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​New independent bookstores arrive in Fargo-Moorhead

Writer's Block | April 18th, 2024

Alicia Underlee Nelson

“I think you can tell a lot about a community by the health of its bookstore, because people make a choice,” said Danny Caine, author of “50 Ways to Protect Bookstores” and the co-owner of a bookshop in Kansas. “The people value art, community, they probably value local food and local restaurants. The human booksellers will never be replaced by algorithms or machines.”

If that’s the case, the Fargo-Moorhead community is going strong. The metro has welcomed not one, but three new independent bookstores in the last calendar year.

They join five other independent bookstores, as well as several campus bookstores, a religious bookseller, and multiple comic book shops. Here’s a peek inside all three of the new shops, including Moorhead’s first bookshop, a vintage-lovers paradise, and a countercultural meeting place set to open next month.

More Than Words Bookshop

Moorhead’s first independent bookstore opened its doors last July. More Than Words Bookshop has been going strong ever since.

The cozy space (located at 40 4th St. N, just north of the soon-to-be demolished Moorhead Center Mall), boasts big windows for plenty of natural light, a sweet children’s area where kids can page through new favorites and a snack station where customers can purchase iced coffee, tea, sparkling water, non-alcoholic mocktails and treats like cookies, chips, and chocolate bars. Patrons can pick up puzzles, gifts and cards. A comfy sofa and chairs tucked into quiet corners make it easy to settle in and stay awhile.

That’s exactly the plan, according to owner Sydni Kreps. In fact, the shop is leaning into events that encourage patrons to treat the bookstore like a gathering place instead of just a retail establishment.

Many of those events are centered around the week before Independent Bookstore Day at the end of April. They include a ticked slumber party-themed hangout with snacks and drinks to celebrate (and pre-order) the new Emily Henry novel on April 23 and an after hours social on April 26. An audiobook walk where fans can play their own favorite books, but walk together, is also in the works for midweek.

Independent Bookstore Day (April 27) will be a day of celebration. Customers will score a commemorative sticker and get a chance to search for the Golden Ticket hidden in the store. The winner will receive 12 free audio books from

A book release party for “Seven,” a novel by author and Northern Cass School District educator Shawn Krinke is planned for May 25. Previous events with Fargo-raised author Jenna Miller, who writes young adult fiction centered around queer characters, have demonstrated public demand for in-person appearances and for stories that are told from a variety of viewpoints.

“We’re really trying to make sure we've got a long list of different perspectives and identities represented on our shelves,” said owner Sydni Kreps. “We get a lot of feedback about the curation of the books that we have. We do our best to make sure we have a good mix of those buzzy titles that everyone knows about, but then also books by smaller presses or books that maybe don't have huge marketing budgets behind them.”

This summer, expanded bookstore hours and the arrival of the much-anticipated More Than Words Book Club will keep customers connected to the shop and to each other. Those connections are what set this shop apart from the rest.

“I've been blown away to see how many people are genuinely excited about books and about having an independent bookstore in Moorhead,” Kreps said. “When we opened, we were the first in Moorhead and that was such an exciting gap to fill. And I'm just very excited to see where this next half of the year – and all the years after – take us. We’ve got lots of big plans.”

More Than Words Bookshop

40 4th St. N in Moorhead


Words to Live By Bookstore

Local book lovers rejoiced when owner Jill Johnson opened Words to Live By Bookstore in November 2023. Moorhead’s second second indie bookstore is located at 819 Center Ave., the newest addition to a growing neighborhood that includes beloved Moorhead landmarks like Mick’s Office and the 8th Street Dairy Queen around the corner and thriving newcomers like KidCo Children's Museum and Swing Barrel Brewing across the street.

Now brewery patrons stroll over to browse the strong selection of high-quality used books, including a few heavily discounted titles for the thriftiest bargain hunters and signed editions for collectors. Families make a beeline for the children’s area, which also includes vintage toys and games. The music section also includes memorabilia, apparel and vinyl, so fans hunt for a Tupac t-shirt or a Fleetwood Mac album as well as something new to read.

“I didn't want it to be just an average bookstore,” Johnson said. “It's not just books. I wanted it to be kind of an experience.”

Creating an immersive shopping environment is an art that Johnson honed when sold books at FM Antiques and More with her husband, Kris. But when the demolition of the Moorhead Center Mall forced the antique shop to relocate to a new location along Highway 10, the time was right for a shorefront of her own.

Words to Live By Bookstore is arranged like a carefully curated antique store. And nearly everything is for sale. Artfully arranged tableaus and several small rooms showcase books, clothing, collectibles, and a focused selection of retro home decor. Handsome hardcovers are lit by vintage lamps. Sports fans can read about their favorite teams and pick up a vintage sweatshirt or pennant. Travel books share space with colorful Hawaiian shirts.

Johnson herself is a fan of thrillers and mysteries, so it’s no surprise that this section is expansive and very well-stocked. A strong regional history section was also sparked by a family member’s interest.

“My mom loves regional history,” Johnson explained. “She loves reading about women pioneers, so that section is quite a large one.”

Most of the titles on the shelves are used. But Johnson does promote new books through special events with local authors. And she wants to connect with more local and regional writers (and readers) in the coming months.

“I'm always looking to have authors come in and do book signings and talk about their books,” she said. “Or to have a book group come and meet and discuss and just be part of the experience in the bookstore.”

Appearances by authors from the Moorhead Friends Writing Group will anchor the promotional schedule moving forward. A different member author will be featured every month through an author spotlight, a book signing or an appearance.

Johnson hopes that this sense of novelty and exploration encourages readers to stop in and browse the stacks. “I think any book opens a door to a new adventure,” she said.

Words To Live By Bookstore

819 Center Ave. in Moorhead


Mind Virus Counter-Culture Books and Media

Fargo’s newest bookstore, Mind Virus Counter-Culture Books and Media, is set to open on May 1. But customers can get a sneak peek during the soft opening on Independent Bookstore Day on April 27.

Owner Isaac Kobrinsky previously sold books online. But he says that this new, physical incarnation has always been intended to be more than just a book shop.

“We want to support the counterculture, to have a safe bookstore for people of like minds,” Kobrinksy said. “Not to get too political, but we have a lot of creeping authoritarianism going on and women's rights being stripped. I felt that I could do something to combat this very difficult moment in our country's history by having in-print books that are about intelligent ways to organize and get engaged civically, about how to combat this moment peacefully and to organize.”

The intimate shop, which is housed in the gracious front room of the High Plains Reader brownstone building at 124 8th St. N in Fargo, stocks a selection of new and used books that manages to feel both tightly focused and wildly eclectic. Titles about the history of anarchism, left wing political theory, civil disobedience and civic engagement share shelf space with tomes about harm reduction and punk and Satanist sobriety. The music section gravitates toward underground punk, hardcore and noise music, while a free-wheeling collection of art books explore a broad range of topics, from surrealism and outsider art to Japanese cinema, Russian propaganda and the creativity of the Weimar Republic.

Not every title is from a traditional press. Kobrinsky has partnered with Parachigo, Fargo’s downtown art space and DIY venue, to sell collections of poetry from participating artists. Indie writers and artists also submit their own work for sale.

“We’re very big into self publishing and DIY,” Kobrinksy said. “So we're always going to have lots of zines.”

Strong support for the LGBTQ+ community is another of the shop’s anchoring principles. Mind Virus stocks titles by queer writers and sells T-shirts supporting trans youth. Kobrinksy is excited to host a monthly, family-friendly storytime featuring drag artists from Fargo’s PopT4rt Productions.

Another monthly series, Mind Virus Explores, will welcome local artists, musicians, writers and public figures to lead discussions and start conversations. Kobrinsky also plans to host art shows featuring local artists in the coming months.

Customers can stop by the search for horror collectibles, obscure comic books or rare Japanese sci-fi before playing a game of chess or chilling in an overstuffed armchair. A dream machine, based on a design by William S. Burroughs, will arrive soon. It should be an excellent fit for the shop’s overall vibe.

“It's a cylinder that sits on a 78 speed record player,” explained Kobrinsky. “It has a light in it and various shapes cut into the cylinder. It spins around and you sit in front of it, and it mimics rapid eye movements and can almost put you into a dream-like state.”

This machine is almost surely the only one in the region. It’s the perfect addition to a shop that is dreaming of (and working towards) a better future for its customers.

Mind Virus Counter-Culture Books and Media

124 8th St. N in Fargo


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