a dollar and some change, so it’s also a good place to go if you’re planning on stocking up on a bunch of books all at once.
Address: 9121 Glacier Hwy
For those visiting Juneau via cruise ship and looking for books on Alaska as souvenirs, two of the bigger tourist destination gift shops, the State Museum and the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, have great book selections. The Museum shop is run by the owner of a small local publishing company and the Glacier shop is run by Discovery Southeast, a program that runs educational classes for kids about the outdoors and the nature of Southeast Alaska. So your purchases will support a couple of great local businesses!
Read More: Discover the Wonderful Bookstores of Brooklyn.