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Bookstore Explorer

Arts & Culture Podcasts

Join author and bookseller Matt Browning as he goes behind the shelves with booksellers, authors and other bookish folks from across the country to learn what makes indie bookshops such magical places.


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Join author and bookseller Matt Browning as he goes behind the shelves with booksellers, authors and other bookish folks from across the country to learn what makes indie bookshops such magical places.




Episode 57: Hearthside Books & Toys, Juneau, Alaska

This week, we visit Hearthside Books & Toys in Juneau, Alaska. Owner Olga Lijó Seráns has owned Hearthside since 2022, but the store has been serving the people of Juneau for nearly 50 years. She takes us through its rich history and how things have been going since she took over. Books We Talk About: If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name: News from Small-Town Alaska by Heather Lende, 90 Short Walks Around Juneau by Mary Lou King, Homestead by Melinda Moustakis, and Jimmy Bluefeather by Kim Heacox


Episode 56: Writer Stan Zimmerman

This week, Stan Zimmerman joins the show to discuss his new book, The Girls: From Golden to Gilmore, all about his career writing for such shows as The Golden Girls, Gilmore Girls, Roseanne, and many more. We chat about those and other projects, plus some of his favorite books and bookshops. The Girls: From Golden to Gilmore is available now!


Episode 55: Elements Books Coffee Beer, Biddeford, Maine

This week, we head to Biddeford, Maine, where owner Michael Macomber shares the story behind Elements: Books | Coffee | Beer. The combination bookshop, bar and cafe has been serving the people of Biddeford for more than a decade and helped usher in a new wave of downtown revitalization. Books We Talk About: Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon


Episode 54: Sunshine Book Co., Clermont, Florida

Beth Merrick of Sunshine Book Co. in Clermont, Florida, discusses her journey from Disney employee to bookshop owner, and offers up some excellent ideas for bookshop events that drive customers into the shop. Books We Talk About: A Land Remembered by Patrick D. Smith


Episode 53: The Toadstool Bookshop, Peterborough, New Hampshire

First opened in 1972 by Willard Williams and family, The Toadstool Bookshop - currently with locations in Peterborough and Keene - has been serving the people of New Hampshire for decades. One of its longtime customers was Emerson Sistare, who began visiting The Toadstool at age 7. Today, he owns it. Emerson discusses the history of The Toadstool and what it has been like taking over the reigns of a beloved community institution. Books We Talk About: North Woods by Daniel Mason and The MANIAC by Benjamin Labatut.


Episode 52: Peoria Book Rack, Peoria, Illinois

My guest this week is Stacy Hardin of the Peoria Book Rack in Peoria, Illinois. Stacy tells us how she went from drawing her dream bookshop layouts in a childhood journal to now owning a decades-old shop that she has visited since she was 12 years old. Books We Talk About: The works of Stephen King, John Saul, Rebecca Yarros, and Sarah J. Maas.


Episode 51: The Bookhouse Hotel, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania

The Bookhouse Hotel is a 4-room boutique hotel nestled in the heart of downtown Kennett Square, PA. Housing over 5,000 books, it is a haven for bookworms or anyone else looking for a uniquely cozy place to relax and unwind. Co-owner Stephanie Olenik joins the podcast to tell us how this historic building, which had most recently been a bookstore, is keeping the book magic alive. Learn more and book your stay at Books We Talk About: A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho


Episode 50: The Potter's House, Washington, D.C.

The Potter’s House is a nonprofit café, bookstore, and event space in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Since opening in 1960, it has been a key place for deeper conversation, creative expression, and community transformation. Joining me to share the shop's story are Executive Director Andrea Lewis and bookseller Eliza Cohen. Just a heads up: We did have some audio and connectivity issues here and there that I've done my best to minimize. Books We Talk About: Kindred by Octavia Butler, Pleasure Activism by Adrian Marie Brown, The Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin, and the works of Jesmyn Ward, James McBride, and K. O'Neill.


Episode 49: Brooks Books, Wyandotte, Michigan

This week, we head back to Michigan once more to chat with Joanna Brookshire, owner of Brooks Books in Wyandotte. Books We Talk About: The works of Johnathan Rands, Ronald Malfi and Kate Morton.


Episode 48: Pete & Freddy's Pages Aplenty, Mentone, Indiana

This week, we're in Mentone, Indiana, to visit with Maddie Anweiler, the "Pete" in Pete & Freddy's Pages Aplenty. In this open and candid conversation, we discuss Maddie's shift from a partnership to a one-person shop, the importance of bookstores to small towns, and of course who the heck are Pete and Freddy! Books We Talk About: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Annie Barrows, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, Heartstopper by Alice Oseman, the Saga series by Brian K. Vaughan, and the works of Eva Ibbotson and TJ Klune.


Episode 47: Gottwals Books, Warner Robins, Georgia

This week, we welcome Shane Gottwals, owner of Gottwals Books, a shop that began as a used and new bookstore in 2007 and has developed into a chain of stores carrying a wide range of genres for all age groups and interests. Go deeper into the story of Gottwals Books with Chapter By Chapter: The Gottwals Books Story, available on YouTube at Books We Talk About: The works of C.S. Lewis, Wendell Berry, Andrew Peterson, Rick Bragg, Rabbit Room Press and Wolfbane Books.


Episode 46: Black Ribbon Books, Hot Springs, Arkansas

This week, we visit with Nannette Crane-Post, owner of Black Ribbon Books in Hot Springs, Arkansas. This unique bookshop is located inside the historic Arlington Hotel. Nannette shares the town's and the hotel's rich history and discusses the balancing act of running a bookshop while juggling another full-time job. Books We Talk About: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese, Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, Upstream by Mary Oliver, The Vapors by David Hill, and the books of Marilynne Robinson, Katherine May and T.C. Boyle.


Episode 45: Literary Disco's Julia Pistell

It's a Very Special Bookstore Explorer as we welcome essayist, radio personality and podcaster Julia Pistell to go bookstore exploring. Julia is cohost of Literary Disco, alongside actor and filmmaker Rider Strong and novelist and critic Tod Golderg. We discuss that show, her other impressive literary credentials, and her favorite bookstore explorations. Listen to Literary Disco wherever you get podcasts! Books We Talk About: Circe by Madeline Miller, Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang, American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee, and the books of Anthony Horowitz. (And, okay, several others!)


Episode 44: Books Around the Corner, Forks, Washington

Happy Halloween! Books Around the Corner is the perfect business to spotlight this time of year. It's an online store specializing in spooky reads. Guest Stephanie Rose discusses taking her woman- and disability-owned bookshop from a successful brick and mortar to a successful online store. Books We Talk About: Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree, Starter Villian by John Scalzi, Into the Mist by P.C. Cast, Holly by Stephen King, Blood Sugar by Sascha Rothchild, This Delicious Death by Kayla Cottingham, The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, The Pledge by Cale Dietrich, Nestlings by Nat Cassicy, Episode Thirteen by Craig DiLouie, Murder at the Pumpkin Pageant by Darci Hannah, and My Roommate is a Vampire by Jenna Levine.


Episode 43: R&B Used Books, Grand Blanc, Michigan

This week, we head back to Michigan and talk with Beth Dumity, owner, and Marissa McVety, manager, at R&B Used Books in Grand Blanc. We discuss giving back to the community and how they're still learning after 20 years in the business. Books We Talk About: The books of Mariana Zapata, Chloe Liese, John Sandford, John Grisham, Jonathan Kellerman and Robyn Carr.


Episode 42: Plot Twist Books, South Charleston, West Virginia

If you're a regular listener to the show, you know that host Matt Browning recently opened his own bookshop, Plot Twist Books in South Charleston West Virginia. Podcaster and author Sarah Royal steps into the host seat this week to turn tables on Matt and interview him about what it's like to go from bookstore explorer to bookstore owner. Books We Talk About: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman, Shark Heart by Emily Habeck, Homestead by Rosina Lippi, and Fresh Water for Flowers by Valerie Perrin


Episode 41: Author and Podcaster Sarah Royal

This week, Matt welcomes author and podcaster Sarah Royal to the show to discuss her love of indie bookshops! Sarah is the author of the new book A.K.A. Lucy: The Dynamic and Determined Life of Lucile Ball, which features a foreward from Amy Poehler! She also co-hosts the popular Enough Wicker podcast, which takes a scholarly look at The Golden Girls. Books We Talk About: A Bestiary of Booksellers by Aaron Cometbus, The End of My Career by Martha Grover, Going Somewhere by Brian Benson, A Little Devil in America by Hanif Abdurraqib, Slice Harvester by Colin Atrophy Hagendorf, and Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.


Episode 40: New Story Community Books, Marshall, Michigan

Tom Batterson’s love of books and bookselling started young – decades before opening New Story Community Books in Marshall, Michigan. He tells us his journey – including his 20 years working at a chain bookstore and how that differs from running an indie shop – in this fun episode! Books We Talk About: The Murderbot Diaries: System Collapse by Martha Wells, Holly by Stephen King, Chain Gang All Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, and Crook Manifesto by Colson Whitehead.


Episode 39: Author and Bookseller Danny Caine

It's part two of our deep dive with author and bookseller Danny Caine, part owner of The Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kansas. In this episode, we discuss Danny's viral sensation, "How to Resist Amazon and Why," and his bran new book, "How to Protect Bookstores and Why," available now!


Episode 38: The Raven Book Store, Lawrence, Kansas

On this episode, Matt is joined by bookseller and author Danny Caine. Danny is part owner of The Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kansas, and author of the viral sensation "How to Resist Amazon and Why," as well as the new book, "How to Protect Bookstores and Why." In the first of a two-part episode, Danny discusses the history of The Raven. Next week, we deep dive into his books! Books We Talk About: The novels of James McBride and Nathan Hill and Lunch Poems by Frank O'Hara.