Meandering Through Minnesota Bookstores

A detailed look at four unique bookstores


Evan Vezmar

Wild Rumpus is dedicated to children with rows of books low to the ground and hosts an array of impressive animals throughout.

Evan Vezmar, Managing Editor

When I was younger, one of the more frequent activities my parents would force me and siblings  to do was read. The ploy to get us interested in reading was also a plan to keep us quiet, but the children’s books led me to one of my biggest loves: bookstores. Special visits to Wild Rumpus by Lake Harriet and Half Price Books on Hennepin Avenue opened my eyes to the wonderful world of books, and I still revel in enormous bookshelves and diverse genres whenever I get the chance to stop by a bookstore. Those chances have diminished, partially because of COVID-19 and likely also because of the workload of high school, but I revisited some of my favorite bookstores from my elementary school days as well as some new stores to rediscover my love for books. 

I revisited Half Price Books, Barnes & Noble, and Wild Rumpus, and I went to Magers & Quinn for the first time. From the moment I stepped inside these stores, I noticed how much they had branched out from the last time I was there. Half Price Books specializes in used books and will buy customers’ books to place directly on their shelves, but I spotted the bookstore selling hats, clothes, puzzles, movies, and more. Wild Rumpus had also diversified, where a games and clothes section takes up a far corner. It seemed that all the stores had modernized, but not all of them managed to keep the magical feel that I knew when I was a child. 

Magers & Quinn created the balance between old and new perfectly. The building is immense, with multiple rooms filled with every genre imaginable. However, unlike Barnes & Noble, whose expansive space creates a very shopping mall feel, Magers & Quinn still felt cozy and calm. Magers pairs new books and organization with old, wooden furniture and the austerity of a library. Each doorway going to a new section of the store was a little too short, so when I ducked through, I felt like a character entering a magical new world. From mounted paraphernalia to the library ladders that can be wheeled around to reach tall bookshelves, the ambiance was that of exploration and wonder. 

Wild Rumpus was similar but on a much smaller scale. The more frequent visitors of this quaint bookstore will remember the various live animals that would run around the store while they browsed the children’s chapter book section. Unfortunately, the chickens and cats are gone, but it may be for the best, considering how tiny the store is. I hadn’t been back in several years, but once I entered the store through the normal-sized door- there is a smaller door built into the main door for children to go through- I almost hit my head on the hanging toys. Wild Rumpus is not big enough for teenagers, but there are still teen and adult novels to explore. One feature I particularly liked was a basket labeled “Blind Date with a Book”. Books were wrapped in paper so the titles were hidden and all I could see were some general descriptions of the plot with a price on the front. I love this idea because it encourages readers to branch out and try books they might not have if they knew the author or title, especially in a store geared towards younger readers who may be just gaining an interest in reading and want to find new stories. The possibilities are endless with this idea, and I appreciated the mystery and air of the unknown.

I look for coziness, hominess, and a feeling of chance when I go to a bookstore, and Barnes & Noble, unfortunately, missed the mark. Owning over 600 stores across the United States, Barnes & Noble is certainly one of the most popular bookstores. The sheer number of books, bestsellers, and brand-new offerings was incredible, but the space lacked the excitement of browsing and finding a new read. Barnes & Noble seems to market itself as a place to get a specific book, rather than a site to explore. The size of the store coupled with the number of games, toys, art supplies, and knickknacks lent to a manufactured feel. In essence, I’d call Barnes & Noble a Target with books. In addition, Barnes & Noble in the Edina Galleria houses a Starbucks that is both loud and large, which detracts from the original purpose: books. I remember how many years ago Barnes & Noble had small nooks, chairs, and hideouts for children to sit and read, and I no longer feel the same excitement for reading as I did, and as I feel in a smaller bookstore such as Half Price Books. I firmly believe that all bookstores hold immense value because they provide people with opportunities to discover a passion for reading, but for a more wholesome and warmer experience, locally owned bookstores like Wild Rumpus, Magers & Quinn, and Half Price Books are better options.