The release this month of Amazon.com’s list of the Most Well Read Cities in America was a great reminder to us of one of our favorite sources of free stuff: your public library.
As Laura Daily of Mile High on the Cheap says at the beginning of all her how-to-save talks: The most valuable card in your wallet is your library card.
Libraries offer workshops, entertainment, children’s story times, Internet access and even help finding a job, all free. In some communities, you can join multiple library systems to take advantage of various benefits.
You can check out not only books, but music CDs, movies, audiobooks and electronic books for Kindle and MP3. Before I drive cross-country every year, I download several audiobooks on my MP3 player.
Many libraries also have used-book sales where you can get both paperbacks and hardbacks for a fraction of the cover price.
And, some libraries distribute free passes to area museums and attractions.
If you’re really lucky, your community not only has a great public library but a good independent bookstore that hosts free readings, children’s story times, talks by authors and other events.
Amazon ranked cities with more than 100,000 residents based on the company’s sales of books, magazines and newspapers in both print and Kindle format per capita since January 1, 2011.
Here are the top 20 Most Well Read Cities. We’ve added links to free literary events and library benefits you can find if you’re visiting any of them.
- Alexandria, Va. The independent children’s bookstore Hooray for Books features author appearances and other free activities for children.
- Cambridge, Mass. The annual Boston Book Festival brings together authors and readers for a free celebration of the book. This year’s festival will be Oct. 27, 2012.
- Berkeley, Calif. Residents go to Moe’s Books for literary events.
- Ann Arbor, Mich. The Ann Arbor Book Festival is June 22-23, 2012.
- Boulder, Colo. Libraries and independent bookstores in Boulder and Denver present frequent free literary events.
- Miami. In Miami, you can attend a free literary event nearly every night at Books & Books, one of the nation’s top independent bookstores.
- Arlington, Va. One More Page Books opened last year and provides not only books and literary events but wine and chocolate.
- Gainesville, Fla. The Alachua County Library District provides free events every day.
- Washington, D.C. The independent bookstores Politics and Prose is one of the top places for literary events. You can also find a free yoga class at the library.
- Salt Lake City. The King’s English Bookshop has been a resource and site for author events since 1977.
- Pittsburgh.The City of Asylum/Pittsburgh and its online magazine Sampsonia Way publish a literary calendar of events.
- Knoxville, Tenn. Union Avenue Books opened last year and hosts author events.
- Seattle. You can download free books, music and videos from the Seattle Public Library, plus find books on a budget in several places.
- Orlando. You can get free home delivery of books, CDs and DVDs from the Orange County Public Library and attend free story times at Leu Gardens
- Columbia, S.C. If you’re looking for good used books, visit Books Revisited, which also takes trades.
- Bellevue, Wash. The King County Public Library System has free eBooks and free eReader software.
- Cincinnati. The site for author readings and special literary events is Joseph-Beth Booksellers.
- St. Louis. Business is booming at the St. Louis County Public Library, which had its busiest year ever.
- Atlanta. Whether they’re organizing some of the programming for the Decatur Book Festival or hosting author events, story times and summer camps at the shop, the staff at Little Shop of Stories uses every trick of the trade to inspire even the most reluctant reader to pick up a book.
- Richmond, Va. bbgb Tales for Kids is the RVA’s go-to spot for children’s and young adult books. Not only does the store offer an impressive collection of books, but the author events and story times get –and keep — kids excited about reading.
What are your favorite free library resources and the best independent bookstores for literary life on the cheap in your community?