Best of Houston® 2021

Best Of Houston® 2021: Best Bookstore

At the top of this year's CLASS of bookstores
At the top of this year's CLASS of bookstores
What makes a retail establishment the best of its kind? For sure, the usual requirements like selection, price and convenience. Customer service is high on the list, too. But sometimes a really good idea about how the business will play a vital role in a community is just as important. That’s key to why we’ve selected CLASS Bookstore, a relative upstart, as the city’s top bookseller this year.

Launched less than a year ago by husband-and-wife booklovers David and Dara Landry, the online retailer is helping to battle the dearth of Black-owned bookstores in one of the country’s biggest cities. According to Publisher’s Weekly, print book sales rose by nearly 10 percent during 2020 and its associated lockdown, a ten-year high. And, in the wake of the George Floyd murder and a summer of protests, books related to social justice topics helped drive that spike. You’ll find many of those books on the virtual shelves of CLASS Bookstore. Once you arrive, you’re greeted with the familiar colors of the Pan-African flag and an array of titles like World’s Great Men of Color and Women, Race & Class. The site makes it easy on buyers, offering interest-free installment payments on books as low as $6.95. You'll probably never find a more convenient path to the Bhagavad Gita.

Some bookstores are known for having a Starbucks tucked in a corner or for in-store author appearances. That’s part of their brand. CLASS is creating its own identity by folding fashion into its mix. The store’s Instagram page reads “Where Nike Meets Nietzsche” and the purveyors’ interest in couture culture is evident in the pop-ups they frequent to promote both interests and, of course, the books, with titles like Sneaker Wars and the streetwear tome This Is Not a T-shirt. Everything is delivered lovingly via thoughtful book blurbs, blogs, social media posts and online author chats, all with the idea in mind that little is more fashionable than a life enhanced by reading.