Going to or from the Grand Canyon, you're likely to pass through Flagstaff. Don't just stop here to fill up your gas tank; linger in its 19th-century downtown just off old Route 66, and you'll find farm-to-table restaurants, microbrews, and college kids working in the outdoor-outfitter stores.
One of the best ways to get a feel for a place is to eat, drink...and read where the locals gather. Check out Starrlight Books on Leroux Street, a few steps from the old train station and just a few blocks from Northern Arizona University. This is a regional gem, still in business after decades and even after Barnes and Noble opened up down the road. Page through tomes on geology or philosophy before or after your Grand Canyon explorations; you'll find some new books here, but the eclectic selection of used volumes will give you a better idea of the bibliophile soul of the region.