Read our essential guide to the best bookstores in Boston—insider tips and recommendations, written by local experts. From obscure poetry finds at Grolier, to coffee and culture at Trident Booksellers and Café, to monkey business and kidlit at The Curious George Store, Time Out's editors bring you the best of Boston's bookstores.
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In a sea of chains, Trident remains a tried-and-true standby for the more indie-minded of Boston’s over-caffeinated literary nerds. The magazine selection is peerless—art zines, obscure trade publications… and is that a Spanish edition of Foreign Affairs? The city has plenty of spots that brew a better cup of joe, and Trident does get a tad too packed on weekends, but there's still something about lounging with a latte and a Lethem novel that makes us feel so flippin' smart.
It's easy to find what you're looking for at this cheery Coolidge Corner bookstore, with its friendly staff and fine selection of new books. There's a charming children's reading area in the back, near a gift section stocked with greeting cards, magnets, toys and novelties. In the used-book cellar downstairs, shelves are pushed aside for readings with local and emerging writers, and the shop sponsors big names like David Sedaris at the Coolidge Corner Theatre across the street.
This independent bookseller in Harvard Square works hard to rival the larger chain stores with its varied selection of general-interest books and helpful staff, always ready to recommend a title or two. Students from the namesake university across the street crowd the substantial philosophy and cultural theory sections. Meanwhile, local bibliophiles make a beeline for the basement, where the used and remainder book shelves are packed with everything from dog-eared cookbooks to gorgeous art books, all at a hefty discount.
Its parent shop, WordsWorth, has closed, but the children's branch (named after the fictional monkey whose creator, Margret Rey, used to frequent the old bookstore) lives on. The jungle-themed upstairs room offers parenting and baby books, board books, picture books, early readers and non-fiction tomes; older readers will find chapter books, Tintin, Asterix and anime works downstairs. Your kids may not even notice the books among the profusion of toys, games and art supplies though.
Down a side street from the Harvard Book Store, the tiny Grolier has been catering to the voracious appetites of Cambridge's poetry lovers for more than 80 years. Every available surface is piled with new books of verse, ranging from anthologies for casual readers to collections by obscure poets in translation. The Grolier further encourages the appreciation of poetry through its annual prizes and well-attended readings.
With tomes on everyone from Henri Matisse to David Hockney, this sprawling store is a haven for art-history buffs. Set on the outskirts of the South End—handily, just a few buildings down from a cluster of contemporary galleries at 450 Harrison Avenue—Ars Libri specialises in rare and out-of-print books on fine art. Check the website for details of the latest in-store art exhibition.