Your Guide to Milwaukee’s Independent Bookstores

In honor of Independent Bookstore Day, we rounded up where to browse in MKE.

WALKING INTO A BOOKSTORE is a lot like a choose your own adventure. Whether you are looking to cry, feel hope or are just looking for a light, easy read, you are bound to find more than one option in the stacks of your favorite bookstore.

1. Downtown Books

624 N. BROADWAY ST. | 414-224-1799

With shelves that tower over the average sized person, there is no possible way to know what titles the nooks and crannies of Downtown Books hold. Beyond novels of every genre, the store has a wide selection of music and movies as well. The store purchases used books, comics, movies and music from customer, so if you’re out of room on your bookshelf, brings some of your old favorites to trade in.

Photo by Moriah Bame

2. Lion’s Tooth

2421 S KINNICKINNIC AVE | 414-455-3498

Located in the Bay View neighborhood, Lion’s Tooth serves as both a book and reading destination. After grabbing a drink from their café, patrons are able to curl up with a novel or comic book of their choosing. Shelley McClone-Carriere and Cris Siquiera opened their book destination in 2021, offering book subscription opportunities for adults and children alike. Their online store is open now for orders and they accept orders over the phone for pick-up. Prices for subscription packages can be found here.

Photo by Pearl Nemecek


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3. Renaissance Books

5300 S. HOWELL AVE. (MITCHELL AIRPORT) | 414-747-4526

From the wooden bookshelves piled high and packed tight with novels of all shapes and sizes, most would never think that a store front in main terminal of General Mitchell International Airport would be home to a small, independent used bookstore. Whether you need a quick read to carry you through your unexpected layover or you’re looking for the latest releases, Renaissance Books is your destination for both new and used books.

Renaissance Books; Still from Visit Milwaukee

4. Boswell Book Company

2559 N. DOWNER AVE. | 414-322-1181

Since opening in 2009, Boswell Book Company has made a name for itself in the realm of Milwaukee literature. With various author talks and other entertaining events taking place over the course of each month, Boswell is more than your average bookstore.

Photo of Boswell Books by Dominic Inouye

5. Little Read Book Inc.

7603 W. STATE ST. | 414-774-2665

Little Read Book Inc. is the little mystical bookstore that you didn’t know that you were looking for. Located in the Tosa Village, this independent book vendor is “dedicated to the fine art of browsing” and offers books for readers of all ages.

The Little Read Book; Photo courtesy of Little Read Book Inc. 

6. Rooted MKE

5312 W VLIET ST. | 414-488-9545

Ashley Valentine’s local bookstore is doing its part to make sure that children of all ages see themselves in the stories that they read. Her bookstore, Rooted MKE, is fully stocked of books that are created by and depict members of the BIPOC community, ranging from books for children to adults. The store is also a learning environment, offering crafting classes for the kiddos or more advanced lessons for adults.

Ashley Valentine at Rooted MKE; Photo courtesy of Ashley Valentine

7. Voyageur Book Shop

2212 S KINNICKINNIC AVE. | 414-210-3309

Looking for a book that is truly one of a kind? Voyageur Book Shop offers a good selection of rare antique books for all the collectors out there, and who knows, maybe you’ll be able to find a first edition or a signed copy when you visit.

8. Outwords Books

2710 N MURRAY AVE. | 414-963-9089

One of the few remaining LGBTQ+ bookstores, they have a large selection of LGBTQ+ books, ranging from romances to history books to murder mysteries (and more!). Check their website for their book club updates and events.