Second Annual Cambridge Bookstore Crawl

For the second time, alumni gathered in Cambridge to tour its many independent booksellers and to relax afterward in Shay's Pub.

Each year, the Alumni Club of Boston gathers in Cambridge and moves as a pack from bookstore to bookstore for an entire afternoon. Our hope is to get acquainted with some of the best independent booksellers in the area and to re-stock our shelves.

This year, our itinerary followed the below route:

(A) MIT Press Bookstore: 292 Main Street, Kendall Square.

The MIT Press Bookstore is owned and operated by the MIT Press, the nonprofit scholarly publishing program of MIT. The bookstore stocks most of the books and journals published by the MIT Press as well as a selection of other publishers’ books in related fields. In 2010, MIT Press published its 9000th title. In 2012, the MIT Press celebrated its 50th anniversary.

(B) Toscanini’s Ice Cream: 899 Main Street, Central Square.

Gotta have ice cream (especially on a day that topped 85 degrees!).

(C) Rodney’s Bookstore: 698 Massachusetts Ave, Central Square.

Rodney’s is a used and discounted bookstore featuring 45,000 titles. In addition to second hand books, you can also pick up solid pine shelving units, posters, vintage postcards, VHS tapes, and greeting cards.

(D) Seven Stars: 731 Massachusetts Ave, Central Square.

Seven Stars is an interesting mix of new-age books, spiritual tomes, and second hand novels. In the display cases, you’ll find semi-precious stones ranging from $1 - $3000. Talk to the owners and you may discover the various uses of each of these stones (some of their claims may raise eyebrows, especially for the scientifically inclined). Browsing through the shelves, you’ll find a mix of Buddha and JK Rowling. Don’t let the patchouli and incense scare you off! This is a Central Square icon.

(E) Harvard Book Store: 1256 Massachusetts Ave, Harvard Square.

HBS is an independent bookseller (not to be confused by the Harvard Co-Op, which is affiliated with both Barnes & Noble and Harvard University) that some consider the big kahuna of bookshops in Massachusetts. With over 100,000 titles in stock and an author series that includes David Sedaris, Hillary Clinton, Stephen King, Salman Rushdie, Haruki Murakami, and Al Gore, HBS is ground zero for any serious bibliophile in the Boston area. Founded in 1932, the store has remained independent since its founding. The store is currently owned by a couple from Wellesley, Massachusetts.

(F) Grolier’s Bookshop: 6 Plympton Street, Harvard Square.

Founded originally as a fine arts bookstore, Grolier is today devoted exclusively to poetry. At 404 square feet, there’s not much room but its diminutive size is no indication of its grand history. Frequent visitors to the store include Frank O’Hara, Donald Hall, John Ashbery, and Robert Bly – poets whose books you’ll find on the store’s shelves today. The store had a significant impact on Harvard Square’s literary scene including the sponsorship of several poetry contests and the founding of a poetry movement (L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E). The store is one of two to be owned by a Wellesley resident, in this case Ifeanyi Menkiti, a Nigerian poet currently teaching at Wellesley College.

(G) Schoenhof’s Foreign Books: 76A Mt Auburn Street, Harvard Square.

The nation’s oldest foreign language bookstore, Schoenhof’s was founded in 1856. Representing over 700 distinct languages and dialects, this is the place to go for the multilingual. Interestingly, the store also owns Europe Books on State Street in Chicago.

(H) The Million Year Picnic: 99 Mt. Auburn Street, Harvard Square.

An important stop on the comic book trail - Million Year Picnic, like Pandemonium Books & Games in Central Square, specializes in independent comics and graphic novels. The store is also a host to author readings and comic/zine events. For gaming sessions (Settlers of Catan, anyone?), visit Pandemonium in Central Square.

(I) Raven Used Books: 52B JFK Street, Harvard Square.

Founded by the owner of the Montague Book Mill in Montague, MA (the GRANDADDY of bookstores in Massachusetts), Raven Used stocks over 50,000 used and new titles. This location, the second of four (also shops in Northampton, Greenfield and on Newbury Street), opened in 2005 and buys roughly 1000 books per week to keep turnover in check. As for price, you’ll be paying 50-80% off the cover price. Not bad!

(J) Shay’s Pub: 58 JFK Street, Harvard Square.

Our final stop and well deserved!

For photos of the crawl, please see HERE.