Independent bookstores are amazing places, did you know that? Not that chain bookstores can't have their great personnel (see Borders in Farmington and the fantastic David Battaglino as an example) but in general, the people who run indies are the ones who love books. They know just what to recommend when you're searching for something but you don't know what you want or when you want to buy a gift or when you do know what you want but can't find it.
Sadly, many of them are going out of business because of various economic realities. I love finding my books in these stores - they're like little surprises - and I love talking to the stores' owners about why they happened to purchase it. It's not usually because a corporate person has declared the book a best-seller or because a publisher is paying a ton of money for table space. It's often because of the sales rep or because they see something in the book that appeals to them. They know they can sell the book to their readers.
You absolutely have to love that personal touch.
Here are some of my favorite indie stores...
The Alphabet Garden, Cheshire, CT
Hickory Stick Books, Monroe, CT
RJ Julia Books, Madison, CT
Chevalier's Books, LA, CA
Book Soup, LA, CA
If you're nearby, I hope you'll take a look on their shelves.