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The Indy Indie Book Crawl: A Literary Celebration for Book Lovers

By Dominique Weldon

Members of the Indianapolis community were invited to participate in a local book crawl event. Here's how it went.

Photo: Rory Deshner

Since many readers and writers are introverts, a book crawl may be an unfamiliar term to some of you. In fact, the first time I stumbled upon the phrase was in February. On Instagram, several local bookstore accounts discussed a new, collaborative event: the Indy Indie Book Crawl. Readers in the local Indianapolis area were invited to support independent and non-profit bookstores. Intrigued by any opportunity to celebrate the local literary community, I decided to learn more about this upcoming book crawl.


After checking out the Indy Indie Book Crawl’s Instagram page, I soon learned the event would occur in Central Indiana on March 21-24. To get involved, individuals needed to visit one of the twenty-three participating bookstores to obtain a bookmark. After visiting a store, you’d receive a stamp on your bookmark, and each stamp counted as an entry for the grand prize, which included gift cards, merchandise, and books from the stores. To be eligible for the prize, individuals needed to save their bookmark as proof of participation, upload a book crawl image to Instagram during the event, and then fill out the book crawl’s online Google form. I appreciated that this event was accessible, for a purchase wasn’t received to participate, which may have placed a financial burden on many.

The book crawl’s announcement made me realize that I haven’t explored many literary locations in town. While I have frequently visited Golden Hour Books, a nearby independent bookstore, I haven’t checked out other local bookstores in the city. While I didn’t have the time to visit each of the twenty-three participating bookstores, I decided to stop at a few that I’ve been meaning to check out.

Photo: Rory Deshner

I began my Indy Indie Book Crawl journey on a Friday, the event’s second day. Anyone visiting Indianapolis should check out this store because their selection is unmatched. Whether you’re interested in literary fiction, memoirs, children’s literature, or another genre, there’s a perfect book for you at Golden Hour Books. Furthermore, Sara Gelston Somers, one of the co-owners, has a superb knowledge of literature and can provide you with great suggestions. In fact, Golden Hour Books’ website contains staff recommendations, so you can find a new read today.

While browsing that Friday, I noticed that Golden Hour Books had its typical number of customers; although, I soon realized that most book crawlers participated on Saturday. In fact, when I returned to Golden Hour Books the following day, it was packed with people. Nevertheless, I was content with the atmosphere on Friday because it allowed me to browse along the selves at a relaxing pace. As I previously mentioned, I couldn’t afford to purchase a book at every location; however, I ended up buying a few books to support my favorite bookstore. I bought The Rabbit Hutch by Tess Guntry, an award-winning novel that I regularly check out from the library. I also purchased Evil Flowers by Gunnhild Øyehaug, an unfamiliar title, all for the surprise that comes with a new read. After my purchase, the employee gave me a stamped book crawl bookmark, marking my first entry for the grand prize.


Photo: Rory Deshner

On Saturday, I headed to Dear Mom to continue my book crawl journey. This was the first time I visited this bookstore, and I was pleasantly surprised by its indie feel. The store reminded me of a vinyl shop, for many of the books had dark, grungy cover art and were published by smaller publishing houses. Although, what truly made this store unique was that it sold both books and VHS tapes, the tapes located in a separate room. Furthermore, near the VHS tapes was also a vending machine that provided shoppers with free emergency contraception.

Photo: Rory Deshner

Since it appeared that this business supported smaller creators, I decided that I would do the same and make a purchase. I bought a zine titled Self As Other: Reflections on Self-Care by CrimethInc., which centered on mental health and how our view of self-care may be harmful. Overall, Dear Mom was a business that appeared to care about the literary and local community, which I appreciated.  


Tomorrow Bookstore is another independent bookstore located in downtown Indianapolis and only a few minutes away from Dear Mom by car. This store had a wide variety of books to choose from, and when I entered the store, I noticed many familiar titles including Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, Come & Get It by Kiley Reid, and The Fifth Season by N. K Jemisin. Furthermore, there were a few themed tables and shelves, including a wall display of staff recommendations and a translated literature table.

Photo: Rory Deshner

While Tomorrow Bookstore appeared to have a strong selection, it was extremely difficult to look around since the store was heavily packed with people, whose many joyful conversations filled the air. While book crawls are great for the bookstore itself, it sometimes doesn’t allow for causal browsing; therefore, soon after entering the store, I hurried to the cash register to get my bookmark stamped and quickly left, all while planning to visit this location another day.


Photo: Rory Deshner

Here we have another bookstore that was new to me, one that I’ve been meaning to check out for a long time. The reason why I was so interested in this store is because it’s owned by Leah Johnson, a name that may be familiar to many of you. Johnson is the author of several books, including the best-selling YA novel You Should See Me In A Crown, a book about a young black girl who is running for prom queen in hopes of winning a generous prom scholarship, all while dealing with her crush on the new girl at school. I admire the book’s lively and fun voice, a voice that mirrors the author’s own. In fact, if anyone has the opportunity to hear Leah Johnson read her work aloud, definitely do so because her energy will memorize you. I hoped that enthusiasm was present at Loudmouth, and thankfully my experience there did not disappoint.

Photo: Rory Deshner

Loudmouth Books is a bright and lively place, one I could spend hours at. This bookstore has a wide range of titles contained within its colorful walls; however, Loudmouth has a specific focus: banned books. These shelves carry several books written by and centering on members from the BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities. In fact, there’s a section in the store specifically labeled “Banned Books,” that featured titles including The Fault In Our Stars by John Green, All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson, and Johnson’s own You Should See Me In a Crown. Clearly, this store supports suppressed voices, which is all the more reason to shop here. In fact, many readers has the same idea, for Loudmouth Books was full of people, so many that it was difficult to move around. Therefore, this is another place I will surely visit again in the future when I have the time to fully browse.


The last place I visited during the Indy indie book crawl was Dream Palace Books & Coffee. Similar to Loudmouth Books, this was another bookstore I was interested in checking out. Dream Palace Books & Coffee is co-owned by Taylor Lewandowski, a local English instructor and writer. Lewandowski attended the same MFA program as I; therefore, I was personally excited to visit this bookstore. After all, it’s almost expected that writing students eventually become professors or teachers; therefore, it was nice to see that the world of business is open to creatives as well.

Photo: Rory Deshner

Thankfully, Dream Palace Books & Coffee was one of the most unique bookstores I’ve stopped at during my book crawl experience. That’s because this bookstore carries both new and used titles. There’s a certain joy in shopping at a used bookstore, for you never know what you’ll find. Perhaps you’ll discover a book that you’ve never heard of, or you could find a former bestseller at an affordable price. Furthermore, customers could not only purchase books but coffee as well. In fact, after I got my bookmark stamped, I decided to purchase an iced vanilla latte to celebrate the end of my journey.


In the end, I didn’t win the grand prize; nevertheless, the experience itself was well worth it. I spent the weekend surrounded by others who also enjoyed reading, and I learned about bookstores in my community. Even though this was my first time participating in such an event, I know that I will be attending more book crawls in the future, and I highly encourage you to do the same. You never know if you’ll discover a new favorite bookshop in your own neighborhood.


About the Writer:

Dominique Weldon is a Black biracial writer based in Indianapolis, IN. She is a first-generation college graduate of the University of Iowa and received her MFA in Fiction from Butler University. Her work appears in Lover’s Eye Press and DarkWinter Literary Magazine. Currently, she reads fiction for Split Lip Magazine and writes for Erato Magazine. Find her online at


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