The Great Cambridge-Boston bookshop tour

In May of 2008, Kakaner and I undertook an epic walking tour of Cambridge and Boston bookshops – our goal was to walk from Central to Harvard Square and stop at every bookstore along the way, all in one morning and afternoon.

Our first stop was the Cambridge Salvation Army bookstore, where, if I recall correctly, Kakaner bought one paperback – but for the life of me I can’t recall what. The books were musty and disorganized, but the prices are incredible.

We also stopped for brunch (veggie omelette + potatoes) at the Miracle of Science Bar & Grill. Great ambiance, a bit pricy.

Second stop, Rodney’s Bookstore. The extent of the store was incredible – numerous floors and and apparently endless side rooms, and the books were well-organized, although still time-consuming to navigate, by virtue of sheer volume. Pricing moderate to middling-high, for a used bookstore (e.g. not too much off of list price for good-quality hardcovers and trades). If I recall correctly, their uppermost floor was all new books.

They had an entire side room of science fiction and fantasy selections, but quality pickings were pretty slim – most in evidence were obscure, epic series with lurid covers.

Seven Stars Bookstore! This was the most colorful (literally) and fun of the lot. It reeks of incense and is stuffed with healing crystals and kitchsy Eastern decor. I really enjoyed their eccentric book selections. Prices were a little high for the quality of the books (most of which are moderately worn), in my opinion. Kakaner bought an H. P. Lovecraft collection and I bought The Penguin Book of Classic Vampire Stories. I have this problem with vampire short story collections. It’s embarrassing.

Excuse me, but this wouldn’t happen to be a New Age bookstore, would it?

A selection of titlesA selection of titles. Brilliant stuff; I felt very much in the milieu of the original Weird fiction writers.

That’s all the photo documentation I have, but some of the other bookstores that we hit up were The Million Year Picnic comic store (small store space limits selection, but they have a great collection of original monthly issues) and the Harvard Bookstore (one of my favorite used bookstores, ANYWHERE – though unfortunately I didn’t find anything nearing the pile of books that I came out with the first time that I visited). In Harvard Square, we also stumbled upon a sidewalk sale of books, where, to my great glee, I found a hardcover omnibus edition of Tanith Lee’s The Secret Books of Paradys, III & IV – nothing like finding an obscure edition of an obscure book to make your day. It reeked of cigarette smoke, but has since been rehabilitated.

All told, I think we visited about six or seven bookstores; due to time constraints, we had to skip two bookstores along the way – intriguingly, they appeared to be Communist bookstores, but given the low probability of finding relevant reading material there, we decided to give them a miss. Maybe another time.

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