Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Mexico City’s coolest alternative bookstores

When it comes to culture, Mexico City is one of the richest cities in the world. That has much to do with the fact that it’s a literary haven, brimming with bookstores of all shapes and sizes throughout the city. From cozy neighborhood bookstores to bigger cultural hubs, readers of all tastes and interests can find different literary experiences and something to fulfill their interests in Mexico City, no matter how niche. 

We all know Librerías Gandhi, El Sótano, Porrúa and even the café/bookstore El Péndulo. As valuable as these can be to readers, many other vendors seek to provide more support for local and independent publishers, as well as provide a deeper, highly curated vibe. Whether you’re a book lover or simply looking to visit new, cool places, you’ll find these standout bookstores to be welcoming spaces to explore new worlds and ideas.  

El Desastre

El desastre bookstore Mexico City
Philosophy and art collide at El Desastre. (El Desastre)

El Desastre is a cozy and eclectic bookstore known for its curated selection of literature, philosophy and art books. Its unique atmosphere blends the charm of a neighborhood bookshop with the depth of a specialized literary hub. 

This is a space for readers looking to support not only local businesses but also independent publishers. El Desastre often hosts cultural events, book presentations and literary talks at its two branches in Tlalpan and Benito Juárez. At its three-day-long  Tianguis Desastroso event, readers can bring old books they don’t want anymore and become booksellers themselves. Events like the Tianguis Desastroso make El Desastre a vibrant community space for book lovers and intellectuals alike.

Addresses: San Francisco 521 A, Colonia del Valle Centro, Benito Juárez. 

Francisco I. Madero 15, Tlalpan Centro, Tlalpan. 

Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., 3 p.m. on Sundays

Centro Cultural Elena Garro

Centro Cultural Elena Garros bookstore Coyoacán
Nestled in leafy Coyoacán, it’s only natural that one of Mexico’s greatest modern writers should have an equally grand bookstore in her honor. (Centro Cultural Elena Garro)

Located in the beautiful and historic neighborhood of Del Carmen in Coyoacán, the Centro Cultural Elena Garro is more than just a bookstore. It’s a cultural center dedicated to the celebrated 20th century writer Elena Garro. The bookstore offers a diverse selection of contemporary and classic Mexican literature, art books and academic titles. The location also features a café and exhibition spaces and hosts various cultural events, making it a cultural landmark in the city.

One of the most astonishing parts of the Centro Elena Garro is the building itself, an adapted traditional early 20th-century casona house. It has two floors with high ceilings and skylights, making it beautifully illuminated to enjoy the wide variety of reading spaces available for readers. 

Run by Educal, which distributes books for the Culture Ministry, this center prioritizes titles from the National Institute of Fine Arts (INBAL), the National Institute of History and Anthropology (INAH) as well. However, it also carries rare finds, independent publishers and imported books that aren’t easily found in other bookstores. 

In addition to its wide array of book options, the Centro Elena Garro hosts concerts, cultural events, workshops, book readings and presentations, among countless other events. All of these happenings are listed on their website

Hours: Every day from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Address: Fernández Leal 43, La Concepción, Coyoacán

Under the Volcano Books

Under the Volcano bookstore, Condesa
From the same literary vein as Mexico City’s American refugees William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, Under the Volcano needs to be experienced to be properly understood. (Under the Volcano)

Under the Volcano is a small bookstore in Condesa that caters specifically to the English-speaking community. This makes it an attractive option for expats, tourists and locals looking to read in English alike. The bookstore is named after Malcolm Lowry’s classic 1947 novel, which follows an alcoholic British consul in Cuernavaca during Day of the Dead in 1938. 

The store describes itself,  as an “embassy for the soul of the English-speaking world — its literature — in Mexico; and educational resource for Chilangos learning English and eager to explore the artistic reach of the language.” 

You’ll appreciate Under the Volcano’s wide range of English-language books, including contemporary fiction, non-fiction, travel guides and classic literature. The store, located on the second floor of the old American Legion building, also serves as a social hub for English-speaking book lovers, frequently hosting readings, book clubs and community events. It’s not to be confused with the writers’ residency of the same name hosted in Tepoztlán. 

Hours: Every day from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Fridays 12 p.m. to 6p.m.

Address: Celaya 25, Hipódromo, Cuauhtémoc,

La Increíble

La Increíble bookstore, Condesa
Modern, chic and oozing class, La Increíble is truly a fitting addition to Condesa. (La Increíble)

La Increíble is a vibrant and colorful bookstore that lives up to its name. It specializes in independent and small press publications, offering a diverse selection of books that are often hard to find elsewhere. 

Known for its commitment to promoting local authors and unique literary voices, La Increíble carries many titles by feminist and Indigenous writers, as well as authors writers from underrepresented communities such as the LGBTQ+ community. La Increíble also hosts regular events at its two Condesa branches, including book signings, poetry readings and workshops, fostering a lively and inclusive community of readers and writers.

Addresses:Juan de la Barrera 112, Condesa, Cuauhtémoc Ámsterdam #264, Condesa, Cuauhtémoc

Hours: Every day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Montserrat Castro Gómez is a freelance writer and translator from Querétaro, México.

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