My trip to Columbus for my friends’ wedding was a brief one, but I had assembled a feasible to-do list from Google searches and Trip Advisor that I was proud of. The main “sight” I was checking out was the German Village, but I also came across mentions online of the Book Loft bookstore inside the German Village. Way way back as the wedding was a few months out, I am pretty sure one of my friends getting married mentioned the Book Loft. It certainly sounded familiar when I saw it on Trip Advisor. Due to Portland pride (and a little personal arrogance), I’m pretty sure at the time I rolled my eyes and dismissed my friend’s acclaim without any consideration. How could any bookstore really compare to Powell’s, am I right? The Book Loft is described as one of the nation’s largest independent bookstores. So of course the response in my mind was like “well Powell’s is THE largest independent bookstore in the WORLD!” Yes sometimes I am actually 11… As I was making my Columbus to-do list right before the wedding, I added it in as I still love books enough to want to visit. Spoiler alert is that I am really glad I did!
After “breakfast” (of sugar) at Bake Me Happy south of the German Village, the Book Loft was the second stop I used to meander through the German Village with a rough destination (Schiller Park being the first one). The Book Loft is located in a red brick building that’s pretty reflective of the German Village. The website explains it’s a pre-Civil War era building that once was a general store, a saloon, and a nickelodeon cinema. I saw a sign outside that heralded its collection of books in over 32 rooms. Looking at the building I was like “how the heck could 32 rooms fit in there?!” But there are in fact 32 distinct rooms!
Pretty quickly I came to the realization that I had pretty much been a brat for my trivialization and instant dismissal of the Book Loft just based on the Powell’s comparison. I never really gave it an open mind and that was wrong. I mean with something as incredible as books there doesn’t need to be a competition, right? Each brings a unique experience for book lovers. If Powell’s is the City of Books, the Book Loft is kind of like an enchanted book grove.
The entrance to the Book Loft is in the back so you follow a brick path past flower beds, foliage, and some flags (both U.S. and German). Right outside the entrance were some tables stacked with books. I liked this sort of casual, outside book fair feel, especially with the nice weather. I scanned the different tables and was impressed with the prices. I still had not seen all 32 rooms inside yet, so for something I was still envisioning as a smaller independent book operation I thought the prices were quite competitive. That also could be a little dangerous since the prices mentally seemed to give me permission to buy a lot (luggage space was the major practical consideration I had to take into account). I did however pick up a Theodore Roosevelt biography for about $6 before heading inside.
I rather quickly realized that yes 32 rooms had been squeezed into this building. I do like the ‘loft” aspect of the name as you’ll navigate a number of stairwells and high ceilings that make it feel loft like. The best description otherwise to help you envision the Book Loft is a maze. It’s not super confusing like a maze per say (though sometimes I did back track or double check I didn’t miss anything), but the walkway does wind and turn many times throughout each room. Sometimes there’s only one option to move forward and sometimes there’s two or three. Sometimes you can go up a set of stairs or down (or keep moving forward on that floor). Sometimes you realize there’s a little nook you never saw that’s filled with books behind a wall. The signs are pretty clear (both in where each topical section is, but also how to get back out!), but it’s also kind of cool to not know what you’ll discover around the next corner. There somehow seems to be some order to the “chaos” as you can figure your way around without too much trouble surprisingly.
Most books at minimum seemed to have 5% off the publisher’s price sticker. However inside there were lots of more substantial deals like the outside tables. If I lived in Columbus I would have bought a ton of “coffee table” books as there were a lot of heavy photography and architecture books (or similar) that had excellent deals. I ended up with the Teddy Roosevelt book at a steep discount and a Titanic book for the 5% off price.
I personally love books (!), but I still think the Book Loft is a cool enough space to visit for even more casual book readers. It has tons of charm and unique quirkiness. I feel a little guilty for dismissing it out of hand just because of my love and pride for Powell’s. That was a big mistake. Book Loft is a worthy book adventure in its own right. Check out the pictures below and next time you’re in Columbus, stop by the Book Loft and buy a book (or 20)!
Book Loft- 631 South Third Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206