Ever since I watched You’ve Got Mail as a kid, I romanticized the idea of working and falling in love in a bookstore. As I got older, I worked in a library and multiple publishing jobs, and I never got to have a sweeping romance with a rival or a dramatic meet cute over email. The next best thing, of course, is to find books that let me live vicariously in these bookish romances. Below are my recommendations for some of the sweetest, bookish (and bookish adjacent because you can’t get too picky) YA and adult novels set in a bookstores because aside from books set in bakeries or coffee shops, they are really some of the most fun and escape-worthy reads.
Last Chance Books by Kelsey Rodkey
Rival bookstores? You’ve Got Mail in book form! What more can a bookish romance reader want? Madeline’s passion for her family bookstore, along with her growth was really refreshing to read and YA rom-com readers will delight in the enemies-to-lovers thing that Jasper and Madeline have going on.
Sunset Springs by Kacen Callender
This novella was so sweet. When he loses his job in publishing, Charlie is forced to move back home to the small upstate New York town of Sunset Springs. And after transitioning in college, he swore he would never return. But his chronically ill mother needs his help at the family bookstore and he finds the daily upkeep and reworking of the store to be soothing distraction from the temporary career derailment. But when the popular football star, who recently came out as gay, starts coming around the store, he realizes there may be some good bits about this town after all.
The Last Chance Library by Freya Sampson
This book is technically set in a library (and isn’t out until August), but I think it fits. And who doesn’t have a soft spot (read weakness) for books set in small English villages so this book is basically catnip for those of us who watch British TV and drink too much tea. June Jones is shy, reclusive, bookish loving thirty-year-old who would rather curl up at home with her cat and a book then go out and socialize. But when her favorite local library is in danger of closing, she must team up with her neighbors and her old school friend Alex Chen to save it. Can June save the library (and herself) with a little help?
Any reader of a Jenn Bennett book know they are in for swoons, major feels and probably an irrational love for characters that don’t exist. This book, partially set in another family owned bookstore, is no exception. Lucky Karras is the town bad boy and Josie St. Martin’s once best friend. But when her hurricane of a mother swept them out of town years ago without warning, Josie lost touch with the boy she knew better than herself. When her grandmother goes to volunteer in Tibet, Josie’s mother takes over the family bookstore for the summer, and Josie is reunited with the boy she never got to properly say goodbye to. This book is perfect—sweet with an edge, swoon-worthy, while also tackling serious topics like Jenn Bennett always does.
For fans of classics, books about friendship and Kasie West or Emma Mills novels will find this much-loved YA contemporary fun. As a love of classic novels, Mary knows how to recognize a scoundrel and the mistakes young women make in these books. After another girl falls for a bad boy, she compiles a list—the Scoundrel Survival Guide to make sure another girl in her school doesn’t fall for the literary tropes that get them in trouble. What follows is a charming and smart book. Bonus points for some of the best scenes taking place at a bookstore!
Verona Comics by Jennifer Dugan
While this book isn’t as light and fluffy as some of the others on the list, it’s a fantastic read. Set in a comic book store—where the families of the main characters are rival owners!—this is a book for readers looking for mental health representation. The anxiety discussion is worth reading, as is the growing chemistry between Ridley and Jubilee. Heed the content warnings and be sure to check out Jennifer Dugan’s other books.
This Is All Your Fault by Aminah Mae Safi
Set over 24-hours, on the day three young women find out the bookstore they work at will be closing, This Is All Your Fault has a lot going on. In a good way. Like Verona Comics, there’s mental health representation, and there’s also great friendships and a passion for books and the store that is really amazing to read.