Independent bookstores are facing a perfect storm -- the economic downturn, the rise of e-books, competition from Amazon. But these stores make our cities unique. They drive the local literary culture, bring authors to town and match readers with books better than any online algorithm can. When we asked Salon readers and Open Salon bloggers to nominate their favorites, we were overwhelmed by amazing responses. Here are nine stores across America that prove what a special role these shops play in fostering a love of reading, promoting great writers and bringing book lovers together.