I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, so I’m very excited to share this literary tourism post of my very own hometown! Maybe you know it for the Gateway Arch, but St. Louis is full of great arts, culture, museums, and of course, literature. This guide explores a brand new literary arts center, indie bookstores, famous writers who spent time in STL, a gorgeous public library that has been serving the city for over 100 years, and more.
Located in the Grand Center Arts District, The High Low is a brand new literary arts center opening soon in St. Louis. It will feature a progressive library, a cafe and writers workspace, a literary arts–focused gallery and a literary arts–focused performance space, a writer’s suite for the center’s Writer-in-Residence program, and eight turnkey offices designed for fledgling arts organizations.
Left Bank Books, located in the Central West End, celebrated 50 years in St. Louis in 2019—it was opened by a group of Washington University graduate students in 1969. It is both the oldest and largest independently owned bookstore in St. Louis. The store offers both new and used books, as well as over 300 events a year and seven book clubs.
Subterranean Books opened on the Delmar Loop in 2000, and they are an independent bookstore (new books only) with a large focus on typical favorite categories: fiction, essay, poetry, memoir, cultural studies, and more. This bookstore is the true definition of an indie. Today it is woman-owned, with a small staff of six people, plus one very good boy bookstore dog named Teddy.
While visiting the Delmar Loop, be sure to check out the St. Louis Walk of Fame, which honors 150+ people who made great cultural contributions and were either born in the Greater St. Louis area or spent their formative or creative years there. Literary stars include: T.S. Eliot, Maya Angelou, Kate Chopin, William Burroughs, Martha Gelhourn, Joseph Pulitzer, and William Inge.
Located in South Grand, Dunaway Books is an independently owned bookstore specializing in rare, used, and out-of-print books. This place is a must visit for antiquarians and first edition collectors.
Located in Tower Grove, MoKaBe’s Coffeehouse is an incredible queer-owned coffeehouse serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, Sunday brunch, and dessert! They make the literary tourism list for hosting literary events, such as Queer Writes Now and activism letter writing parties.
The St. Louis Central Public Library is breathtaking. The main hall, which was originally built in 1912, features stained glass windows, renaissance ceilings, and gorgeous marble floors. After serving the city of St. Louis for 100 years, the library underwent a massive renovation in 2012 and reopened more beautiful than ever, now offering regularly scheduled guided architectural tours. In addition to serving the community with books, technology and resources, the library also provides author events, writing workshops, and other community-driven events multiple times per week.
Next time you’re in St. Louis, I hope you’ll give some of these lovely literary stops a try. And for more literary tourism posts, check out the archive on Book Riot.