Oxford’s Square Books Snags National Recognition

Local favorite, Square Books

Square Books in Oxford, Miss. is a focal point of the downtown.

By Alexa Bafalis

Square Books, an independent bookstore located on the Square, is a favorite in the Oxford community, but Oxford residents are now not the only ones appreciating this local venue. Publishers Weekly this month awarded the bookstore the title”PW” Bookstore of the Year.

Opening in 1979, Richard and Lisa Howorth founded Square Books.

“I’m Richard Howorth; I own this place with Lisa. We started this store in 1979, after working both of us in a bookstore in Washington, D.C. for a couple of years, what I’ve always called a self-apprenticeship,” said Howorth in an excerpt from Joe York’s documentary called “Square Books 30th Anniversary.”

According to the website “Book Selling This Week,” the bookstore first started in a small upstairs location, then in 1984 moved to a two-story location. The second location added a cafe with a commercial espresso dispenser, which happened to be the first in the city of Oxford’s history.

“He just wanted a really quality bookstore that would be a part of this community in Oxford and serve the university in Oxford and be really responsive to the people that live here,” said Lynn Roberts of Richard Howorth.  Roberts is the general manager of Square Books and has been for 25 years.

According to Roberts, the Mississippi section is the most popular in the store, but many people come to Square Books because it’s a great place to read books, too.  Ole Miss student Maggie Bankston is a regular.

“I come to Square Books because it’s really um, I love the atmosphere of it. It is just such a quiet place and I just like love being surrounded by books and they just have so many different things you can look at, and I like the quietness of it. It is really peaceful to read,” said Bankston.

Following the success of the original shop, the Howorths opened the bargain bookstore Off Square Books but didn’t stop there.

“Then when the space where Square Books, Jr. is became available, it was just the perfect space for a kid’s store. The shelves were already built in. It had been a shoe store at one point, and shoe store displays shelves actually work really well for big children’s picture books,” said Roberts.

In light of their success as an independent bookstore, Square Books has received a lot of press over the years from websites and magazines. Many praise Square Books for keeping the tradition of book reading alive.


~ by alexabafalis on April 19, 2013.

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