Sunday, November 9, 2014

Harvard Book Store - Cambridge, MA

Harvard Book Store - Cambridge, MA

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I just love going to places or events where I know that I'm close to the dumbest hick there.  I love it when I'm surrounded by smart, forward-thinking, academia types and I'm the one at the bottom of the food chain.  The Harvard Book Store in Cambridge exudes that kind of atmosphere, historical and academic.  I can almost hear Brahm's Academic Festival Overture playing in the background.  This is a fantastic bookstore located across from Harvard Square and you should definitely check this place out.  Even if you don't buy a book, go in and browse for while and tack a few points on your IQ.

The Harvard Book Store is not affiliated with the university so they don't handle text books or other classroom materials.  The store stands successfully on its own merit since 1932.  Many indies enjoy tourists as an important part of their customer base and that is true here as well but here they are often referred to as academic tourists.  This is especially true during the summer months.  Aside from tourists there is a strong community of local support, no surprise at all.  There are a few sidelines here, no cats, and no cafĂ©.  There is however, a great inventory of books, new and used.  The entire lower level is used books and they have an active but discriminating book buy-back program where you can earn cash or store credits.  But your book better be in darn good shape and needed or they won't take it.  Tell Aunt Myrtle to keep her romance novels and tell Uncle Lester to keep his westerns, they don't buy back those genres.  There is also a very active event series and most of these are held right in the store.  Many times, multiple events are scheduled per day so over the course of a year this can average out to one per day.

Carole H., has been the general manager here for 40 years and even though her office is not in the store (the rent is too high), she came over to meet me and talk about Harvard Books, its history, and its ownership.  There's lots of continuity here and I'm sure that's partially responsible for the success.  Carole was wonderful to talk to as were a couple of staffers I chatted with, Rachel and Spencer.  That's the constant when I go to these places, so many great people who willingly talk to me about indies and books.  And I probably wouldn't have even met Carole if it hadn't been for Bill at Broadside Books in Northampton who told me to find her when I made it to Harvard Books.  A true brotherhood and sisterhood among these indies.

So the next time you're feeling a little "dull," or "slow," or just want to seem smarter, go into the Harvard Book Store and take a couple of deep breaths.  Raise that IQ.  You'll be all the smarter for visiting this great independent bookstore.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

CURRENTLY READING:  Dad Is Fat, James Gaffigan.  If you've ever seen a Jim Gaffigan show you'll want to read this book.  Hilarious.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  The Case For Books, Robert Darnton.  Seems appropriate, yes?  Fire Shut Up In My Bones, Charles M. Blow.

Another view outside the store.  

Great window displays on both sides of the entrance.  

Another exterior view.  

Looking directly inside from the front door.  The store continues to the left of this view.  

And here's the view to the left.  

A great display of staff picks.  

Touristy postcards.  Appropriate for this store.  

Proceed downstairs for some great buys or to sell your used books for store credit or cash.  

T-shirts, book bags, and new fiction.  

Long aisles with lots of subjects.  

This is the room to the far left after entering.  They also hold author events here.  

Local and regional interests.  

A great incentive to get a book.  Or two.  

Lots of famous politicians attended Harvard.  Maybe one of them sat in this chair?    

Sell your books at these days and times.  

Dogs allowed.  I saw one!

Congratulations to Carole H. and her years of work at this fine independent bookstore.  


  1. There used to be so many fine bookstores in Harvard Sq! The chains drove out so many indie retailers, but the pendulum now seems to be swinging back to BUY LOCAL!

  2. That is exactly what many indie owners are telling me. However, there are many fine indies in New England compared to where I live in the Midwest. Thanks for following! Bob