Denverites love to read: 78 percent have a library card, and one of the nation's largest independent bookstores ― the Tattered Cover― thrives here. But if you enjoy the hunt for a book almost as much as the reading of it, head for Broadway and its cluster of small, sometimes quirky, independent bookshops.
Start on the section of Broadway between First Avenue and East Bayaud Avenue, a busy and bohemian street ― more Colfax Avenue than Cherry Creek. Get a java jolt at the copper-clad counter of Mrs. Crane's Espresso Coffee Shop, in Ichabod's Books (10-7 Mon-Fri, 10-6 Sat, 11-5 Sun; 2 S. Broadway; 303/778-7579); try the cinnamon mocha coffee. Then cruise Ichabod's shelves, allowing time to browse the vast assortment of art and architecture titles.
Under the pressed-tin ceiling of the Denver Book Mall (10-6 Mon-Sat, 11-5 Sun; 32 N. Broadway; 303/733-3808), investigate the new and used book collections of more than 20 dealers, from Crook Books (vintage mysteries) to Who Else (sci-fi). Or, earn points for originality by giving one of the antique valentines from Linda M. Lebsack Books.
You'll find early thrillers like The Case of the Velvet Claws (the first Perry Mason mystery) on display at Fahrenheit's Books (11-6 Mon-Sat, 12-5 Sun; 38 N. Broadway; 303/744-1043), home to stacks of vintage paperbacks ― crime, mystery, and other pulp fiction (great covers!).
A 13-block detour south on Broadway takes you to the Gallagher Collection (10-5:30 Mon-Sat, 12-5 Sun; in the Antique Guild, 1298 S. Broadway; 303/756-5821) for natural history, World War I and II titles, and rare and out-of-print volumes. They're set on cast-iron shelves saved from Denver's 1910 Carnegie Library.
After a day hunting tomes, tuck into a bowl of tom yum gong (hot-and-sour soup with peeled shrimp) at Spicy Basil Asian Grill ($; 11-9:30 Mon-Thu, 11-midnight Fri, noon-midnight Sat, noon-9:30 Sun;1 N. Broadway; 303/871-8828). The best part for book lovers: It's okay if you read at the table.
Denver's independent book enclave is located along Broadway south of the Civic Center. Street parking is available, and several RTD bus lines access the area (www.rtd-denver.com or 303/299-6000). For more information, contact www.denver.org or 800/233-6837.