Hey all you bookfreaks! Have you got plans on April 28? I certainly hope not, because you are going to need to spend your day visiting a local indie bookstore or three. It is Independent Bookstore Day!

This movement was started a few years ago to celebrate and lift up indies. Well, I think it has wildly outstretched anyone’s imagination. This year, the Ambassador for Independent Bookstore Day is Celeste Ng, the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere. According to the official website, over 500 stores will participate in 48 states this year.

Stores have the opportunity to purchase exclusive Independent Bookstore Day (IBD) merchandise. Last year, this included things like an edition of Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman with an exclusive cover, a perfect bound short story by Rainbow Rowell, adult coloring books, and several other goodies. This year’s items include a darling little onesie for bebe, plushies, a $6 book of short stories, tea towels with fun quotes on them, and an amazing giclee print of the Literary Universe, which highlights some of the best scifi in the galaxy.

Last year, I went around with my friend Laura, which was fantastic. We had a blast. We visited 12 stores, and ate lunch at a wonderful African restaurant, and ran into friends, and just generally had a great time. Sure, we were exhausted by the end, but it was worth it. I think Laura came home with 12 books, and I hauled home 14. You can see the whole haul on my Instagram account.

We scoped out our tour very carefully, and tried to be strategic about it. One thing we wanted to do was visit Milkweed Books in downtown Minneapolis (the only bookstore left downtown) to talk with Peter Geye, who was there as a guest bookseller. Many of the stores will have guest booksellers, who are usually published authors, there to help you make your choice, or to make recommendations for you. Laura and I visited stores we hadn’t been to before, and got to check out one of the newest stores, our last stop, Addendum Books, which specializes in YA fiction.

In the Twin Cities, where we live, there are many indies, and several that specialize in different things. There are so many, in fact, that the local independent bookseller association, MiBA, organized a passport activity. You got your passport stamped at each store you visited. This unlocked a coupon that was already printed on the passport. If you got a certain number of stamps, you were entered in a drawing. If you got more than 10 stamps, you were entered in the Grand Prize drawing. Well guess what. I won the grand prize! I got the most giant box of books you could imagine. I was simply floored. There were 28 books from stores and publishers, along with some other goodies like pins, notebooks, a tote and more.

Once again, there will be a passport, and it is being handled by Rain Taxi. There are more prizes, and coupons, and fun at each stop. Visiting just five stores will enter you in a drawing. And don’t forget to check each place for the special IBD merchandise that is offered. Much of this is only available on this day. The selection at stores will vary, because each store orders their own merch. There are also giveaways that are exclusives to the day, such as stencils, tattoos, storybooks, posters and more.

Recently I talked to a few stores that gave me a rundown of their plans. Put these on your docket:

Magers & Quinn Booksellers:
Local Poet Lynette Reini-Grandell will be Guest Bookseller for poetry and English lit from 11am to 2pm. From 3:30 to 5pm, local 8th graders will be Guest Booksellers, giving their favorite recommendations in the children’s section. At 7pm, you’re in for an evening treat, with a reading of juvenilia. Volunteers offer to read off their best from all those old notebooks! This is an open mic event. If you’re interested in reading, you can sign up in advance or just drop in!

Subtext Books:
They will start off with coffee and donuts in the morning, guest booksellers in the afternoon, and live music from Brian Barnes in the evening, plus lots of exclusive merch and freebies.

Moon Palace Books:
They will have specials in the store and café, and round the day out with a giant poetry reading put on by Poetry Asylum (known as the Great Twin Cities Poetry Read), which will feature more than 30 poets. Start off with a free cup of coffee from 9 to 11am, 2-for-1 tap beer, cider or house wine from 3 to 6pm, and special deals from 6pm to close when you bring in receipts from other indies! Check the website for deets.

Red Balloon Bookshop:
Storytime and face painting in the morning, and a John Green hunt (like Where’s Waldo) in the afternoon! Two scavenger hunts will each last an hour, and the winner of each will get a signed copy of Turtles All the Way Down! Plus more prizes, merch and scratch-off cards.

There are other special deals going on, like a free audio book (the #1 Indie Next Pick, Tangerine by Christine Mangan), free ebooks, and many other treats that booksellers have been planning for months.

If you don’t live in an area that has independent bookstores, I honestly feel for you. But there must be something you can do, right? Possibly visit a neighboring town! It’s the perfect excuse for some bookstore tourism. In fact, this year there is an initiative which will encourage just that. A map has been created (by none other than Kevin Cannon, our favorite bookstore artist, who created previous maps, posters and individual store drawings), called the Midwest Bookstore Map. Visit bookstores on the map, and post about it, tag @Midwestbooks and the bookstore, and you could win monthly drawings or a grand prize (drawn next year on Independent Bookstore Day). That’s a whole year of possibilities! But then, a bookstore is always full of possibilities.

Hope you can get yourself out and enjoy some time with a local indie this weekend. Or put it on your calendar next year – it is always the last Saturday in April!