#34 of 79 Asheville Things To Do

The Captain’s Bookshelf

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The Captain's Bookshelf: Rare and Wonderful Books in Asheville
Staff Score:
4.5 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Everything about The Captain’s Bookshelf, from the way it smelled when we first walked in to the way employees appear to love books as much as we do, made us feel right at home.

- The SmokyMountains.com Local Expert Team

It may be the number of brick and mortar bookstores that have closed over the past decade, but simply walking into The Captain’s Bookshelf was enough to make us remember why we love bookstores.

It helps that the store is also situated near some of the coolest Asheville stores, restaurants, and attractions. The Captain’s Bookshelf is conveniently tucked in near establishments like Ariel Gallery, Serenity & Scott Apothecary, Ten Thousand Villages, and Asheville Bee Charmer, a really sweet shop that offers 50 varieties of honey.

The store was established in 1976 in downtown Asheville, and from the beginning, owners Chandler and Miegan Gordon knew that they wanted to be the place to go for quality books. One of the things that’s so outstanding about their establishment is the variety of books, including first editions, collectibles, signed editions, leather-bound, secondhand, and rare books.

Their price point ranges from $5 paperbacks to five-figure manuscripts. The magic of this shop is that one can pick up a one-of-a-kind rare book for a friend and a trashy summer read at the same time. The ability to meet more than one literary need is a powerful draw.

In fact, it’s hard to imagine how the serious bibliophile would feel anything but love for The Captain’s Bookshelf. The staff encourages customers to take their time, browse the shelves, and sit down with a good book. And if customers are not able to get to downtown Asheville, they offer about a quarter of their stock through their online store.

Although they are very picky about the condition of the used books they buy, The Captain’s Bookshelf purchases books of all ages. If you have time to linger, do so. We ran across several stories of other shoppers who found themselves in the possession of books they never dreamed they would find. For example, one gentleman reports that he managed to find a first edition of The Wizard of Oz for his girlfriend.

Visitors to the store realize within minutes that the store carries a little of everything, including poetry, art, classical studies, religion, philosophy, regional history, gardening, classic literature, new literature, and children’s book.

If you’re new to town, staff will even answer any questions you may have about Asheville, including directions to that great restaurant you’ve been reading about. While their selection of books is impressive, the very best thing about The Captain’s Bookshelf is the way staff goes above and beyond to make customers feel special.

If we can offer one more piece of advice, make a day of it. Choose a book (or three) you adore, and then enjoy a meal at a nearby restaurant like Tupelo Honey or Farm Burger Asheville. Top it all off with a visit to French Broad Chocolate on South Pack Square.

We can’t think of a better way to pass time in Asheville.

Insider Tip:
-If you have children with you, help them find a book and get settled in before you shop. The Captain’s Bookshelf is loaded with books, but short on extra space for kids to run around.