Touring New England Bookstores


…and sometimes, you go on a road trip that turns out to be a de facto tour of several kickass New England bookstores.

This wasn’t necessarily coincidence: one of the stores in question, Portsmouth’s RiverRun Bookstore, was where my girlfriend worked as the events coordinator for several years. (We stopped there twice in a twelve-hour period.) But each had much to recommend it; brief thoughts on each, along with a tally of purchases made, follow.

Porter Square Books; Cambridge, MA
Our Saturday began with coffee and perusal of shelves at Cambridge’s Porter Square Books. Located in a shopping center, this mid-sized bookstore used its space effectively, with a good cross-section of genres made available and a sizable space dedicated to IndieNext List selections.

Purchases made: Lidia Yuknavich, Dora: A Headcase; Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk

Harvard Book Store; Cambridge, MA
A short drive and a short walk away was the two-level Harvard Book Store, with both an expansive ground floor and a basement with used books and remainders. I was reminded a little of the old location of Seattle’s Elliott Bay Book Company; this was a bookstore one could get lost in. There seemed to be a not insignificant overlap with geek culture here, with an XKCD-inspired cover for Lois McMaster Bujold’s Young Miles that sold me on the book.

Purchases made: Lois McMaster Bujold, Young Miles; Anders Nilsen, Big Questions; Maude Hutchens, Victorine; Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing; Scarlett Thomas, The End of Mr. Y

RiverRun Bookstore; Portsmouth, NH
The last time I visited Portsmouth, for a wedding, I nearly died on the trip home due to a leaky brake line. This time through, I spent a lot of money on books (and a couple of records); there’s no contest, really. I’d never visited RiverRun’s previous location, but the current store has a clean and spacious feel, with smart staff picks. And the fact that they run their own press was also impressive.

Purchases made (first trip): Katherine Towler, Snow Island; Rick Yancey, The Monstrumologist; Ursula K. Le Guin, The Wild Girls; Ali Smith, There But for The
Purchases made (second trip): Kevin Brockmeier, Things That Fall From the Sky

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