Five must-visit independent bookstores in Boston


Boston is a city brimming with colleges, scholars and students, so it’s no surprise this cultural hub is also home to a slew of worthwhile bookstores.

Boston’s best proprietors of written wares, however, aren’t the usual corporate chains. Instead you’ll find an exciting mix of independent and used book stores with ever-changing, often massive, inventories. You’re sure to find something worth reading in one the five independent shops we’ve lined up below.

Trident Booksellers & Cafe

Photo courtesy Trident Booksellers & Cafe

Fancy some conversation and appetizers with your latest page turner? This is the place to do it. Located on the ever-busy Newbury street, Trident Booksellers is not only a bookstore, but a place for hanging out and meeting up. Open from 8 am to midnight everyday, Trident regularly hosts events, from book clubs and open mics to board game nights. It doesn’t sell used books, but it does boast a large selection of “remainders,” new books that were overprinted and are now being sold at a steep discount. As for the “café” part of its name, it’s particularly robust, touting a menu tasty enough that you can even order takeout.

338 Newbury Street

Brattle Book Shop

Photo credit Jeffrey Dunn

“Do you need ten feet of red books immediately?” This three-story shop has so many books, its website has an entire page dedicated to decorators, whether cinematic or interior. Or if you’re looking more casually for, say, something to read at the airport, this well-known spot has you covered, with two floors of “general used books,” an entire floor of rare books, and sale racks outdoors. Proprietor Ken Gloss and his team regularly make field trips to estates, some filled with thousands of books, so you can be sure you’ll find something to tease your brain.

9 West Street

Commonwealth Books

Photo courtesy Commonwealth Books

With an inventory that boasts more than 40,000 titles, it’ll take some dedication and time to browse Commonwealth Books in full. Thankfully the store’s open seven days a week, and it’s easy to access too. It’s located in Downtown Crossing, and super close to State station as well. As for what’s contained in those tens of thousands of books for sale, anticipate everything from contemporary romance to antique oddities. New (or rather old) books arrive frequently, so it’s very likely you’ll find something new on repeat visits. Art lovers, take note: this store also carries plenty of vintage prints and engravings.

9 Spring Lane

Grolier Poetry Book Shop

Photo courtesy Grolier Poetry Book Shop

Poetry books tend to be slimmer than novels, but what they lack in paper they make up for in profundity. And yet many stores relegate poetry to perhaps a single shelf or two. At Grolier Poetry Book Shop, you can expect a much, much wider assortment, from verse hot off small presses to more famous musings. This historic Cambridge shop opened in 1927 as a hotspot of avant garde literature. Starting in 2006, it was under the leadership of poet and philosophy professor Ifeanyi Menkiti, who nurtured the store until his passing in June 2019. The Grolier lives on, however, with regular poetry readings—and, of course, a generous inventory of poetry for your pondering and enjoyment.

6 Plympton Street, Cambridge

Bryn Mawr Book Store

Photo courtesy Bryn Mawr Book Store

This adorable shop may be far from its namesake institution in Pennsylvania. But this store’s profits find their way south eventually, as its proceeds are used to fund scholarships to Bryn Mawr College. Located on a quaint street in the ever-intellectual Cambridge, this well-stocked used bookstore carries a wide assortment of both niche and popular interests. The shelves are refreshed pretty regularly, and a monthly half-price sale slashes prices for certain genres and categories. It’s staffed by volunteers, so be sure to take note of its limited hours: the store is closed Sunday through Wednesday.

373 Huron Avenue, Cambridge

By Alexander Castro