I would be a liar if said I didn’t love my Kindle. Sometimes you just need millions of books at your fingertips. However, nothing can really compare to the feel of walking into a real-life bookstore and experiencing the magic of being surrounded by so many books and fellow book lovers, and with so many charming and unique independent bookstores in the Boston area, there’s no excuse to not be enveloped by the smell of printed paper every now and again.
Trident Booksellers and Cafe
338 Newbury Street, Boston, MA 02115
Trident is definitely a favorite because it is a bookstore as well as a cafe, so you can look at books, and then eat, and then look at books some more. You never even have to leave the store; a true come dream! The cafe has a very unique and extensive menu. They serve everything from breakfast (served all day long) through desert, and their entrees vary from quesadillas, to ramen noodle bowls, to butternut squash tacos. They even serve bubble tea! Among the shelfs of great books they also have a section called “Gifts and Goodies,” full of adorable trinkets like fun socks, cute mugs, head massagers, and games. They also sell little themed gifts for each holiday. Their books are very well organized; on the first floor they have many traditional sections like, Science Fiction, Mystery, and a very large Fiction section. They sell more literary fiction then most bookstores seem to and most of their books have several different cover versions. And if the first floor full of great books isn’t enough for you, the second floor has more specialized sections such as cooking, photography, psychology.
Brattle Book Shop
9 West Street, Boston, MA 02111
Brattle is one of America’s oldest and largest antiquarian book stores, meaning that it sells rare and antique books. Brattle is definitely one of the most unique bookstores I’ve ever been in; it is absolutely the place to come when you want to feel surrounded by stacks and stacks of stunning old books. When the weather is good, they even have a parking lot full of books on the side of the store. They sell their books by the foot so decorators or set designers can come in and order any style of book to decorate with. However, it is definitely not the place to go for the newest cover of a bestseller you’ve been wanting to check out. Most of their three floors are stacked with antique histories and classics. They have sections such as “Espionage,” “Massachusetts,” and “Napoleon;” a whole shelf on Egypt; a shelf dedicated to Shakespeare; and a shelf of Irish writers featuring Joyce and Yeats. It is definitely somewhere to come when you have a lot of time to browse, as their organizational system is a little confusing and there are too many beautiful books stacked on top of more beautiful books to not spend an hour looking through each section and listening to other patrons discuss their favorite historians through the stacks.
Pandemonium Books and Games
4 Pleasant Street, Cambridge, MA 02139
Pandemonium is a special bookstore for the science fiction fans of Boston, because they only sell science fiction, horror, and fantasy books, as well as used books, all of which are on the ground floor of the store. Their books are mostly divided into paperback and hardback; however, they do have a section of autographed books, three shelves of just books in the Star Wars universe, some comic books and graphic versions of popular novels, and even a display of books with female main characters or books about feminism in geek culture. The basement floor is almost entirely board games, collectible card games (or CCGs,) role-playing games, and war playing games of all kinds. They host regular events like author signings and tournaments for various types of gamers and the basement floor is mostly taken over by tables where anyone can come in at any time to hang out and play a game.
Raven Used Books
23 Church Street, Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA 02138
Raven is a small intimate used bookstore that has a very academic feel. It has no popular fiction, and instead it’s shelves are entitled things like “Literary Criticism,” “Physics,” and “Legal Studies;” their “Philosophy” section is almost as large as their “Fiction” section. Its shelves are mostly filled with history and they have sections from Medieval Studies to Anthropology, and even a section on almost every major country. They also have a shelf of rare and antiquarian books. And most importantly, they have great deals! I got three books for under $25 and they even have a small shelf outside of books for $2.95 or less.
1256 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138
Harvard Bookstore is an quaint, adorable bookstore right next to Harvard University. They offer a large selection of new, used, and remaindered books, which are books that have been liquidated by the publisher because they are no longer selling well and are sold at very reduced prices. They also have a great author series where many writers come in and read or discuss their books. The best thing about Harvard Bookstore is their humongous selection; they have an entire first floor of everything from popular, literary, and young adult fiction to philosophy, and from children’s books to poetry; as well as an entire basement floor, almost as big as the first, full of used books. Their bookstore feels very personalized, as they have a shelf of books popular with their customers. They also have many very nicely written staff recommendations, adorable merchandise, like bags and t-shirts, and even litographs, which are images made from texts of novels. Harvard Bookstore is definitely a place for book lovers of all kinds.
All of these bookstores are incredible in their own way and all are worthy of a nice afternoon spent browsing their shelves. And though it is much easier to order books from the comfort of your own bed, if you have the opportunity, it is always worth it to support a local, independent bookstore. You might even find some great deals in the process.