Over my semesters at Brandeis, I have had the immense pleasure of wandering off campus and finding my way into the many bookstores speckled around the Waltham-Cambridge-Boston area. Though this review will only cover three bookstores, I encourage you to keep an eye out for the many bookstores in Boston and to please tell me if you find a new and interesting one. I would also like to note that all three bookstores are independent and to please always support independent bookstores (they are a dying breed, unfortunately).
At the top of my list is Brookline Booksmith. This bookstore has such a cozy energy to it, and it hosts regular author events and signings, making use of the theater across the street from the store. In the spring 2022 semester, I went with my friends to see Casey McQuiston speak (author of “Red, White, and Royal Blue” and “One Last Stop”). After the event, some people waited upwards of five hours to speak with the author and have their books signed. I would recommend Brookline Booksmith to the dedicated reader interested in seeing their favorite authors.
Though the bookstore is indeed lovely, it is only accessible from your own car or ride share service, so it is difficult to stumble upon unless you are already in the area. The bookstore keeps recently released books well-stocked, too. After a quick scroll through BookTok, you will be easily able to locate many of the books featured on Brookline Booksmith’s shelves. I would rank Bookline Booksmith as a 5/5 on coziness, a 4/5 on availability of science-fiction/fantasy books, and a 5/5 on having a good time in the store.
Trident Booksellers and Café
After venturing into Boston, you can much more easily find Trident Booksellers and Café. In fact, it is only a few minutes walking distance from the Brandeis Shuttle’s Boston stop. The two-story bookshop is a fantastic place to hunker down and do some schoolwork while also having some nice food and being surrounded by books. Their extensive menu may seem daunting at first, but I cannot recommend it highly enough. They are also good with managing food allergies when orders are taken. Trident Booksellers is a nice pit stop at the beginning or end of your journey through Boston—either for a quick bite to eat or to find a new favorite book (or why not do both? Trident Booksellers makes that easy).
The bookstore is cute and cramped. It makes the most efficient use of the space available to them in the space. Indeed, the bookstore can become quite squished during rush hour, with people trying to reach their favorite section of the store or leave with a new purchase. I would rank Trident Booksellers and Café as a 5/5 on book to human ratio, a 5/5 on general warmth of atmosphere, and a 3/5 on the creaky sound their staircase makes when you walk up it.
Brattle Book Shop
If you continue walking down Newbury Street and Boston Commons, you will reach Brattle Book Shop. This bookstore focuses on rare and used books (I purchased three science fiction and fantasy magazine publications, all from the late 1940s); however, its main attraction is the outdoor carts of books available for $1-$5. At night, the carts are rolled away and panels put up on the walls to imitate the appearance of a giant bookshelf. Brattle Book Shop is a bookstore for the reader who knows what they are looking for and who is interested in older works of literature. For me, I had a fantastic time wandering through the aisles and seeing all of the old and rare books. Many old books are sold to the store to then be resold, like a book that was previously a library book from Oregon—checked out for the first time on Jan. 24, 1956. If you are looking for newer fiction, then Brattle Book Shop is not the place for you.
This bookstore features that exact smell of old books that you wish newer books had (this smell comes from the lignin within the books’ pages). I would rank Brattle Book Shop a 5/5 on presence of old books, a 5/5 on the presentation of outdoor bookshelves, and a 3/5 on presence of newer literature. Brattle Bookshop is an anthropological museum in and of itself.
Overall, I have never regretted stepping foot in a single bookstore. Each one has a distinct personality and welcomes you in with such a personal touch. From bookstores I have visited with a dog greeting you by the entrance to a unique door chime, the entrance to a bookstore is a world to another world—one that I love to encourage people to step through.