These are usually cozy, welcoming sanctuaries where one may imbibe the culture and ethos of a community. They provide young browswers a venue to mingle face-to-face with fellow book-lovers instead of via the impersonal glare of a screen. They support local schools by providing curriculum-based literature to students (often at big discounts), host parent-child book discussions that spark lively conversations between the generations, and partner with libraries to unite towns around particular novels. Here's a rundown of the Massachusetts bookstores we visited in order of appearance:
- Brookline Booksmith, where in a run-of-the-mill kind of event for the store, author Nora Ephron was speaking later that day about how much we hate our necks;
- Cornerstone Books, a spanking new addition to the renaissance in downtown Salem, close to the wonderful Peabody Essex Museum;
- Banbury Cross in Wenham, a children's-only cottage stocked with classic and contemporary goodies for mind and soul;
- Sundial Books in Lexington, flooded with light and staffed by a couple who obviously live, breathe, and adore literature -- and each other, although we only met one of them;
- Bestsellers Cafe, chock-full of the aroma of fair trade coffee and welcoming seats overlooking the river as it curves through Medford;
- Newtonville Books, my bookstore, where I get hugged, kissed, and cosseted every time I pop in to visit The Lizard's Tale, their amazing new children's space;
- Wellesley Booksmith, sister to the store in Brookline, where the community is about to be lavished with a series of visits from children's books luminaries like Megan McDonald, author of the Judy Moody series, and National Book Award winner Kimberly Willis Holt; and the
- Concord Bookshop (pictured below), where we were greeted with words of gratitude for Monsoon Summer and a delighted anticipation over the publication of Rickshaw Girl that encouraged me thoroughly as I crawl back into my writer's cave.
So, as we head to the New England Booksellers Assocation's Trade Show in Rhode Island this Friday night to banquet with a table of no-brand-name booksellers, here's a Churchill-esque cheer for the independent, budget-battling baristas of the book: "NEVAH GIVE IN! NEVAH, NEVAH, NEVAH, NEVAH ..."