Square Books Is The South's Best Bookstore In Mississippi

The independent bookstore has forever changed how the world sees Oxford and how Oxford sees itself.

Square Books
Photo:

Robbie Caponetto

The heartbeat of Oxford can be found among the shelves inside Square Books —and its three companion stores (one for kids, one for rare finds, and another for home and lifestyle titles) all located on the city square. In a literary location that’s been the hometown to legends like William Faulkner, Barry Hannah, and Willie Morris—and more recent popular authors like John Grisham and Jesmyn Ward—it makes perfect sense to have four bookstores within walking distance of one another. After all, you never know what you might feel like reading on any given day.

Inside Square Books’ main location, Persian-style rugs lend warmth to rickety wood floors, and every inch of wall space is covered in signed photos of the authors who have visited (Alice Walker, Allen Ginsberg, and Toni Morrison to name a few) since the shop opened in 1979. The store keeps up a healthy social calendar, with more than 150 author signings, readings, and events per year.

Square Books is a cozy maze of literature with an impressive selection of signed and collectible books, literary fiction, and Southern fiction . Climb the narrow staircase to find even more volumes, plus a teeny-tiny coffee bar and doors leading to a balcony overlooking the courthouse. It’s the perfect place to take your newest title for a spin on a breezy afternoon.

Square Books in Oxford, MS
Robbie Caponetto

If you need any further indication of the store’s impact on the state, consider that founder and owner Richard Howorth was twice voted mayor of Oxford. The Oxford native and his wife Lisa opened Square Books in 1979 after spending two years as apprentices at Georgetown’s Savile Book Shop. Square Books is best known for the incredible collection of authors who have walked through its doors, a testament to the Howorths’ tenacity. During a time when no one considered Oxford a literary hub and when there were hardly any places in town for a visitor to stay the night, the Howorths somehow got them to come. Before John Grisham was a household name, he was a friend of a friend Richard’s who got his start selling books at Square Books.

Over the years, Square Books has grown exponentially. Folks come from all over the country to buy tomes from the sacred shelves of its four distinct locations. The little independent bookstore that could has made quite the name for itself, while somehow managing to remain true to its roots. And now that Richard and Lisa’s son Beckett has taken over Rare Square, we’re looking forward to many storied years ahead from this beloved multigenerational family business.

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