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A peek into Rochester's literary scene



Believe it or not, Amazon hasn't entirely replaced independent booksellers, and not everyone prefers to absorb their literature through a screen. Rochester's got many organizations and literary centers that support its crowd of authors, poets, and lit-loving audiences.

There are a handful of small presses that publish and sell books in niche categories, including the non-profit BOA Editions (250 North Goodman Street, suite 406; boaeditions.org), which focuses on poetry and short fiction by local, national, and international writers, and the University of Rochester's non-profit literary translation press Open Letter Books (openletterbooks.org), which emphasizes expanding our perspectives through reading world literature. To that end, Open Letter facilitates readings and discussions with visiting authors.


Synonymous with the reading and writing scene in Rochester is community literary hub Writers & Books (740 University Avenue, wab.org). The center hosts a number of writing classes and workshops, literary readings, author visits, theatrical performances, and more. W&B holds literary summer camps for kids and teens, and provides a focused escape for adults via the Gell Writers Retreat, located in the Finger Lakes. Writers & Books also facilitates the annual Rochester Reads community-wide book club, for which a new or recent novel is chosen, the whole community is encouraged to read it, and loads of programming is presented at libraries, universities, and other community centers leading up to the author's visit in the fall. This year marks the 20th anniversary Rochester Reads. More information is available at wab.org.

A new kid on the local lit scene, Sulfur Books (18 East Main Street, Clifton Springs; sulfurbooks.com) is a freshly rebranded bookstore operating under the wing of Clifton Springs-based Main Street Arts Gallery. Named for the mineral spring running through the historic Victorian village, the bookstore carries books for all ages, but has incorporated more titles by regional small independent presses, as well as literature-in-translation. Sulfur's literary arts coordinator Rachel Crawford (who is a freelance writer for CITY) has been filling the store's calendar with workshops, readings, book club events, film screenings, and author signings.

Also east of Rochester, but closer to the city, Books Etc. (78 West Main Street, Macedon, facebook.com/booksetcmacedon) sells new and used books, hosts an art gallery, and presents programming including readings and book clubs.


A staple of downtown for decades, Greenwood Books (123 East Avenue, greenwoodbookstore.com) is a well-curated second-hand shop specializing in old and rare volumes. Owner Franlee Frank is an ace at locating new-to-you tomes within your interests. More previously-loved literature (and a huge collection of used VHS and DVDs) in every genre is available on the jam-packed shelves of Rick's Recycled Books (737 Monroe Avenue, 442-4920), which is one of those spots where you can spend hours digging for paperback gold. Down the road, Before Your Quiet Eyes (439 Monroe Avenue, 563-7851) is a generalist used bookstore that also sells some artwork and hosts poetry readings.

Small World Books (425 North Street, facebook.com/smallworldbooks) is another general-interest used bookstore where you can regularly catch indie and folk bands playing among the stacks, or, when the weather's fine, in the adjacent garden. Yesterday's Muse (32 West Main Street, Suite 1, Webster; websterbookstore.com) is a generalist antiquarian shop with a focus on literature, American history, military, and local history.

Out in Brockport, Lift Bridge Book Shop (45 Main Street, Brockport; liftbridgebooks.com) is a spacious two-story spot that sells new and used books for all ages, as well as toys, games, and other gifts. And Rochester has two new-ish kid-focused bookstores. In the South Wedge, Hipocampo Children's Books (638 South Avenue, hipocampochildrensbooks.com) is an independent woman/Latinx-owned shop which offers books that represent diverse cultures and languages in our region, as well as toys and apparel. Hipocampo also hosts classes, author visits, performances, and more. At Village Gate, Element of Fun (274 North Goodman Street, https://elementoffunbooks.com/) carries books for babies through tweens that represent cultural and gender diversity, as well as gifts and apparel.

Several of the used-book shops mentioned here are part of the Rochester Area Booksellers Association, which annually presents the Rochester Antiquarian Book Fair in the fall at the Main Street Armory in Rochester. That event features dozens of book dealers from New York and the northeast, vending volumes from their collections as well as some artwork and other ephemera. This year marks the 48th anniversary, and the fair takes place on September 12.


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