litPhoenix | Changing Hands Bookstore & First Draft Book Bar

Having lived in Phoenix for five years and taken advantage of few “literary” opportunities, I’m committing to a more books/writing-focused experience out here in the Wild West.

I’ve discovered an oasis in this blazing hot dustbowl known as the “Valley of the Sun.” It’s easily one of the best independent bookstores I’ve frequented – and with a weekly trip, I’m definitely one of the regulars. I hope more people will join my ranks.

Changing Hands has been in business for forty years, but the Phoenix location is new. Changing Hands is in the renovated, revamped Newton complex – formerly the iconic Beef Eaters restaurant.

Changing Hands is a bookstore for bibliophiles. On my last trip to Barnes & Noble, when I walked in the first things I saw were: Nook display, magazine racks, Starbucks, books. All illuminated by flourescent lights.

You have got to be kidding me.

Changing Hands? Yeah, you’ve got your book accessories next to the register. There is a freaking bar connected to the store. There’s a small magazine section. But above else, it’s about the books – with tons of natural light to give the space a homey, comfortable feel.

There are the usual new/staff picks displays. There’s also a couple of bestseller displays – one for NYT bestsellers, one for indie bestsellers. A book group selections rack is nearby. What really impressed me was how easy it was to find anything. I noticed that several books were shelved in a few different areas – so if you think the latest Stephen King would be found in horror, mystery, or bestsellers, you’d be right on all accounts. Most bookstores have the one spot, and I end up wandering around trying to figure out where the book is.

There’s also ample space in the bookstore proper to relax with a book. Yep, actual book nooks, complete with cute chalkboard designs like this one:


Attached to the bookstore is a book bar called First Draft. That’s knowing your audience. First Draft isn’t going to be your new hip happy hour spot – it’s just a nice bar with great staff. There are small plates likes mixed olives, hummus, and caprese salad (this is new, I think!). There’s beer and wine. It’s a casual, relaxing atmosphere that’s set up for a variety of customers. You can also get coffee, tea, and baked goods, so it has a nice cafe element, too. This is the kind of place where you will see a lone writer talking up a plot twist to one of the bartenders at the same time a group of friends comes in to unwind and have a beer.

Sometimes we approach books as a very singular experience, but we don’t have to do that – and we can do better at creating a space that encourages conversation and interaction. Part of my litPhoenix journey is to find more places like this. Changing Hands is a good place to start.

Recommendations for other places I should add to my litPhoenix list? Questions about Changing Hands in Phoenix? Leave a comment!

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