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The Best Bookstores in Boston to Read, Eat, and Maybe Even Find Love

Beacon Hill Books & Cafe on a rainy day.
Beacon Hill Books & Cafe on a rainy day. By Courtesy of Thomas A. Ferro
By Makenna J. Walko, Crimson Staff Writer

1. Beacon Hill Books & Cafe

If you’re a booklover, you’ve almost definitely seen this bookstore on social media. Beacon Hill Books & Cafe is TikTok’s favorite bookstore in Boston — and, unbelievable as it may sound, the shop lives up to the hype. As noted on their website, the owners see Beacon Hill Books & Cafe as a “love letter to Boston,” building on the literary tradition intrinsic to the history of Beacon Hill — once home to esteemed writers like Robert Frost, Sylvia Plath, Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. If you want the perfect bookstore for your Instagram aesthetic, this is the one. The shop is absolutely beautiful, with each floor revealing new wonders; pure magic happens if you press the red button on the third floor. The train set in the children’s section just adds to this sense of whimsy. Their selection of books is excellent, and includes a range of titles published by Persephone Books, a company that reprints overlooked fiction and nonfiction, particularly by female writers. Beacon Hill Books & Cafe also holds literary roundtable courses where you can learn about all your favorite books, frequent book signings, and even speed dating events –– just in case you’re still trying to find your true love in time for Valentine’s Day. While you’re there, be sure to stop by the café downstairs for an afternoon tea or even a cute dinner out.

2. Trident Booksellers & Cafe

Trident Booksellers & Cafe is undoubtedly one of the best bookstores in Boston. Cute and cozy with a wide selection of books and book-lover themed paraphernalia, it’s easy to spend way too much money on fun stickers and literary accessories here. Trident Booksellers & Cafe hosts a multitude of engaging monthly events, including Taylor Swift trivia nights, a silent book club, poetry open mic nights, and speed-dating –– again, where better to find love than a bookstore? The store is also home to a small cafe with the most comprehensive menu a reader could wish for, from eggs benedict to quesadillas. There’s no better place in Boston to curl up with a good book and a warm cup of coffee.

3. Harvard Book Store

If you haven’t swung by The Harvard Book Store to purchase the niche book you overlooked on your course syllabus and need by 9 a.m. tomorrow, are you really even a Harvard student? Luckily for us, this fantastic bookstore is just across Mass. Ave., so you can drop in any time you’re experiencing book withdrawal. The staff is lovely and welcoming, the selection is amazing, and the store hosts interesting talks with different authors each month. If you haven’t been yet, this is your sign to check it out after class today.

4. Brattle Book Shop

According to their website, Brattle Book Shop is among the “oldest and largest used book stores” in the country, offering a selection of “over 250,000 books, maps, prints, postcards and ephemeral items.” Their Rare Books Collection on the third floor is particularly impressive, and it includes an interesting and affordable ephemera selection with jackpot finds like American Fabrics magazines from the ’40s with genuine fabric samples. If you do decide to pay Brattle Bookstore a visit, don’t miss the outdoor pop-up section which offers $1, $3, and $5 books!

5. Commonwealth Books

Like Brattle Book Shop, Commonwealth Books offers a wide selection of used books, maps, prints, art, and engravings which date back to the 1600s, according to their website. Tucked into a small side street in Downtown Crossing, Commonwealth Books can be easy to miss — but don’t make the mistake of passing by this cozy little bookstore. Every inch of the bookstore is covered in letters, quotes, and photos from famous authors and thinkers. Combined with the stacks of used books and antique prints, Commonwealth Books offers a snug, cozy atmosphere that seems to exist outside of time.

6. Grolier Poetry Book Shop

According to their website, Grolier Poetry Book Shop is “the oldest continuously operated book shop dedicated solely to the sale of poetry books” in the United States, and it’s the perfect place to go if you’re on the hunt for anything from new, innovative poetry to older, lesser-known works. Small but mighty, Grolier Poetry Book Shop occupies a cozy corner behind the Harvard Book Store where shelves of poetry nearly scrape the ceiling. Framed photos of poetry’s literary greats on the walls of the shop give face and life to the words on the page. If you’re a poetry fan, Grolier Poetry Book Shop is a must-see.

—Staff writer Makenna J. Walko can be reached at makenna.walko@thecrimson.com.

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