You’d be forgiven for believing Portland, Maine, exists in the pre-Internet era. Cobblestone streets, handcrafted everything—and more independent and used bookstores than it seems a city this size could have. Portland appears insulated from Amazon book sales, fed by the outlandish size of its cadre of poets, writers and auteurs keeping its book merchants afloat.
Most of the stores are clustered around the scenic Old Port, though a few worth an afternoon hour are further afield. There are few more bucolic ways to experience Maine than reading a hardcover by mountain, forest or sea, so if you’re traveling to Portland, do everyone a favor and buy a book.
Taking its name from Portland’s most famous son, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, this bookstore near Monument Square is beloved by the state’s authors and writers, many of whom are featured in the store’s 30,000 new and used titles. Longfellow is at the forefront of everything literary in the state, with regular poetry readings, book launches, author Q and A’s and, of course, book clubs. “In books we trust,” its newsletter ends.
Longfellow, 1 Monument Way, Portland, ME, USA, +1 207 772 4045
Print: A Bookstore
Portland’s newest bookstore, Print is the brainchild of two Mainers (one of them is Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Richard Russo, who conducts new author interviews) and occupies a large glass-fronted first-floor space on Congress Street. Print is decidedly the product of Portland’s East End: a big, 2,000-square-foot (186-square-meter) retail location that doubles as an event space for author readings. The store sells a collection of local writers and national bestsellers.
Print, 273 Congress St, Portland, ME, USA, +1 207 536 4778
Green Hand Bookshop
Green Hand is what you get when you throw racy serials, forgotten fantasy paperbacks, and dogged-eared pulp fiction into a small storefront in the middle of commercial Congress Street. The used bookstore sells a number of largely unknown but beguiling titles carefully picked by the owner, who reviews favorites on a blog. The shop is open daily, except Monday, and repeated customers have sometimes found out-of-print first editions on the shelves.
Green Hand, 661 Congress St, Portland, ME, USA, +1 207 253 6808
Sherman’s Maine Coast Bookshop
“Maine’s oldest bookstore” is also a regional, albeit independent, chain of six locations stretching along the coast. The selection of new releases and Maine favorites, the easy layout and helpful reviews by employees have made Sherman’s a stalwart. The bookstore shines a spotlight on local and regional authors and books about Maine’s coast.
Sherman’s, 49 Exchange St, Portland, ME, USA, +1 207 773 4100
Carlson & Turner Antiquarian
Antiquarians are purveyors of old and rare books, 40,000 of which are on display in this East End seller. In business since the late ’70s, Carlson & Turner’s books span a curious range of fields, including nautical, travel, Civil War, history, and, of course, those related to Maine. They also have a collection of manuscripts, maps, photographs and fine art prints. Book falling apart? They’ll rebind it.
Carlson & Turner, 241 Congress St, Portland, ME, USA, +1 207 773 4200
Stacked on the floor, crammed into hallways or proudly facing Congress Street, Yes Books sells thousands of rare, old and out-of-print books. Located across the street from the Portland Museum of Art and one of the city’s busiest corners, the shop feels more like an untidy library than a store. A labyrinth for bibliophiles, this musty shop is cramped, but fans keep coming back for its electric chaos.
Yes Books, 589 Congress St, Portland, ME, USA, + 1 207 775 3233
No list would be complete without comics, and this Old Port mainstay celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Casablanca has stayed in business where others have faltered by serving up comic book nostalgia while encouraging its repeat customers to try something new.
Casablanca Comics, 151 Middle St # 2, Portland, ME, USA, +1 207 780 1676