Nov 28, 2023 - Culture

Northwest Arkansas' literary scene is gaining traction

Inside Two Friends Books at 8th Street Market in Bentonville. Photo: Alex Golden/Axios

Northwest Arkansas is into books.

What's happening: Independent bookstore owners told Axios they're responding to a hunger for locally owned brick-and-mortar bookstores, book clubs and events focused on books.

  • In just the past three years, at least five new independent bookstores have opened brick-and-mortar shops in NWA — Underbrush Books in Rogers, Pearl's Books in Fayetteville, Two Friends Books in Bentonville, Más Libritos Bookstore in Springdale and Brick Lane Books & Gifts in Rogers.
  • Of note: Brick Lane Books & Gifts is closing in December. The owner declined to comment on the reason for the closing, saying it was a personal decision.

The big picture: Small bookstores aren't just staying in business, they're serving as venues for local authors to gain traction and as meeting places for the literary community.

What they're saying: "One good thing about having a physical bookstore is people who are literary minded or writing or in the bookish culture come out of the woodwork and have a place to hang out," Two Friends co-owner Monica Diodati told Axios. The hope is for NWA to be on the radar for tours from big publishing companies and to host local talent.

  • "The more book-related programs and businesses, the more Northwest Arkansas gets put on the map for the industry and the artistic practice of writing," Two Friends co-owner Rachel Stuckey-Slaton said. She added that book clubs are a great way to make friends, especially in an area where many people are new.

Daniel and Leah Jordan, co-owners of Pearl's Books, described the reception to the store's opening as positive and said their calendar stays full with as many as two author talks or signings a week, their own book clubs and community book clubs that use their space to meet.

  • "Arkansas is not lacking. The talent and culture already exists," Underbrush Books co-owner Courtney Ulrich Smith said.

What's next: Ulrich Smith spearheaded the NWA Book Fest in the spring and is in the process of making the Book Fest a nonprofit organization.

  • The organization will have two flagship events each year — the festival where local bookstores will sell their items and authors will come speak, and a book swap where people can bring their used books to trade for others.

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