Bookstores

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4 Pleasant St., Cambridge, Massachusetts (a few blocks away from the Central T stop)

 

(Photo taken during the first of the unrelenting series of snowstorms that hit early in 2011.)

Here’s quick but much overdue tribute to one of my most frequent bookish haunts in Cambridge. Pandemonium is a compact sff and gaming store with a very active schedule of author readings and signings (I’ve gotten to see Cat Valente read there twice, and Caitlín Kiernan once), and a broad representation of genre periodicals; new and used books; comics; and geek paraphernalia like calendars, artbooks, prints, and, obviously, gaming materials. Sadly, they did have to cut back severely on their magazine stock this past summer due to declining sales, and now stock only about half a dozen titles.

As Boston/Cambridge genre bookstores go, Seek Books is significantly more historically exhaustive, offering more in the way of rareties and out-of-print titles; Pandemonium is more up-to-date.

In-town customers may also enjoy their occasional special events, like the yearly holiday Geekfaire, where vendors offer sff-themed goods – Doctor Who scarves and the like.

Out-of-town browsers might like to investigate new titles via their nicely curated online catalogue, which can be searched by handy categories including awards won, character traits, plot elements, and writing style.

 

– E

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Lorem Ipsum Books in Cambridge, MA, previously featured in this post, has a fun new window display, featuring some scrappy owls (one of them catching up on its reading, and seeming to level a dour look at anyone interrupting) in a scrap-wood forest:

– E

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Hello! It’s been quite the year-long hiatus… well I’m finally returning after having most recently traveled some countries, including bunkering down in several bookstores in NZ during my stay. Honestly, I planned only two bookstore visits in Wellington according to some recommendations, and was so impressed by the selection and presentation that I proceeded to bookstore hop for an entire day. So even more bookstore reports to come!

Arty Bees Books is located right off Cuba Street in the heart of Wellington, and offers sprawling selections of just about anything– fiction, references, instructional pamphlets, children’s literature, music, histories, rare/old tomes, and most importantly, bizarre bibliophilia curiosities. The best (and strangest) part was that I kept laughing while browsing Arty Bees whether from interesting shelving formations, weird collections displayed proudly, or the endless number of interesting genre placards. That does not happen at chain bookstores!

arty bees front
Sheet music AND imported SFF

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Seek Books
1747 Centre Street, Boston, West Roxbury, MA, 02132

Seek Books storefront

Seek deserves to be called something really grandiose, like “a repository of pulp splendor.” Seriously, if you’re an sff fan (especially if you’re the kind who has slightly off tastes and whose favorite authors are generally out of print… not that I’d know anything about this) and ever in the Boston area, don’t miss it. Seek has character.

Old posters and figurines and ’90’s boardgames abound; it smells like the kind of paperbacks that have banana-yellow edges; many of the books are battered within an inch of their lives (and rightly so, since Seek specializes in pre-1970’s fiction). The owners are as much curators as booksellers: series are carefully sorted out of the morass and shelved together, books with particularly loved cover art are wrapped in plastic.

The smiley-face-sticker pricing system is fun (and yes, the prices are ridiculously good), though sometimes the stickers do end up pulling off bits of binding off the spine. (Kakaner & I were also a little alarmed that sorted series are sometimes rubber-banded together, which means that spines and covers inevitably get bent.)

That aside, I don’t know too many other places where I could come away with a stack of eighteen or so Tanith Lee novels (I exaggerate, but not significantly) in one trip. Kakaner and I have been here twice so far, and each time we always end up finding way more things that we’d like to buy than we thought we were actually looking for – odd editions of favorite children’s books, copies of classics with actually frightening cover art (that Zelazny novel… SHUDDER)…

Some more photos under the cut, including some unbelievable monuments of SFF publishing history/nerd conversation pieces:

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Lame Duck Books
12 Arrow Street, Cambridge, MA

“We are internationally known specialists buying and selling important modern books and manuscripts with an emphasis on rare literature and primary works in the history of ideas in English, German, French, Spanish, Russian and other languages. Our shop features the most significant selection of 19th and 20th century Spanish language literature in the world, as well as important holdings of 17th and 18th century English poetry.”

Significantly fancy-pantsier than the bookstores that Kakaner and I usually feel comfortable rummaging through, clearly, but a fun taste of the high life. You enter this basement bookstore through a hushed, minimalistic art gallery (unaffiliated); the bookshop itself is similarly hushed and artsy.

Kakaner thought their prices ran a little high, for the books with which we were more familiar, but we had a good time regardless ogling such volumes as a first edition of Margaret Atwood’s The Edible Woman, another Atwood volume (forget which – K, do you remember?) that contained a handwritten letter of hers, and this J. Sheridan Le Fanu novel…

…with a seriously charming dedicatory doodle for someone named Phoebe:

Continue below the cut for a couple more photos:

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Book-repair station at the Strand in NYC; photo from when Kakaner and I visited together two years back.

One more photo of their upper (antiquarian) floor below the fold:

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Something that made me happy to see:

“Books are priced as marked by the sticker on the front cover. If you find a book that you want, please pay for it by putting the money in the locked box. Honor System Books has been a part of Cambridge for over 5 years now. Thanks so much to YOU and this awesome community

THANK YOU!!”

Brattle Street, Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA. I’m not sure how often it’s there; I’ve walked by it maybe twice now on good-weather days this spring and summer.

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Lorem Ipsum Books
1299 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA (Inman Square)

Really nice space, complete with small couch-y area and prints etc. by local artists. Decent selection of sff, great selection of YA. I forgot to check out the poetry section, which gives me a good excuse to go back ASAP. In general, really carefully organized and curated. Since they have a lot of floor space, they don’t have the slightly frantic, overstuffed feeling that most used bookstores end up having.

Loved all the extra-pretty old books selected for display:

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Argosy Books
116 East 59th Street, New York, New York
Date visited: 07.16.10

You might remember that back in January, I attempted a visit to Argosy (Old and Rare Books, Prints and Maps) in New York, only to find that it was unexpectedly closed for most of the month. Two weeks ago, Kakaner and I finally made it there together, this time in some borderline torturous heat and humidity. It proved to be possibly the handsomest bookstore I’ve ever visited:

Argosy Books

Everything immaculately labeled and presented, and gorgeously lit. (You can also see the store’s namesake dangling from the ceiling in the above photo – I neglected to take a better photo of it, but it was a marvelous model.) Very rich, very Old World.

Argosy Books

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is the euphemism that Kakaner and another friend helped me come up with for how I felt after I walked a fair distance under rather chilly conditions, only to find that the target of my latest and much-anticipated awesome-bookstore visit, Argosy Books (116 East 59th Street, New York, New York) was CLOSED.

Approaching the target (green banner spotted ahead):

And it is…

…CLOSED WHYYYYY. On top of having beautifully lit and presented displays out for me to stare at longingly through the bars, they even had a “New Year’s Sale!” prominently advertised. Well I can’t abuse my savings account on behalf of your sale if you’re CLOSED, can I?

So my visit to Argosy had to be put off to another time, but I did get to see some fun bookish things when my brother and I ducked into the New York Public Library to poke around.

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