To the serious bibliophile, Harvard Square is nothing less than Shangri-La. With a variety of bookstores specializing in all kinds of interests--or no one interest in particular--a booklover in Cambridge would have to nicks a supreme effort to be bored.
If you are conscientious, and want to pick up your summer school textbooks first, and also want to look into your leisure reading, the first place to hit is the Harvard Coop (1400 Mass. Ave.). The book selection at the Coop is so large that it has its own building--which houses the largest bookstore in Harvard Square. Textbooks bought here can be returned for up to three weeks.
For the devotee of reading for pleasure, a dream come true is the Book Case (42 Church St.). A greeting card and poster store sits at street level, but follow the stairs down to the cellar and one will encounter a whole wall of used paperback fiction, and a wide selection of hardcover non-fiction on a variety of subjects. If you look for it, you will find a labyrinthine room in that basement in which the subjects of religion and foreign languages are housed. And if you run out of interests in this part, cross Church St. and go to their Annex (33 Church St.) above Steve's Ice Cream.
Do you want to burn the late-night oil over a good book? You options are expanded. Reading International (47 Brattle St.) stays open until 11 p.m. (and up to 12:30 a.m. on weekends) with a good selection of both popular and scholarly works. Jazz wafts from its speakers. Brattle Square boasts Wordsworth (30 Brattle St.) and Paperback Booksmith (25 Brattle St.), the latter of which has a variety of interesting titles but lacks a place to sit down and browse without getting in someone's way. Wordsworth has two levels and several chairs in which to sit and peruse books, which are discounted all the time.
At Mass. Ave. and Plympton St. is Harvard Book Store (1256 Mass. Ave.), offering textbooks, paperbacks, modern classics, and a basement of used books selling at half-price.
Is mustiness a must? Then the Starr Book Shop (29 Plympton St.) in the Lampoon Castle is your haven. A crowded room upstairs full of classics, and a downstairs specializing mostly in older nonfiction can keep you for hours. Feeling adventurous? Then check out its room of unsorted paperbacks. But be prepared to stand or sit on the stone floor--very few (if any) stools or chairs here.
Many people are in search of inspiration, and that need can be filled with the Square's book fare as well. The Thomas More Book Shop (1352 Mass. Ave.) in Holyoke Center offers a wide range of classical and modern works on theology and spirituality, though one should be prepared to spend a lot of money for enlightenment here. The Shambhala Booksellers (58 John F. Kennedy St.) offers an impressive selection in comparative religion, healing, occult sciences (Tarot, witchcraft, Qabalah), and mythology. These places are for the esoterically minded.
How about alternative universes? The Science Fantasy Bookstore (8 John F. Kennedy St., second floor) boasts one of the largest stocks of science fiction in New England, both in paperback and hardcover. Rare editions of science fiction abound, as do obscure works by the leading lights in the genre. Wargaming supplies and computer game software are also available here, sold up front with the movie and TV fanzines.
In Million Year Picnic (99 Mt. Auburn St.) is another such alternative universe, boasting stacks and stacks of comic books and comic book lore. You can also pick up comic books at Newbury Comics (36 John F. Kennedy St., in The Garage and at Superhero Universe (1105 Mass. Ave.), a few minutes' walk up Mass. Ave. towards Control Square, Superhero Universe also includes back issues of magazines like Playboy, National Lampoon, and Starlog, as well as all the special publications that herald new science fiction or the latest Lucas-Spielberg epic.
Is English not your native language? Then stop in at Schoenhof's (76A Mt. Auburn St.), in the basement of the Spee Club. There are books and publications here in almost every language. You can't speak another language? Good! You can learn with one of a number of foreign language-English dictionaries on sale here.
On Plympton St, one can find four bookstores. The Star Book Shop is one, and across the street, in the former site of the late Harvard Pizza, is McIntyre and Moore Booksellers (30 Plympton St.), with used and rare books. Another place, for those who tire of prose, is the famous Grolier Book Shop (6 Plymton St.), alive since 1927. "Minimum of prose" reads the sign in the window, and they speak the truth. Tall bookcases house poetry collections, little magazines, books about poets and their works, and casettes of readings. Special orders and mail orders can be done here as well. The Harvard Book Store Law Annex (12 Plympton St.) is a must of the legal eagle in your life.
The Harvard University Press Display Room (1354 Mass. Ave., in Holyoke Center) has a complete selection of every book currently in print from the Harvard University Press, and they love people who browse. And, at Wordsworth/2 (1100 Mass. Ave.), a little up Mass. Ave., they specialize in publishers' overstock and remainders, as well as classical music tapes, art prints, and New York Times bestsellers.
If you love the printed word and have some money in your wallet, you could conceivably go into Harvard Square and never be seen again Happy reading!