Wherever I go in my travels, I try to visit local independent bookstores. And for Reading New England, I wanted to especially feature some of the fantastic stores in our region, which I’m still exploring. I turned to my fellow bloggers to give some suggestions, and they came through with a great selection.
Of my personal favorites, I heartily second the recommendations for the Toadstool Bookshops (the Peterborough location is my local literary hangout) and Brookline Booksmith. But I hope to visit all the others on this list before too long!
Have we missed any of your favorites? What would be your suggestions?
From Katie of Bookish Illuminations:
Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA
Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA
I love Brookline Booksmith for its fantastic displays and the quality of its titles, both new and used. Porter Square is lovely because of its excellent children’s and young adult collection and its wonderful coffeeshop!
From Emily of Red House Books:
Toadstool Bookshops, Keene, Peterborough, and Milford, NH
Bull Moose – locations in ME and NH
The Keene location of the Toadstool is my absolute favorite bookstore. A recent move to a bigger and better location (with a cafe coming soon!) has been the highlight of my summer. I love the friendly staff, the ease of placing special orders, the holiday sales and all the fun little extras like bookmarks, journals, calendars, and cards. I don’t know what I would do without them!
Bull Moose is a family favorite. There are stores throughout Maine and New Hampshire, with a new location in Keene opening this past year. Their book selection is small, but everything is sold at a discount and it’s not just books – movies, music, games, pop culture novelty items – it’s a pretty unique place.
From Ann Marie of Lit Wine and Dine:
Diane’s Books, Greenwich, CT
R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, CT
Diane’s has been in business for over 20 years. Unassuming from the exterior, Diane manages to pack her space with a fabulous selection of books of all genres. Her staff is very friendly and knowledgable. You can browse away or, if you have an idea of what you’re looking for, they will give you spot-on suggestions. She has frequent author events usually held off-site because her space is so packed with books.
She locally well-known for her gift wagons and she will also hand select a book or books each month if you want to send a book-a-month type gift to someone.
I have recently started taking my children there more often. They are 5 and 8. At school they are encouraged to read leveled books via an online program the school subscribes to but I found my daughter (8) just wasn’t enjoying it in the way I wanted her to. She was starting to say things like (gasp!!) “I don’t like reading.” I’ve found she does much better, as I expected she would, when she can choose her books and hold them in real book form. Diane’s has a great selection but I was especially impressed with the amount and quality of children’s nonfiction titles.
Though I don’t visit R.J. Julia as often (just a distance issue), they are also a fabulous store with great service and selection. They seem to be one of the bigger Indie stores I’ve been to. They have been around for more than 25 years. They have a little cafe and, if memory serves me correctly, they also sell stationery, cards, etc. They also host a number of book clubs.
From Chris of WildmooBooks:
R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, CT
Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, VT
The Savoy Bookshop & Cafe in Westerly, RI
The Book Barn in Niantic, CT
R.J. Julia is my local indy and THE place for author events on the CT shoreline. They host big name authors and also support local authors with both solo and joint-author events. There’s an indoor/outdoor cafe that serves sandwiches and salads. It’s a great place to browse, pick up the latest hot book or an older title you never go around to, and meet a friend for a meal before attending an author event. They’re also very involved in the community and do lots of kids and other bookish events as well.
I’ve had the pleasure of attending three Booktopia events at Northshire. The first two were hosted by Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness, creators of the Booktopia concept and podcasters of Books on the Nightstand and the third, this past spring, was hosted by the bookstore itself, which took over producing the event. This is a large store with excellent depth in most of its sections. They also have a wonderful used section with recent best-sellers, classics, collectables, and an eclectic assortment of nonfiction. Their sideline gifts are a delight to browse/shop and range from the quirky bookish novelty item to unique kitchen wares to handmade clothing. The attached cafe offers meals and baked goods and there is ample seating to dine with a group of friends or spend some time writing or studying. They have a second location in Saratoga Springs, NY.
The Savoy is the new kid on the block, and—WOW—is it a gorgeous place! This is the second bookstore adventure for Annie Philbrick (her first, Bank Street Books in Mystic, CT, is also an excellent bookstore and one I regularly frequent). The Savoy isn’t as large as the other bookstores I’ve listed, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in character. Everything inside is new, but you feel transported back in time by the handsome dark wood shelving, exposed brick, and black iron railings of the staircase, which is a central feature of the store. There are secret fairy doors, a rustic cabin reading room for kids, and prism ship lights in the floor. Comfortable seating is available in front of the picture window that faces the street and the cafe in the back of the shop has tables. The cafe sells delicious baked goods and coffee/tea.
The Book Barn is my absolute favorite used bookstore. It’s actually not just one store, but is now comprised of four locations around town. Each location focuses on various subject matter. For example, the downtown location focuses primarily on cookbooks, religion, and horror. The main location has a central building and a half-dozen or so smaller out buildings dedicated to their own subjects. They buy books by the bag/car/truck load from visitors who come from all over the region and boast an inventory of 500,000 titles. If I can’t find an older title at the Book Barn I consider it a sign from the book fairies that it is just not my time to read that particular book. I’ve also found ARCs here—shhh!—sometimes months before the pub date.
12 thoughts on “Bookstores of New England”
I was just in Westerly – should have stopped by the Savoy!! Wish I’d known about it!
Awesome post! I would love to visit all of them. There are a couple here I hadn’t heard of. Thanks for spreading the word.
I’d like to make a trip to Westerly just to go there.
And Ann Marie, thanks for your contributions! They sound great too.
These are good to know about for if we ever take that trip south. We talk about it every year…
Come! I’d be happy to show you around southern New Hampshire.
Sadly, all too far away from where I live. 😦
Maybe someday you will make it up here…
I can’t wait to move back to the States and actually HAVE local bookstores! Of course there are bookstores here, but I can’t read Korean, unfortunately. Hehe.
Oh dear, that would be terrible. I hope you’ll get out of the (English) bookstore desert soon.
What a great post. I love visiting independent bookstores in my travels and writing about them on the blog. Thank you! I recently visited and wrote about Browsers Bookshop in Olympia, WA.
Sounds like a lovely place!
I don’t know why I didn’t visit any books stores while I was on the New England cruise in 2015. I so should have. I will be sure now to try to visit bookstores where ever I go.