Boston has always been a city of bookworms – it boasts a whopping population of about 152,000 students as well as plenty of renowned resident authors. These indie bookstores are perfect for perusing best-selling titles, scouring shelves for second-hand gems or grabbing a coffee to sip while settling in with your new favorite read.
A fixture on the indie book scene since 1932, Harvard Book Store combines an impressive inventory of titles with a star-studded events schedule that features multiple readings per week from literary heavyweights like Jeffrey Eugenides and David Sedaris. The shop takes up residence in Cambridge’s Harvard Square – across the street from the eponymous university – and is popular among students and scholars. Although there are enough books to keep you occupied for hours on the main floor, be sure to venture down into the used books cellar, where customers can sell their paperbacks and find a different kind of reading material. The store displays ephemera found in its purchased used books proudly on its shelves – from bookmarks, to vintage ticket stubs, to notes of love and loathing.
Papercuts J.P. is a darling bookstore nook nestled in Jamaica Plain. Established by a former publishing professional, this 500-square-foot spot is filled to the brim with a curated selection of everything from bestsellers and classics to works by lesser-known authors, and really anything that catches the team’s expert eye as being well printed or designed. Papercuts is also home to a pint-size publishing house, Cutlass Press, which produces “cutting-edge” titles across formats such as short fiction, memoirs and anthologies.
A newer addition to the up-and-coming SoWa neighborhood, More Than Words, as the name suggests, serves its community in more ways than just providing sweet reads. The shop also operates as a non-profit, providing jobs, career counseling and mentorship for young adults aged 16-24 who have been impacted by hardships such as lack of education, homelessness and foster care. Operating on a donation basis, More Than Words boasts a slew of over 50,000 near-perfect used titles that includes everything from classic novels to Ina Garten’s latest cookbook, along with a selection of gifts and goods made by other local non-profits.
Named for the sleepy Cambridge corner in which it’s located, Porter Square Books is a darling spot that’s been operating for over a decade. Its shelves are lined with plenty of variety – from novels to personal essay collections – but if you ever find yourself lost in a sea of literature, the store’s staff picks are spot on. Along with hosting author readings, story hours for children and numerous book clubs, Porter Square Books also runs a writers-in-residence program to support local authors. And if you ever need a pick-me-up after experiencing all the store has to offer, there’s an on-site coffee shop, too.
Grolier Poetry Book Shop is a must for any self-respecting verse virtuoso. Since 1927, the store has held a star-studded legacy – founded by poets Adrian Gambet and Gordon Cairnie and frequented by the likes of Anaïs Nin and Seamus Heaney. Now, the Cambridge spot continues to focus on celebrating the written and spoken art of poetry, with regular readings and a poetry-exclusive inventory. Grolier also has a namesake press that publishes the work of the Grolier Discovery Award winners and debut collections from members of the Established Poets Series.