10 Bookstore Cafes Dedicated to Art and Social Change

There's nothing like a bookstore cafe.

Love books? Love coffee? Love music and love revolutionary social change? Then these bookstore-cafe-venue-movement incubator hybrid hotspots are for you.

Certainly there are thousands more radical multidisciplinary spaces that exist around the world, spaces on all different continents where extraordinary things are taking place. But each of these spaces has made the bookstore-cafe model unique, making possible the kind of revolutionary thinking our world so desperately needs.

COVID-19 has been difficult for each and every one of us, and times are not exactly easy for bookstores, so give them some love if you can—and enjoy learning about them and dreaming of the day when you'll be able to spend the morning drinking coffee and reading, the afternoon planning the revolution and the evening moshing to the latest queer folk band.

1. The Moon Singapore


The Moon Singapore

Over the Moon

Singapore's The Moon is dedicated to highlighting stories: "so many wonderfully talented authors, creators and makers who may have slipped under the radar of the mainstream." Focused on women and artists of color, this extraordinary bookstore cafe also offers an event space open to private bookings and free community events, some of which have included DJ lessons, cat adoption drives, theatre performances, meditations, Christmas movie marathons, clothes swaps, art therapy sessions, Lunar New Year gong baths, queer women's book clubs, zine-making and self-care sessions, sessions about writing and the climate crisis, yoga and tarot courses, and so, so much more.

The space also offers a communal lending library, a tarot reading station, and of course, infinite worlds within its selection of books.

The venue's staffers, referred to as Moon Maidens, "hail from diverse backgrounds" and "have included social workers, DJ's, psychology trainees, illustrators, film makers and even a budding aerospace engineer."

2. The Canvas Creative Venue

The Canvas Cafe Basement

The Canvas Cafe Basement

The Canvas Cafe was intended to be a blank canvas, a space where creatives and community members could come together and create. "At The Canvas Cafe, we galvanise Londoners to connect, and to create positive change," its website reads. This London joint was founded in 2014 by puppeteer Ruth Rogers, and has always focused on giving back. It began its efforts at doing social good by committing to supporting local farmers.

In 2015, the space began hosting weekly Tuesday night talks on mental health and well-being. They became a certified Happy Cafe, gifting a room next to their garden to the Museum of Happiness for a year-long residency and committing to Action for Happiness's 10 Keys to Happier Living, and soon began offering free health and happiness-based events such as pay-it-forward supper clubs.

In 2017 they launched a Community Hub effort, which provides space for people who want to create free events that benefit the community in exchange for a donation to a program that provides food to homeless people. The 100% vegan cafe also runs a Hot Meals for the Homeless campaign and hosts 50-60 creative events per month in their "secret basement space that supports artists and creatives."

3. The Housing Works Bookstore

Housing Works NYC

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe

The Knot

Housing Works is a non-profit that fights HIV/AIDS, and their Soho bookstore and bar has become an iconic NYC establishment. Staffed largely by volunteers, almost 100% of the store's profits go towards fighting disease and improving the lives of New Yorkers through prevention, testing, community care and much more. The cafe/bar/establishment hosts nightly arts events (during non-COVID times) as well as weddings and many other events.

4. Cafe Con Libros

Cafe con Libros is an intersectional feminist community bookstore in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. This tiny but beautiful space hosts reading groups for womxn (as well as specific groups for women of color), runs a podcast, and works to share its values with the world.

"We were born from and are guided by the lush cannon of Black Feminist thought producers and activists; the space endeavors to be intersectional, inclusive and welcoming of all who stand with and on behalf of the full human rights of womxn and girls," its website reads. "We seek to advance and uplift stories of womxn and girls around the globe who are redefining the word feminist and feminism with every day, ordinary culturally informed acts of resistance and love."

Part of the space's charm is in its intimacy. "It's a space for folks to come connect and, with it being so small, community members need to be comfortable sitting with strangers. Conversations naturally begin, overlap, and intersect. On so many levels, it's an organic process facilitated by natural light, calm decor, and proximity," said its founder in an interview with LitHub.

5. Politics and Prose

Politics and Prose

Politics and Prose

The Southwester

Washington DC's Politics and Prose is an independent bookstore and "cultural hub" that promotes independent thought. The now-famous store is a pit stop for famous authors, and is popular for its author events and Q&As. The gigantic space frequently hosts a wide variety of events. It also features an Espresso Book Machine, which is capable of printing self-published or out-of-print books on-demand.

6. Red Emma's

Red Emma's

Red Emma's Bookstore Cafe


Red Emma's is a "worker cooperative behind the restaurant, bookstore, and community events space...dedicated to putting principles of solidarity and sustainability into practice in a democratic workplace."

    It describes itself as a "radical" project; it's a bookstore with a commitment to revolution. Inspired by "the DIY anarchist spaces that have started to spring up like mushrooms across the globe in the past few decades," its website reads, Red Emma's builds "on long traditions of underground bookstores, hobohemian hangouts, and Utopian alternatives." As an "info shop" it's dedicated to interrupting "filter bubbles", exposing people to new ideas, and above all helps to bring people together to dream and scheme on how to turn information into a weapon in the fight for a better world."

    Red Emma's is organized as a worker's cooperative, meaning there is no boss—everyone who works for the collective has an equal share in its future. It relies on a consensus-based decision-making method and supports its individual factions (like its bookstore and cafe) as individual factions.

    Since its inception, the cafe has branched off into other spaces, including a community arts venue called 2640 as well as the Baltimore Free School, a place that offers 100% free courses to anyone.

    The store is named after Emma Goldman, an anarchist, feminist, and revolutionary who played an important role in developing anarchist philosophy in North America.

    7. Monkeywrench Books

    Monkeywrench Books is an "all-volunteer event space, literature distro, and social hub in Austin, TX." Describing itself as "a unique community resource within Austin for anyone who's ever questioned the status quo," it hosts countless events, reading groups, and speakers, and aims to be a progressive hub for Austin thinkers.

    8. ​More Than Words

    More than Words Boston

    More than Words

    More than Words

    More Than Words is not only a bookstore—it's also a nonprofit enterprise that directly empowers kids who are homeless, involved with the foster care system, or court-involved to gain experience and skills working and managing a bookstore and event space.

    Located in Boston, MA, More Than Words offers paid jobs to kids, who work 20 hours a week at the stores learning customer service and technology and who also work a second paid job attending workshops and site visits that help them plan out future schooling, work, and life courses. The kids work on sourcing and selling used books for the shop and learn marketing skills that help the business thrive while also helping them gain valuable skills.

    In addition, the organization's South End space is available for rent for screenings, events, and more, which the youth employed there help run and coordinate.

    9. Moon Palace Books

    Moon Palace Books

    Moon Palace

    Publishers Weekly

    "Moon Palace Books in south Minneapolis was one of few businesses spared Wednesday night as some protesting over George Floyd's death turned into rioting," reads one recent new article about Moon Palace Books, so you know this place is a good egg. The bookstore may have been spared in part because it was displaying a large sign that read, "Abolish the police," and its resident cafe, Geek Love Cafe, was making pizzas for protestors throughout the week; it also has begun refusing to allow police officers to use its parking lot.

    Moon Palace is a cafe-music venue-bookstore-consignment store. Its dedicated local following helps maintain its music venue, cafe, and of course, book haven.

    10. harbook




    The city of Hangzhou, China has seen a rise in bookstore-cafes over the past few years, and harbook is one of its most striking. Elegant postmodern design defines this bookstore, which is a combination of a "bookstore, café, and contemporary Scandinavian furniture showroom by way of Normann Copenhagen," a place that "blends aspiration with tradition."

    Hangzhou's wave of bookstore-cafes are part of gravitation to what Roy Oldenburg calls a "third place," a place that is neither home nor work but something else, something in-between or neither, something where people gather and congregate, something entirely new and full of possibilities.

    Subscribe now

    Related Posts

    What's Up with All These Fireworks?

    New Yorkers have been hearing constant explosions throughout the night. Is it a conspiracy?

    If you live in a large metropolitan area like New York City, Black Lives Matter protests likely aren't the only things you hear making noise in the streets.

    In the past couple of weeks, as Black Lives Matter supporters march in memory of George Floyd and countless other Black people killed by police, the sounds of fireworks can be heard virtually every weekend. More than just your average Fourth of July shindig, these explosions often trail into the wee hours of the morning.

    According to Gothamist, there were 6,385 total "311" complaints about fireworks in New York City from June 1 to June 19—up from 27 during the same time period last year. "This is not the simple firecrackers and little small toy-type rockets, but it was very elaborate," Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams told Gothamist. "That in itself is raising a high level of concern with me... When you see the large displays along Brooklyn and in Manhattan, Upper Manhattan, you're seeing extremely sophisticated type fireworks displays that can be extremely dangerous in the hands of the wrong people."

    Anything more powerful than a sparkler is illegal in New York, but that hasn't stopped regular folks from buying the type of fireworks you'd see in a professional display. But who is buying these fireworks, and what are they trying to accomplish? There are some wild theories.

    NYPD, FDNY appear to let illegal fireworks show play out, video shows

    NYPD, FDNY appear to let illegal fireworks show play out, video shows nypost.com

    As author Robert Jones, Jr. pointed out in a lengthy Twitter thread, antics by "bored Black and brown kids" tends to be the general assumption made by most mainstream media. "My neighbors and I believe that this is part of a coordinated attack on Black and Brown communities by government forces; an attack meant to disorient and destabilize the #BlackLivesMatter movement," Jones wrote.

    One goal Jones proposed was that white people were the ones setting off the constant fireworks in an attempt to "stoke tensions between Black and Brown peoples." Many have voiced their frustrations online about the sheer volume of the fireworks they hear, and a shared annoyance is growing.

    Another motive Jones proposed was that the fireworks are being used as a desensitization method to acclimate citizens to the sounds of the blasts—which often sound like gunshots. "When they start using their real artillery on us we won't know the difference," Jones wrote. "It's meant to sound like a war zone because a war zone is what it's about to become."

    Police don't seem too concerned. The New York Post shared a video this week of fireworks being set off behind an NYPD precinct in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. No officers appear to deter them. A similar video in Harlem, Manhattan also shows a flock of police cars—none of which seem to mind the explosions.

    Another video shows what appears to be Brooklyn firefighters setting off fireworks:

    Video shows FDNY firefighters light off illegal fireworks in Brooklyn

    Video shows FDNY firefighters light off illegal fireworks in Brooklyn nypost.com

    Today, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced he was forming a task force to combat the illegal fireworks. "Illegal fireworks are both dangerous and a public nuisance," he said. "We're cracking down on this activity at the source to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers and the ability of our neighbors to get some sleep."

    But if over 6,000 complaints have been made about fireworks to seemingly no avail, it seems a task force won't merit much of an improvement.

    Many seem to agree with the theory that inconspicuous government officials have been offering fireworks to Black children, newly on summer vacation and hungry for ways to ease their quarantine boredom. As with many issues going on in America, these constant fireworks will probably be just another way for the government to further discriminate against marginalized groups.

    At least we can always rely on memes to spread the good word.

    I don't know about you guys, but working from home has taken a serious toll on me. It started off really well. I was sticking to my usual routine as much as possible, but I've been slowly becoming less and less productive.

    I noticed my sleep schedule had completely changed. I was rolling out of bed a few minutes before I was due to start work, and sometimes even working from my bed. I ate lunch at the desk and worked straight through my scheduled breaks. I was sleepier throughout the day, unable to focus as much, and just feeling less motivated overall.

    So I looked into what I could do that would help me out of my slump. I tried a few things. Some were so simple I never thought they'd make much of a difference, and some I wouldn't have thought of at all, but now I'm back feeling more productive than ever.

    Here are my three tips for working from home:

    1. Get up early

    Yes, it seems so simple. But it's super important to stick to a normal routine if you can. Not only do I get up early, but I shower every morning and cook myself a nutritious breakfast before I start work. This definitely helped me feel more energized and motivated throughout the day.

    2. Have a designated workspace

    This is important because it separates your work from your home. Our homes are associated with relaxing, so designating a space that will be used only for work will help you concentrate on work while you're in that space. I also found that doing this helped me actually take appropriate breaks. When I left the space I was in relax mode, and once I came back, I was ready to work again.

    Premium CBD Supplements
    You Have 30 Days To Fall In Love
    Try Prima Today

    3. CBD supplements

    When looking into ways to improve my focus and sleeping patterns, I came across an article about CBD supplements, specifically a brand called Prima. I'd never bought into the whole CBD craze, but when I read that you can try Prima's Rest Easy, Go-To, and Brain Fuel elixirs by purchasing their Trifecta for just $26 with shipping, I thought why not?

    The elixirs are powders that you can mix into any beverage. The Prima Trifecta has a few samples of all three. The Brain Fuel elixir is to be taken in the morning, so I mixed it into my coffee, and I was awake and alert and able to throw myself into my working day.

    Their Go-To elixir should be taken around noon. My daily midday productivity crash had gotten so much worse while working at home, but taking this elixir helped keep me sharp through the remainder of my work day.

    The Rest Easy elixir is taken at night to help you get a good sleep. Since I started taking this my sleep schedule has greatly improved. It was so much easier to get up early again. It left me feeling well rested and ready to start my day.

    I never realized how much simple things, like setting out a specific workspace, and getting up early would help me escape my unproductive rut. I wasn't expecting Prima's CBD supplements to help as much as they did, but they definitely had the biggest impact for me.

    After trying the Prima Trifecta, I ended up buying the full size of all three elixirs. If you're having problems with sleep, focus, and productivity like I was, I'd recommend ordering the Prima Trifecta.

    Ready to Be Your Best Self? You Have 30 Days to Try Prima & Fall In Love, or Send It Back - No Questions Asked! PLUS Free Shipping on Orders Over $75!

    This is a real testimonial.

    These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

    Everyone knows that working out in ratty clothing isn't very motivating.

    Studies have shown that the right workout gear drastically determines how hard we push ourselves on cardio or at the gym. But high-end fashion clothes are never high on our shopping list, and a well-fitted pair of spandex can run up a hefty price tag. But as quarantine has forced us all to reevaluate our workout routine, workout clothes matter now more than ever.

    But instead of blowing the big bucks on white-owned brands like Under Armour, we should use this time as an opportunity–while BLM protests happen across the country–to put our money towards black businesses as much as we can. This, of course, includes workout clothes. So here are some reliable Black-owned brands that are high quality and won't break your bank.



    Founded in 2016, Yema Khalif and his wife, Hawi Awash, opened this fitness brand to help educate and feed the latter's home country of Ethiopia. All proceeds go towards helping to educate and feed at risk children in Ethiopia, and their fitness offerings are all beautiful and hand-made.

    Culture Fit​

    Culture Fit

    Designed specifically for black women, Culture Fit's sleek design and well-ventilated workout gear is worth the money. Designed by women of color, each matching pair of active wear also can include a matching yoga mat, so you can really be looking your best when you hit your zoom yoga class!

    Vero Mastodon

    vero mastodon

    Made popular by men and women who served in the military, Vero Mastodon offers breathable, flexible fitness clothes for all the heavy lifters out there. Their exclusive app also offers training programs by certified trainers and power lifters to help you get shredded and transformed.

    Pru Apparel

    Pru Apparel

    Focused on its message of community and pride, Pru Apparel is for every type of woman. Inspired by Africa's culture and rich history, the breathable clothing sets feature Kente cloth and come in a wide array of sizes. Not to mention, the prints are super trendy.



    This gorgeous activewear was born for the culturally conscious. Made for women of all skin tones and shapes, the workout gear was designed for the sole purpose of empowering and motivating. Their high-waisted spandex and quality mesh provide a collection of breathable fabrics that move however you do.