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Louisiana Bookstores

Updated on April 13, 2012

Let a book traveler take you to some of the coolest climes in sub-tropical territory, the bookstores of Louisiana

Bienvenue à la Louisiane! If you have crossed the bridge or ridden the ferry from my lens on Mississippi Bookstores, that's Welcome to Louisiana. Why would upmtraveler create a squidoo lens on a neighboring state? Well, I do travel to Louisiana bookstores, though not often enough, and this will spur me. A powerful part of University Press of Mississippi's list of books includes some really hot cooking and music books, and some really smart books of history, art, architecture, photography and folklore, all on Louisiana. Plus Mississippi and Louisiana are two giant capacitors of creative energy joined by the same sizzling cord of the Mississippi River. When Mississippians need to do serious unwinding, they head to Louisiana (Mississippi writer James Whitehead called the state a blessing and the only foreign country in America). And---WARNING: THIS IS GOING TO GET MYSTICAL AND LOOPY---in college a past life reader told me my "spirit had been exhibited in male form from 1793 to 1823, a poacher in the swamps of Acadiana, that I was recruited by and fought for Andrew Jackson at Chalmette, not because I was a good shot but because bodies were needed in the trench, that I then became a bouncer in New Orleans and deeply enjoyed enforcing order but quit when someone larger finally bested me, that I returned to my home country in the bayous and to poaching, and eventually died in quicksand. And finally that my name was Jere Changste." And then I had to pay this strange, pasty little past life reader $60.00 through his assistant (the reader was still "DEEP" in trance). Ah, College! Ah, Humanity! Ah, Louisiana! Ah, I'm still out $60.00!

The booksellers in Louisiana have full grip on the uniqueness their state has to offer. The booksellers, like Mississippi's, are expressive sharers of what it means to live (or to have lived) in Monroe, Shreveport, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, New Iberia, New Orleans and onward. I will be taking this slowly, maybe even adding UPM authors' perspectives on stores to flesh this out. I want it to be as first person as, and that can't happen without feet on the ground. So, bookstores, book travelers, booklovers, bear with me. And let's travel with this grand Ville Platte Lancer's protection into some fantastic bookselling territory. Allons!

(photo by Ian McNulty)

(POSTSCRIPT TO BOOKSTORES: If you are not listed here: 1) I'm always building; 2) I'm happy to hear from you; 3) I'm including only stores I know sell new books, not just used; 4) I haven't visited you and need to! So let me hear from you: syates @

Tabasco Country Store

Avery Island

McIlhenny Company, Avery Island, LA 70513, 337.373.6129,

There's some border or barrier that is shed when you cross the narrow bridge onto Avery Island. Whether it is the stolid brick of the factory and offices or the vast pepper fields or the bungalows of the cafe and the Country Store, I don't know, but you feel entirely pulled loose from ordinary time. As you might imagine at the Country Store, Tabasco® (the fermented pepper sauce), and Tabasco® shirts, ties, caps, tees, dominate, but there are lots of cookbooks and books on Louisiana culture, oh, and Tabasco: An Illustrated History by our author, Shane K. Bernard.

Books Along the Teche

New Iberia

106 E. Main Street, New Iberia, LA, 70560, 337.367.7621

Situated in a very appealing downtown that has managed to keep its architecture and revitalize, Books Along the Teche holds a superb collection of Cajun history and Louisiana authors. The store also keeps track of the new and worthwhile. Howard Kingston has a handle on just about every book published on Acadiana (and who published it and the book's status); and, in addition to warmly welcoming everyone, Lorraine Kingston knows where every volume fits on the shelf and whether that volume is earning its keep. 19 years they have been operating! But enough from me. Let's hear from Shane K. Bernard, author of Cajuns and Their Acadian Ancestors: A Young Reader's History and many other books:

"Fans of James Lee Burke's fictional detective Dave Robicheaux come from all over to visit New Iberia, and they consider a stop at Books along the Teche a must. Burke himself stops by to sign copies of his newest books when in town. (A few doors down you can eat at Victor's Cafeteria, which has a 'Dave Robicheaux eats here' sign out front.) The Kingstons always have signed books on hand by other local authors, including yours truly."

Faulkner House Books

New Orleans

624 Pirate's Alley, New Orleans, LA 70119, 504.524.2940,

Assuming you are on foot, wheresoever you are rambling in the French Quarter, look for the tall spires of the Saint Louis Cathedral. Head for them. Pirate's Alley runs along the west side of the Cathedral. Inside Faulkner House Books a whole lot literary happens in not a lot of space. Among many other authors, a great collection of, naturally, William Faulkner is here. He lived at 624 when he was a young gadabout poet. He wrote New Orleans Sketches and his first novel here.

Book traveling story: I walked in the store with novelist Brad Barkley and introduced him to the clerk just as Brad Barkley, no more. The clerk jumps up and immediately says, "Mr. Barkley, I have a couple of copies of your novel and short story collection here. Will you please sign them for us?" Talk about knowing your stock! Joe DeSalvo has been a great mentor to me. Karmically thank him for me by stopping by and buying something amazing or going to the website.

Garden District Books

New Orleans

2727 Prytania Street, New Orleans, LA 70130, 504.895.2266,

This store is a hallmark in one of the Crescent City's glorious residential areas. Browsing the stock you get the sense that any book signed by its author in the city has somehow made it here. Britton Trice thinks outside the store as well taking signings to pubs, even. He is also a master of one liners. In the heat of success for Ian McNulty's A Season of Night: New Orleans Life After Katrina, making his umpteenth order for the book, Britton joked, "Steve! How many more 'friends' does this guy have!" Of course, Britton tranformed those friends into readers and guided his customers to the book to make the author an exponential number of friends. That's dedicated bookselling!


Maple Street Book Shop

New Orleans

7523 Maple Street, New Orleans, LA 70188, 504.866.4416,

It's been a pleasure working with Donna Allen on the phone, but, shame on me, I have not been to her shop, and now I must. Let's hear instead from author Shane K. Bernard who signed his books there:

"Located near the campuses of Tulane and Loyola universities, Maple Street Books sits in a small 'uptown' neighborhood best described as 'funky,' with venerable old homes, small mom-and-pop cafes and restaurants, and lots and lots of college students. A converted wood-frame residence, the small store is packed with titles, including many by local and state authors. Don't miss the children's book store, located in the similarly quaint dwelling next door."

Octavia Books

New Orleans

513 Octavia Street, New Orleans, LA 70115-2055


After Katrina, Tom Lowenburg said that something amazing happened. Neighbors and dazed souls began coming in, because next door there was bottled water. And then of course he had some, too. And people stopped, commiserated, swapped stories, plotted their comebacks. The community essence of what a bookstore is became 100-proof distilled. This store backs local writers, Louisiana history, and does a great job with books about natural history, the environment, and Lousiana ecology, a reflection of the bookseller's passion.

Ogden Museum Shop

New Orleans

925 Camp Street, New Orleans, LA 70130, 504.539.9600,

WARNING! This shop will cost you money, but in a good way because you will be taking home some memento of the art that has just enthralled you. In gallery after gallery of its splendid design, the Ogden's mission of being the interpreter of Southern art is fulfilled with as much grace as pure cool. And I mean the cool of Walter Anderson, Maude Clay, William Dunlap, Birney Imes and so on. You never cross the same river twice; you never leave these doors the same twice.

Southern Food & Beverage Museum Store

New Orleans

Riverwalk Marketplace, 1 Poydras St., New Orleans, LA 70130, 504-569-0405,

Ian McNulty tells us: "It seemed so obvious it was hard to believe it hadn't emerged earlier: a museum devoted to the culture and history of Southern eating and drinking in one of the world's great cities for eating and drinking. But it was only in the summer of 2008 that the doors finally opened at the Southern Food & Beverage Museum in New Orleans, albeit after several years of itinerant exhibits at borrowed venues around the city. A spin through the museum's permanent and seasonal exhibits is quite enough to get the mouth watering, and the museum store is there to help if the visit also inspires you to get back in front of a stove. The roomy, beautiful retail space of natural woods and floor-to-ceiling windows is well stocked with cookbooks from regional chefs as well as histories, photography collections and cultural explorations of the role of food and drink in the South. The museum regularly hosts authors, chefs, teachers and media personalities for readings and discussions of their work, and many signed copies are on hand. The Southern Food & Beverage Museum is situated at the far end of the Riverwalk Marketplace, a shopping mall with an underappreciated view of the Mississippi River, and, appropriately enough, right behind the mall's food court."

A Tisket, A Tasket

New Orleans

910 Decatur Street, New Orleans, LA 70116, 504.524.8482,

What a space this store has now! An offshoot of a store that thrived in the French Market, A Tisket, A Tasket is now one of the first permanent storefronts you come to walking east along Decatur from the Public Parking or the Cafe Du Monde. Non-stop Louisiana books, cooking, culture, the Quarter. Come see!

Floyd's Record Shop

Ville Platte

434 East Main Street, Ville Platte, LA 70586, 337.363.2185 - mail order dept.; 337.363.2138 - retail dept.

For years Romona Ortego and Floyd Soileau have taken UPM's Cajun and Louisiana music books far and wide. When I visited, Romona gave us the grand tour; behind the spacious retail floor are rooms and racks of Cajun and Zydeco rarities. As her sign says: "If you don't find it, please ask for it. We may yet have it in stock." The "yet" portion of the warehouse goes back to the days when Floyd's was a studio recording Swamp Pop and more in 1956. Ben Sandmel gives us the perspective of both a writer and great musician:

"For over fifty years, producer and entrepreneur Floyd Soileau has helped carry the torch of Cajun music, zydeco, and Gulf Coast swamp-pop. As the renowned folklorist Barry Ancelet put it, "Floyd is that rare combination of a shrewd businessman and a sensitive cultural observer -- two traits which don't always mix. His busi­ness savvy has worked to traditional cul­ture's benefit, because it made him record the best people available, and maintain quality and authen­ticity." The fruits of these cultural and commercial accomplishments (if we may deliberately mix several metaphors) are on display and on sale within the friendly confines of Floyd's Record Shop in Ville Platte, Louisiana. This is the place to pick up CDs, LPs and cassettes by the vast array of South Louisiana musicians whom Floyd recorded and promoted, including Belton Richard, The Balfa Brothers, Boozoo Chavis, Rod Bernard, and many other greats. Floyd's Record Shop sells books, too -- including, I'm glad to say, mine: Zydeco!, a collaboration with photographer Rick Olivier, published by University Press of Mississippi. At a time when regional culture is threatened by bland homogenization, Floyd's Record Shop is a fun and zesty island of independence in a sea of dull conformity. And, when you're through stocking up on music, stop in at another Ville Platte institution--the Pig Stand restaurant!"

Talk about a reading space! - Garden District Books

Ian McNulty meets his readers for the first time in this splendid courtyard.

Zydeco mascot - Zydeco! Do It!

This ready fellow presides over a wall of children's accordions at Floyd's Record Shop in Ville Platte.

While we're waiting on upmtraveler... - Cajun jockey challenge

While we are waiting on upmtraveler to get with it and enrich the listings, here's a Cajun sports trivia challenge. Scan any racing program at any top thoroughbred track in America and you will notice the dominant names among jockeys are of Cajun origin. Here's the challenge while you wait on me to update: First three visitors to email me with the correct names of these great Cajun jockeys (all of them) wins a copy of Shane Bernard's Cajuns and Their Acadian Ancestors: A Young Reader's History. Email syates @

Back to Mississippi - Faulkner's Rowan Oak

If you have William Faulkner's house in sight, Square Books is not far away. Learn more at at the link below.


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