Make a visit to the borderland’s best bookshops

Cactus+Flower+Bookery+offers+a+wide+range+of+collections+and+themes%2C+not+only+selling+books+but+also+tote+bags%2C+jewelry%2C+stones+and+other+gifts.+

Annabella Mireles

Cactus Flower Bookery offers a wide range of collections and themes, not only selling books but also tote bags, jewelry, stones and other gifts.

Kristen Scheaffer, Contributor

The City of El Paso is home to a handful of cozy bookshops hoping to promote literacy and give back to the community with their new, rare, donated and affordable selection of books. While corporations like Barnes & Noble do diligent work in providing authors with publishing opportunities and readers access to a variety of novels, these local stores work to provide the Borderland with culturally significant literature to keep in circulation. 

Located in Pepper Tree Square at 5411 N. Mesa St. is the Literarity Bookshop, co-owned by Bill and Mary Anna Clark. Literarity opened in 2017, when there were not any other independent bookshops at the time. Literarity holds a combination of used and new books and it is a platform for local authors to get their books promoted. These authors include UTEP professors like Aldo Amparán, Alessandra Narváez-Varela and Jonna Perillo.   

“It’s about stories. It’s about words,” said Bill Clark, when describing what it was about books that drew him in.

In March 2019 Brave Books opened at 1307 Arizona Ave., once a 1915 bungalow. Owner Judd Burgess felt it was important as a book collector to open shop for the improvement of literacy numbers. Brave Books occasionally holds events  in their shop, as well as creative writing activities via their Instagram. Burgess also promotes local artists in his shop. If nothing else,  book lovers should go visit the bookstore cat. “There’s just so many different things that occur when a person dives into a good book, whether it’s fiction or whatever, that just occurs,” Burgess said.  

Located at 7744 N. Loop Drive is Books are Gems, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting book literacy in El Paso. 

Books are Gems opened in 2003 with their primary focus on children’s books, offering one new book and six used books free to every child with each visit. Their general bookshop for adults charges 50 cents for paperback and a dollar for hardback, no matter the value or condition.

“We’re trying to get literacy rates up and have children interested in reading and stuff like that. We also do Saturday story time,” said Angel Pérez, Books are Gems manager.  

Cactus Flower Bookery, which opened just before the pandemic, is located at 5024 Doniphan Drive Suite 9. Co-owned by Shirleen and Stephanie Roberts, a mother and daughter duo. Cactus Flower stands out with its strictly Southwestern collection, decorated with their own personal touch of knickknacks. Stephanie Roberts explains that each book was handpicked and chosen because of the location, keeping the books circulating in the region. 

“It’s been a great thing that we haven’t had to go outside of the community to find stuff that are already gems, that are already here,” Roberts said. 

Cactus Flower Bookery offers art by local artists, and occasional creative writing workshops.  

No matter where El Pasoans choose to get their books, each shop has made it clear: there is a need for literacy in the borderland and they hope to raise those numbers.  

Kristen Scheaffer is a contributor and can be reached at [email protected]