Bookstores with a Purpose

Ditch Amazon and Barnes & Noble for these small businesses located in Des Moines.

Words by Colson Thayer | Photo by Unsplash

Reading in Public | Linzi Murray, Owner

Linzi Murray, owner of Reading in Public Bookstore + Café, weaves diversity, representation, community and acceptance into each and every aspect of her business.

“I want to be a place that speaks up for social justice issues,” Murray says.

Murray promotes books by diverse authors rather than popular titles and strategically features people of color to increase visibility. Murray and her husband planned and incorporated themselves into every detail of the store while living in Brooklyn, and returned to Des Moines to open the store in the community-based neighborhood of Valley Junction.

“I knew I wanted to be in Valley Junction from the very beginning,” Murray says. “It’s such a community-based neighborhood.”

Located in West Des Moines’ Historic Valley Junction, Reading in Public is one of the neighborhood’s newest additions. As she begins to establish her business, Murray wants her store to be known as a safe and cozy spot where everyone is accepted.

Beaverdale Books | Hunter Gillum, Co-Owner

A more established store, Beaverdale Books in Des Moines, uses its platform to promote Iowa voices.

“We represent about 500 local authors,” Co-Owner Hunter Gillum says.

In fact, the store features an entire wall dedicated to those writers.

Beaverdale Books hosts a variety of events throughout the year to connect readers to their favorite authors. It is not uncommon to find authors hosting a book launch or chatting about their recent release at the store. Additionally, Beaverdale Books holds a local author fair featuring about six authors two or three times a year.

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