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Wednesday, February 21, 2024
The Alachua County Library District downtown headquarters, located at 401 E University Ave in Gainesville on Monday, July 12, 2021. The Alachua County Library District is hosting its eighth annual summer art show in August; due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year's event is virtual.
The Alachua County Library District downtown headquarters, located at 401 E University Ave in Gainesville on Monday, July 12, 2021. The Alachua County Library District is hosting its eighth annual summer art show in August; due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year's event is virtual.

What better way to escape the chaotic start of a new semester than by spending hours exploring the crowded shelves of a cozy bookstore? 

From independent bookstores to public libraries, these local destinations will satisfy any reader's literary appetite.

Book Gallery West

This charming reader’s getaway opened its doors almost 40 years ago and harbors an endless supply of books. Located in the Millhopper Shopping Center, Book Gallery West has a wide variety of book genres, including young adult, nonfiction, sci-fi and westerns. 

Most titles are second-hand, but an assortment of new books sits toward the front of the store. The shop's owner, Jan Fronk, allows customers to bring in books to trade or receive store credit. 

Book Gallery West is also known for its fun and quirky gift items available for purchase, which Fronk collects from gift shows in cities like New York City and Atlanta. Decorated coffee mugs, geode bookends and handmade boxes are among some of the intriguing gifts sprinkled throughout the store.

“We’re more like a suburban country store,” Fronk said. “A little bit of everything.”

Books and Music, Wormhole

Tucked away on 1801 NE 23rd Ave. is a quaint nook that will take you back in time with its vintage aesthetic and book selection.

Books and Music, Wormhole opened its doors nearly one year ago and carries an eclectic collection of second-hand titles. Curated by store owner P Harris ”Worm,” the shop's shelves are stocked with classic and contemporary literature and books on history, poetry and philosophy. Harris built his inventory mainly through trading books, but he is always searching for new titles when shopping or traveling, he said.

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Customers can also browse through a diverse array of vinyl records and cassette tapes, many of which are by local artists.

Harris opened a bookstore because he loves surrounding himself with literature and socializing with readers, he said.

“All kinds of people come in, from ex-librarians to the guy who's working on his time machine,” Harris said. “I just get to hang out with all of them.”

Harris expanded his business into a community space for artistic expression to engage further with the local creatives. He frequently hosts poetry and book readings to highlight the work of local authors.

All Star Sportscards & Comics

All Star Sportscards & Comics, located at 7241 NW Fourth Blvd., has served local comic book fans with a variety of vintage and new comics since 2005. 

Spiderman and Batman comics are the most popular sold, but customers have thousands of horror, romance, adventure and fantasy comics to browse. Shoppers can also purchase from the store online. 

The store also specializes in other vintage and second-hand items like sportscards, toys, vinyl records and other collectibles. People come into the shop daily looking to sell their vintage items to the store's owner Chet Szydlowski. 

With roughly 30 years of experience in the comic book industry, sports cards and comics are Szydlowski's life-long passion. He traveled and sold comics at conventions before opening All Star Sportscards & Comics.  

Alachua County Public Library

For literature devotees looking for more than just a book, the Alachua County Public Library boasts various resources for getting involved in a book club. Whether it’s hosting or just participating, the public library has the means to create strong book communities.

Spanning multiple locations and genres, the public library has numerous clubs where readers can find company. It offers groups for fiction, non-fiction and true crime. All book club options are listed with recurring times and locations on the library’s website.  

Alleviating the stress of gathering materials, the public library has an entire catalog of book club kits available for checkout. The library offers lesser-known works of local authors in addition to popular titles. 

Each kit contains 10 copies of the selected book, a large print copy, a CD audiobook and a resource folder consisting of discussion questions, tips for reading groups and evaluation forms. 

Joyce West, the library’s public services director, recommends being creative and open when starting a book club from scratch. She said some groups opt for a specific genre, and then allow each member to choose a book for the club that falls within the category.

Whether at home or in the library, being part of a book club in Gainesville is an easy way to integrate into the community and share the passion of books with like-minded locals. 

Joining a book club doesn’t have to be a grueling time commitment. West said book clubs gather once a month. 

“You get to meet new people, you get to talk to people who probably enjoy either the same genre as you or the same author as you and you’ll definitely walk away with some reader’s advisory,” West said.

Contact Amanda at Follow her on Twitter @afriedmanuf.

Contact Averi at Follow her on Twitter @averijkremposky.

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Amanda Friedman

Amanda Friedman is a senior journalism major and the Enterprise Editor at The Alligator. She previously wrote for the Avenue, Metro and University desks. When she isn't reporting, she loves watching coming-of-age films and listening to Ariana Grande. 

Averi Kremposky

Averi Kremposky is a senior journalism major at the University of Florida. When she’s not covering music, art and culture beats for The Avenue, you can find her going to a concert, finishing another book in one sitting or submitting to the latest Taylor Swift album theory.

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