A Bookworm’s Guide to DSM: The Best Local Events, Bookstores & Cafes
Greater Des Moines (DSM) shelves a wide variety of local reading and writing events, independent bookstores and cafes. From neighborhood fairs, local titles and hometown blends to acclaimed events, international works and brews from abroad, DSM bookworms can author the reading and writing experience they’re looking for.
Local Fairs, Festivals + Events
This October kicked off with a treat instead of a trick for local bookworms. The first annual Windsor Heights Book Fair was held on October 2 at 1141 69 Street in Windsor Heights. Avid readers and aspiring writers were able to meet other book lovers in the DSM neighborhood, chat with over a dozen local authors and artists, peruse a diverse selection of written works, take home signed copies of their books and donate to the community’s food bank. With books from all genres and for all ages, the event had something to offer families, teens and adults. The fair was a perfect, cozy fall outing that was reminiscent of the nostalgic charm of the grade-school book fair.
While waiting for the Windsor Heights Book Fair to return next autumn, DSM bibliophiles can look forward to the annual DSM Book Festival and Indie Bookstore Day coming this spring. Declared the best new event in 2019 by the International Festivals and Events Association, the DSM Book Festival will return this March to Capital Square at 400 Locust Street in Downtown DSM. Acclaimed authors from across the country, writing workshops, artistic activities and children’s programming are a few of the many chapters in the Festival’s narrative. Each year, attendees have the opportunity to participate in a variety of hands-on workshops, ranging from fiction and nonfiction to journalistic writing panels and discussions while getting in touch with their creative side through activities like painting and baking. For young bookworms, the event offers fun activities, crafts and storytimes throughout the day. Additionally, attendees are able to enjoy food, drink and live music.
Another date reading enthusiasts should bookmark in their personal planners is Indie Bookstore Day. This national party, celebrated on the last Saturday in April, is a day meant to support independent bookstores. In DSM, local book sellers celebrate Indie Bookstore Day by hosting events with writers from the community, storytimes for families, drinks for adults, discounted merchandise and more. To learn more about the upcoming Indie Bookstore Day festivities, follow the below bookstores.
Those who can’t stand the cliffhanger of waiting for the DSM Book Festival and Indie Bookstore Day will be happy to learn that the Des Moines Public Library (DMPL) holds events all year long. By logging onto the DMPL website, DSM bibliophiles can discover which events are coming to their local library and when. The DMPL hosts events for all age groups such as scavenger hunts, book clubs, storytimes, writing workshops, movie nights and cultural activities.
DSM bookworms can choose from a variety of independent bookstores in order to find the stores that match their budget and desired experience. Help a Mind Thrive, Keep a Book Alive, located at 4626 SW 9th St. in Des Moines, is a used books bookstore that combines the trendy thrifting and cat café experiences. Customers can enjoy the excitement of discovering great novels at great prices while cute cats keep them company as they stroll through the store.
Raccoon River Press is a women-owned and operated independent bookstore and partnered publisher in West Des Moines. Raccoon River sells written works by local authors as well as works locally published by BookPress Publishing. Raccoon River also supports women/LGBTQ+ businesses by partnering with them to sell book-themed merchandise, such as bookmarks and stickers. While Raccoon River is an online-only store, it has frequent pop-ups at events such as the Historic Valley Junction Farmers’ Market, Saylorville Vendor Market, Windsor Heights Book Fair and DSM Book Festival to list a few. Locals can learn about upcoming pop-ups by checking out Raccoon River’s website or social media accounts.
Another bookstore in the DSM community, with pop-up events at the Historic Valley Junction Farmers’ Market, is Reading in Public Bookstore + Cafe. Reading in Public Bookstore + Cafe is an independent bookstore and cafe set to open in the Valley Junction neighborhood this year. A core belief held by Reading in Public is that the stories we share with each other strengthen our empathy, acceptance and communities. This belief guides the store’s mission to be an advocate of mental health and social justice. While waiting for Reading in Public to open its doors, readers can browse through and purchase a wide selection of titles and games on their website.
Beaverdale Books and Storyhouse Bookpub are perfect for DSM book lovers seeking local and international titles, literary merchandise and community reading and writing events. Beaverdale Books has been promoting a love of literacy in the Beaverdale community since 2006 by hosting events such as book clubs and writers’ groups as well as partners with local schools and businesses. In addition to carrying national and international titles, Beaverdale represents over 500 native Iowa authors in its “Iowa Author” section. Storyhouse Bookpub, located in the Historic East Village, fosters connections between authors, readers and small businesses by working with them to put on events such as children’s storytimes and book clubs. Storyhouse Bookpub is also well known for its “author afterparties” where authors come to discuss their latest novels with readers in the DSM neighborhood. Neighborhood readers can follow Beaverdale Books and Storyhouse Bookpub’s websites and social media accounts for the latest news on upcoming events.
What’s better than reading a good book while drinking a fresh cup of coffee at a local cafe? Enjoy a book and coffee with a whiskered companion at Coffee Cats in West Des Moines, the first cat cafe in Iowa. More of a dog person? Head over to Mars Coffee in “Dogtown,” the best cafe in the Drake University neighborhood. At Mars, Drake Bulldogs can catch up on their textbook readings and Dogtown residents can catch up with their friends over craft coffee.
Professionals working in Downtown DSM can enjoy the latest story they’re hooked to and a cup of coffee while having breakfast before work or lunch during their break at La Mie Elevate in the downtown skywalk. Busy bees in the Historic East Village can stop and smell the specialty coffee at Daisy Chain Coffee as well as pick up some local honey. Smokey Row Coffee on Cottage Grove and Zanzibar’s Coffee Adventure on Ingersoll are perfect for those who want brunch to go with their craft coffee and afternoon reading.
The Greater Des Moines Partnership calendar of events is a one-stop resource for activities taking place throughout the region. Find networking information for Greater Des Moines (DSM) businesses or events specific to Downtown DSM.
When dining out — or in — in Greater Des Moines (DSM), locally-owned restaurants, craft breweries, local wineries, coffee shops and more have this foodie scene covered. Find out more about the region’s most popular restaurants and new additions here.
Emma Nutter is a student at Drake University studying Public Relations and Communications expected to graduate in May 2023.