When in Beantown (I like to think this name refers to coffeebeans, but of course it really doesn’t), the bookstores I make a point to visit are the ones where I can be assured of a perfect book experience: an immersion in volumes that are stacked and piled and squeezed to fit onto the shelves, the hard-to-find book suddenly appearing or an elusive author being discovered. The sensorical aspect is also not to be overlooked, therefore the dusty book smell and the act of turning over pages is part of what constitutes my idea of a bookstore experience.
Here are the bookstores where I can be assured of such, and so visit (if at all possible) on each and every foray to Boston.
I can’t begin to count the treasures I have encountered here. My last trip alone turned up an A.A. Milne that I had never before seen and a vintage UK Penguin copy of a novel by Lady Tweedsmuir, who was the wife of John Buchan (I didn’t even know that John Buchan had an authoress wife until finding this book!). I have never visited this book shop without finding something worth purchasing and stuffing into my carry-on for the trip home.
The ground level has a lovely, curated selection of new books while below ground, one can meet used books and publishers remainders. The fact that this store sits in Cambridge, near Harvard, and is always humming with people makes it a great place for people-watching and conversation eavesdropping while book browsing. Visit Crema Cafe when done for a latte and a chance to watch busy Harvard Square while admiring your purchases.
Around the corner from the Harvard bookstore is this tiny bookshop devoted to volumes of poetry. The staff is friendly and the atmosphere a peaceful respite from city noise and bustle.
Perhaps Boston’s most bustling bookstore, this place gives the impression that bookstores are always crowded stores in which one can bump into a neighbor while book browsing as easily as if you were in the local coffeeshop together. This bookstore has the most charming and energetic atmosphere of all the Boston bookshops, and the fact that you have not one, not two, but three! coffee options next door and across the street for post-book shopping lattes makes it a must-visit.
While I haven’t encountered as many treasures here as other used bookstores in Boston, this place is worth making time for. The fact that it’s an easy walk from Brattle makes it an obvious choice for additional book hunting.