Where there are cafes, there are intellectuals. And where there are intellectuals, there are books. In few places is this relationship more evident than in Harvard Square, which has a lot of all three, especially books. Ask most Bostonians where to find big heaps of the printed word and they'll point you in the direction of Harvard Square. It's got what you want.
The Square's 27 new, used and specialty book stores dot several corners and fill at least three basements. For textbooks and general reading, your best bet is to start with the Harvard Coop. Most of the Square crowd lingers on the first floor with the bestsellers and picture books. But brave the escalator to check out the fiction and slightly scholarly tomes on the second level. Textbooks are on floor three. One reminder: return textbooks within three weeks of purchase, or you'll be stuck with them.
The Harvard Book Store (1256 Mass. Ave.) stays open until 10 p.m. every night except Sunday. It carries new titles you won't find in shopping mall book stores and used books at half price downstairs. For more mainstream new books there's the Paperback Booksmith (25 Brattle St.) It welcomes browsers until midnight every day of the week. Reading International (47 Brattle St.) is also for late-night shoppers and offers a huge selection of magazines and a mixture of popular and scholarly titles. Wordsworth (30 Brattle St.) rounds off the Square's general reading book shops.
For those who crave book-hunting adventures and are not disposed to claustrophobia, there are several used book specialists with popular and obscure titles. Aisles are narrow here, but lighting at McIntyre and Moore Booksellers (30 Plympton St.) is enough to allow reading. Fairly academic volumes line the shelves and it sports large literary criticism, philosphy and medieval history sections. Across the street is the Starr BookShop (29 Plympton St.) nestled in the east end of the Lampoon castle. It's got two floors of mostly scholarly and classical texts.
If you get tired of Plympton Street head over to The Book Case (42 Church St.) Post cards and junk gifts fill the top floor and a labyrinth of used volumes make up the basement. Look in the six-by-six foot "Room A" for occult books, "Room B" for religion, and go to the store's Annex (33 Church St.) if you don't like reading in the dark. The Pangloss Bookshop (65 Mt. Auburn St.) is another sure bet for cheap used books, especially in the social sciences.
Cant't find that rare Zen poem or Lenin's "Materialism and Empiro-Criticism?" Stay right in Harvard Square because specialty book stores are one of its specialties.
Music by the Gang of Four will blare in your ears as you look through marxist and third world literature in Revolution Books (1 Arrow St.).
Schoenhof's Foreign Books (76A Mt. Auburn St.) recently opened at this expanded location. This foreign language buffs' paradise will send away for rare titles, just as the Grolier Book Shop (6 Plympton St.) will take special orders for poetry books. Contemporary poets stop by here occasionally to get their picture taken or just to browse through the 9000 poetry titles.
Lawyers and those training to join their expanding ranks find used law books at the Harvard Book Store Law Annex (12 Plympton St.). Titles published by the Big H can be found in Holyoke Center at the Harvard University Press Display Room (1354 Mass. Ave.)
Publications on sixties-style spirtuality, religion and the occult can be found at Shambhala Booksellers (58 JFK), Sky Light Books (111 Mt. Auburn St.) and the Dawn Horse Bookstore (99 Mt. Auburn St.) For a more classical selection of religious titles there's The Thomas More Book Shop (next to Harvard University Press in Holyoke Center).
If you still can't find what you're looking for, take your summer school i.d. over to Widener Library and get lost in the stacks for a few hours. Or head out to Out of Town News or Nini's Corner and buy your hometown newspaper.