In the age of the Amazon Kindle, the Barnes and Noble Nook, and a host of other e-readers that have taken the literary scene by storm, many Americans have chosen to forgo physical books and opt for a sleeker, more environmentally friendly choice. However, for everyone toting a slim reading tablet in their backpack or purse, there’s still someone out there with a hard copy of their favorite novel in hand — and a lot of those someones can be found at A Cappella Books, located in Northeast Atlanta. If you live in the city’s Little Five Points neighborhood, you don’t need to go too far to get your independent bookshop fix.
Specializing in books about art and politics, as well as those by local authors, A Cappella Books opened in 1989, five years before Amazon was even a twinkle in Jeff Bezos’ eye. Yelp user Blake B. described the red-brick store as “a staple of downtown mom-n-pop book shopping for as long as I can remember” in 2007, and its reputation has only improved in the twelve years since. It’s known for stocking both new and used books, as well as a variety of titles ranging from this year’s bestsellers to first editions of novels signed by their authors.
It’s hard not to engage in the rich culture of a city like Atlanta, and A Cappella has become a valuable resource for those who enjoy not only literature, but also music, poetry, and other artistic endeavors. They’re known for hosting book signings, often held at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library; recently featured authors include Atlanta planning commissioner Tim Kean and New York Times best-selling author Jacqueline Woodson.
This is an establishment run by people who don’t merely enjoy reading — they love it, and it’s clear from just one in-person visit or click on their website. “We love books so much that rather than be demoralized by the revolution that has hit our industry and our culture in the last couple of decades, we have become more impassioned than ever about what we sell.”
Run by eleven dedicated staff members, including owner Frank Reiss, the store is only expanding its reach as its third decade of business comes to a close.“We get a lot of people who know we’re here and seek us out. With all the events we do, we kind of create a literary community for our neighbors,” said Onyew Kim, an A Cappella bookseller. The store also hosts several book clubs, exploring categories as diverse as dystopian fiction, cookbooks, and LGBTQ+ literature. A Cappella is branded as “the smartest bookstore in town,” and their approach to community-building backs them up.
“A cappella” is Italian for “in the manner of the chapel,” referring to music that is sung with no instrumental accompaniment. In the same way that a talented singer can hold their own without backup from a piano, this cozy bookstore has proven that you don’t need the bells and whistles of a corporation to make a name for yourself.