A young girl shops at The Novel Neighbor.

Find Your Next Great Read at The Novel Neighbor in Webster Groves

Tuesday February 27, 2024

By Rachel Huffman

If you love books, The Novel Neighbor is your new happy place.

Nestled in the Webster Groves neighborhood, the independent bookstore has been a labor of love for Holland Saltsman for almost a decade.

“After 15 years in higher education administration, I was still figuring out what I wanted to be when I grew up,” Saltsman says with a laugh. “I got a job as an assistant librarian in an elementary school, but I still wasn’t living my dream.

“I’ve always loved bookstores, local art and handmade goods,” she continues, “and I envisioned owning a business where I could sell books, curate art and gather my community under one roof.”

And so, The Novel Neighbor was born. Ten years later, it’s highly regarded as a bastion of culture, a source of inspiration and a warm welcome to all.

As you enter The Novel Neighbor, don’t miss the red squares decorating the walls, as they contain keys and messages from authors who have spoken at the bookstore. Katherine Applegate, for instance, offers a piece of advice for her young readers: With a book as your key, you can open the world.

Journeying further into the shop, you’ll pass locally made gifts such as Prickly Rose jewelry, Kakao Chocolate truffles and prints of iconic St. Louis attractions such as Citygarden, the Gateway Arch, the St. Louis Wheel, Soulard Farmers Market and Turtle Playground.

Peek through the porthole into the picture book section, where children can meet taco-loving dragons, hippos who party until dawn and a teeny-weeny unicorn who gets into great big trouble. Then, lose yourself in the books of fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, history, travel, cooking, self-help and more that line the shelves in every nook and cranny.

“Our selection of books as well as gifts is carefully curated, which adds to the originality of The Novel Neighbor,” Saltsman explains. “You’ll find things here that you won’t find anywhere else.”

“Romance is one of the fastest growing genres, especially in St. Louis, and it deserves its own space at The Novel Neighbor.”

– Holland Saltsman

Over the years, The Novel Neighbor has doubled in size, and now, Saltsman has decided to dedicate an entire room to romance novels and corresponding displays, gifts and events.

“I like to think that we have our finger on the pulse of the industry – after all, USA Today contacted us when they decided to bring back the Best-Selling Booklist because of our reputation,” Saltsman says. “I think that adds weight to our work in St. Louis.

“Right now, romance novels are all the rage, and I believe that it’s because they provide an escape when we feel like everything is falling apart,” she continues. “We used to mix romance with fiction, but it’s one of the fastest growing genres, especially in St. Louis, and it deserves its own space at The Novel Neighbor.”

Every year brings unexpected opportunities to expand The Novel Neighbor, and Open Door Romance is set to debut in August 2024.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of our cities, and The Novel Neighbor is one of the best in St. Louis. Whether you’ve lived here your whole life or you’re just visiting for the weekend, don’t overlook this local gem.

“We want everyone who comes into The Novel Neighbor to have a memorable experience,” Saltsman says. “It’s not just, ‘Hi. What do you need? Bye.’ We spend considerable time with customers, taking care of them, offering personalized service and recommending books and gifts that they’ll love. We treat everyone as a unique individual, and we have a good time.”

Here, Saltsman shares her top book recommendations – at least, those that she thought of today – from the shelves of The Novel Neighbor.

#1 A Love Song for Ricki Wilde by Tia Williams

“Set against the backdrop of contemporary 1920s Harlem, New York City becomes a main character in this staff favorite. Discover a sweeping and engrossing love story that’s filled with leap year magic and found family, and meet the author at The Novel Neighbor on March 13 at 7 p.m.”

#2 Mother Doll by Katya Apekina

“I loved Apekina’s first book, The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish, and I couldn’t wait to read this one. Mother Doll covers four generations of mothers and daughters (symbolized in the beautiful nesting dolls on the cover) as inherited family trauma weaves its way into each woman’s life – albeit with pockets of humor and hilarity. I was lucky enough to meet the author this year, and I found her as brilliant and layered as the story she tells.”

#3 Cleopatra and Frankenstein by Coco Mellors

“I was fortunate enough to read an early copy of this book, and I couldn’t wait to recommend it to customers. It begins as a ‘meet cute,’ but quickly dives into the realities of an impulsive marriage. The supporting characters round out this additive read, which I finished in one sitting. I cannot wait for Mellors’ next book, Blue Sisters, that comes out in September.”

#4 Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

“I first heard Michelle Zauner as part of the indie rock sensation known as Japanese Breakfast (go listen now!), and I was floored when I realized that she was also the author of the best-selling memoir, Crying in H Mart. I’ve read many memoirs that deal with food and family, but none with such wisdom and heart as this.”

#5 Everyone on This Train Is a Suspect by Benjamin Stevenson

“This rollicking ‘locked room’ mystery takes place on a train with a disparate group of mystery writers, who all have a motive.”

#6 Don’t Breathe a Word by Jennifer McMahon

“Was Lisa kidnapped, or did something more sinister happen to her that summer night when she told her brother that she was heading into the woods to meet the King of the Fairies? Don’t Breathe a Word is a compelling and eerie tale of secrets that will keep you guessing until the very end.”

#7 Bear Necessity by James Gould-Bourn

“You’re not supposed to buy a book for its cover, but this one, featuring a young boy and a panda bear, grabbed me, and I was curious to dive into it. The theme of handling grief as well as the new normal between a father, a son and a supporting cast of flawed but endearing characters made this novel a fast favorite of mine.”

#8 A Walk Around the Block by Spike Carlsen

“The subtitle says it all: Stoplight Secrets, Mischievous Squirrels, Manhole Mysteries & Other Stuff You See Every Day (And Know Nothing About). This book will forever change the way you engage with the world around you.”