Sunday, July 26, 2009

Indie Icon, Undaunted Used, The 2-Mile High Club

Indie Icon

From the Tattered Cover website:

Imagine if the government knew what books you were reading. Would you buy a copy of Al-Qaida:The Battle Against Western Tyranny, The Anarchist's Cookbook or Mein Kampf? Fortunately, for those of us living in Colorado, this Orwellian scenario is only a hypothetical, thanks to this week's Colorado Supreme Court decision in Tattered Cover v. City of Thornton.

Continuing this state's long tradition of protecting individual rights, the court ruled that the federal and state constitutions prevent law enforcement from finding out what books an individual purchased at Denver's Tattered Cover Bookstore, unless law enforcement can show the information is critical to a prosecution.

In an opinion that will serve as a guide to judges across the country, the court made clear that even in the post-Sept. 11 world, the right of individuals to purchase and read anonymously whatever books they wish, without the threat of governmental intrusion, lies at the very foundation of our democracy.

The Tattered Cover Bookstore is as much an indie icon to Denver Metro as Powell's Books is to Portland, Oregon (coming up later in the visit). Winning the highly publicized Colorado Supreme Court case back in 2002 stands as a testament to their dedication, standing firm to protect readers' first amendment rights.

In our last post, we visited their newest location in the super-cool refurbished Lowenstein Theater, opened in 2006 on the up-and-coming east side of Denver on Colfax Avenue. In this post we sidle on down to their downtown location, the 20,000 square foot warehouse in the "LoDo" (Lower Downtown) district.

The LoDo district is Denver's crown jewel hang out spot. It encompasses the old historic district wedged between Coors Field and Union Station. The main focus of the district is the 16th Street mall, an outdoor walking mall on a closed-to-traffic street that runs from the State Capitol building down to the Platte "River" (more like a wash in the summertime). The street is served from end-to-end by a hybrid bus service that's free of charge. A block or two from the Union Station/Platte River end of the mall sits the converted 20,000 square foot warehouse and 300 seat special events space encompassing The Tattered Cover LoDo.

The LoDo location is comprised of two floors, with a Cafe on the first floor and, like the Colfax Ave. location, a whole bunch of cool reading nooks and rooms. I don't think it would be possible for your humble Booktraveler to feel more at home in a store. As soon as you walk in, the layout with it's inviting chairs, wood shelves and huge selection make you check your watch to decide which late day plans are getting thrown to the wind. The upstairs in particular (above) makes you want to sit back for an hour or two or three to peruse the vast selection.

Downstairs the coffee shop beckons with a wide range of offerings that make it easy to camp out until you're thrown out. The best part is, once you're able to tear yourself away, the LoDo district offers Denver's best selection of restaurants, microbreweries and entertainment venues, and you can even catch a game at Coors Field, the retro downtown baseball stadium that's home to the Colorado Rockies. Had the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies been in town, The Booktraveler may have been tempted.

The Tattered Cover LoDo. Above, clockwise from top left: magazine reading room, second floor victorian nook, second floor reading corner and first floor cafe.

The Tattered Cover has an upscale 21,000 square foot third location in the exclusive Highland Ranch area in southern Denver which The Booktraveler was unable to visit. But trust me, if you find yourself if Denver, the two downtown locations will prove more than sufficient to satiate the most ravenous reading appetite of the most prolific booklover.

Undaunted Used

But if you are a true bookstore officionado, and used books are your passion, then situated between the two Tattered Covers directly across from the Colorado State Capitol building is Denver's oldest and best used bookstore: Capitol Hill Books.

Capitol Hill Books. Clockwise from top left: Corner location on Colfax Ave. View from the Counter. The back room. The Bat.

Secure and undaunted in the same location for over 30 years, Capitol Hill Books ( offers a great selection of the regular, the rare, the exceptional and the superior, in a cool corner location that will make any used book officionado feel right at home.

Holly Brooks, proprietor, has been running the store for over three years. She purchased the store from the previous owner after working there for eight years. A reflection of the egalitarian store tradition that the store should only be sold to people who work there, Holly being the third such dedicated owner.

Located on Colfax Ave, just a block from the Colorado State Capitol building, Capitol Hill Books wins the prize for Denver's best used bookstore hands down. They have a great selection of signed editions, and like our very own Cathy's Half Price Books, offer a selection of new book titles as a convenience and by request of their customers.

So whether it's new or used you're looking for, a trip to Denver offers plenty of grist for the discerning booklover, with used and indie options that are so cool, they make the big book store chains look like freeze dried leftovers.

The 2-Mile High Club

Of course, there's a reason Denver is famous the world over, and that happens to be Rocky Mountains rising off to the west. Join me, The Booktraveller on my next post, as I gasp (literally) at the beauty of the Rockies on an 8-mile hike across the Continental Divide, from the heights of the highest road in the US (The Mount Evans Scenic Byway) at 14,260 feet above sea level, and from the unparalleled beauty of St. Mary's Glacier. Until then...


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