July 18, 2024

The perfect summer roadtrip

Read Head

Over the past several years, reading has been on the rise with the help of BookTok, Bookstagram and other social media platforms used to promote literature.

With this resurgence has come a rise in independent or “indie” bookstores. In just over a year, the CNA coverage area has gained two indie bookstores. More than a dozen indie bookstores have opened across Iowa in the last three years, and now there is a summer event designed to highlight them.

Travel Iowa and The Green Dragon Bookshop in Fort Dodge have partnered with indie bookstores around Iowa to bring the Iowa Indie Bookshop Tour to life. The inaugural event celebrates Iowa’s diverse, independent literary landscape, featuring 36 independent bookstores.

Starting Monday, the event runs through Sept. 30, making it the perfect addition to summer travel plans. All 36 participating locations can be found at iowaindiebookshoptour.com.

Once the event has started, passports can be picked up at participating locations. When a purchase is made at one of the bookstores, a stamp is received in the passport. After you’ve collected a minimum of two stamps, you’re able to enter your passport in a prize drawing by turning it in at a participating shop.

Those who visit all 36 locations will be entered to win a $300 grand prize or $100 runner-up prize. All entries are eligible to win five $50 prizes. A social media prize of $50 will be drawn from posts with #iowaindiebookshoptour that tag the bookshop visited. The prizes are paid out in gift cards to the bookstore of the winner’s choosing.

Erin and I have been impatiently waiting for the event to begin, planning out how we can hit as many bookstores as possible. Of course, our hope is to make it to all 36, but with us being located so far southwest, it may be a challenge.

The locations are divided into three areas - North, South and Central. People in the Creston area can easily visit four of the South locations — The Latest Edition Bookstore in Creston, Brick Road Books in Winterset, That’s What She Read in Mount Ayr and Hedgie’s Books, Toys and More in Bedford.

Starting in Creston and traveling to Winterset, then down to Mount Ayr, over to Bedford and back up takes just over three hours. It’s the perfect weekend activity for someone wanting a taste of the bookshop tour.

I’m excited for my first visit to Hedgie’s, as I’ve already been to the other three. The Central locations are also fairly easy to visit, given most are in and around Des Moines.

When visiting Toronto earlier this month with Erin, we went into Indigo (Canada’s version of Barnes and Noble). We had hoped to visit an indie shop, but there were none in walking distance.

While I love supporting our own local bookstores, the fascinating thing about visiting others are the difference in stock, featured items and overall popular choices. I saw so many interesting options, and was able to pick up a couple novels I’d never heard of before then.

That’s part of what makes me so excited for this bookshop tour. Bookstores, while increasingly popular, are not a lucrative career option. The owners of these stores don’t do it to make a large profit, they do it because they are lovers of stories. With this comes 36 distinct personalities, 36 favorite books, 36 unique sets of recommendations.

Monica Walters, owner of That’s What She Read, introduced me to Tate James and her Madison Kate series. It’s not something I ever would have picked up on my own, and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it somewhere else, but her passion for the series has made it a best seller at her shop.

Each store is unique, finding its own niche market to allow us a chance to make every stop different than the last. Green Dragon Bookshop curates books focused on science, fantasy and horror fiction for all ages.

Books and Bakery in Carroll is owned by a mother-daughter duo. They’re also the first sensory inclusive certified business in Iowa and have a shelf full of books on autism.

Alter Ego Comics in Marion is a woman-owned comic book store. The Haunted Bookshop in Iowa City carries more than 45,000 titles in 80 genres in their 10-room 1847 home.

The list goes on and on, each store its own unique story filled with stories. Follow along with Erin and I this summer as we read our way across Iowa. I can’t wait to uncover what it has to offer.


Brick Road Books - Winterset

Hedgie’s Books, Toys, & More - Bedford

That’s What She Read - Mount Ayr

The Latest Edition Bookstore - Creston

Book Vault - Oskaloosa

The Haunted Bookshop - Iowa City

Captain’s Book Shoppe - Iowa City

Sidekick Coffee & Books - Iowa City

Burlington by the Book - Burlington

Bent Oak Books - Fort Madison

The Brewed Book - Davenport


The Book Shoppe - Boone

Dog-Eared Books - Ames

Dungeon’s Gate - Ankeny

Beaverdale Books - Des Moines

Raccoon River Press - Des Moines

Storyhouse Bookpub - Des Moines

The Little Book - Des Moines

Reading in Public Bookstore - Des Moines

Pageturners Bookstore - Indianola

The Curiousity Shop - Pella

Pioneer Bookshop - Grinnell


The Book Vine - Cherokee

Books and Bakery - Carroll

The Green Dragon Bookshop - Fort Dodge

Three Bell Books - Mason City

Prologue Books and Wine - Charles City

Dragonfly Books - Decorah

The Silver Birch - Decorah

River Lights Bookstore - Dubuque

Paper Moon - McGregor

The BookWorm Bookstore & More - Bellevue

Swamp Fox Bookstore - Marion

Alter Ego Comics - Marion

HEA Book Boutique - Marion

Next Page Books - Cedar Rapids

Cheyenne Roche


Originally from Wisconsin, Cheyenne has a journalism and political science degree from UW-Eau Claire and a passion for reading and learning. She lives in Creston with her husband and their two little dogs.