Your Guide to the Best Local Independent Bookstores | BU today

From Cambridge to Roxbury, discover where to immerse yourself in literary gems

Frugal Bookstore, 57 Warren St., Boston. Photo by Justin Dynia (CAS’22)


From Cambridge to Roxbury, discover where to immerse yourself in literary gems

This weekend marks the start of the Boston Book Festival, which will take place virtually this year from October 16 to 23. But it’s not the only local place to search for books. To celebrate the joy of reading, we’ve put together a list of the best independent bookstores in the area, from boutiques with cafes to stores that regularly host readings and discussions. Can’t see your favorite bookstore? Let us know in the Comment section which ones we missed.

Trident Booksellers & Cafe is one of the city’s top destinations for college students looking to shop, study, and eat. For those looking for something new, try their blind date book. Choose one of their books wrapped in kraft paper and covered with a simple design that informs the reader about the plot. Trident also has an impressive collection of gifts and trinkets perfect for birthdays and holidays. Want to grab a bite to eat? Trident has a two-story café with outdoor dining, perfect for a weekend brunch with friends or a weekday outing. Their hearty open-face breakfast sandwich features two eggs of any style topped with cheddar cheese, with your choice of bacon or avocado, served on a bagel. They also have a wide range of teas and coffees, including delicious Vermont maple latte, to keep you caffeinated and ready to face the day. Trident hosts events throughout the week including Friday Night Trivia, Queer Board Game Night, Poetry Slams, and Book Clubs.

Hours: 7 days a week, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Since 1825, the Brattle Book Shop has offered casual book lovers and professional collectors some of the East Coast’s rarest artifacts. Just steps from Boston Common, the boutique has over 250,000 books (yes, they counted) housed in its 5,500 square feet of real estate. Buyers can browse collections of well-known contemporary classics, including those of New England favorites like Emerson and Thoreau, and rare, century-old volumes in their original condition. The family-owned store has survived several relocations throughout its history and a devastating fire in 1980 that wiped out all of its inventory, but left an empty lot next to its current location. This lot, an enclosure of red brick walls where the burnt down store once stood, is now the site of Boston’s only outdoor book-selling patio. Students are particularly drawn to this section to find bargain books at the unbeatable price of $ 5 and under.

Hours: Monday to Saturday 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.

Harvard Book Store is a unique and special place to shop, an independently run Harvard Square landmark since 1932. The store is known for an extraordinary selection of new, used and abandoned books (books that a publisher tries out) get rid of quickly); academic titles and author events focused on academic writers; a series of events from award-winning authors; and an exhibition on the history of innovation. Wander the aisles of worn wooden shelves to find high-level academic texts right next to mellow-mannered splendours. For those on a budget, take a look in the basement for used books and bargains for classic books with pre-liked pages. The pandemic only reinforced the store’s desire to connect authors with readers, and it won Boston The magazine’s “Best Virtual Authors Series” in 2020 and 2021. Harvard Book Store hopes to return to sold-out live events soon with renowned novelists, politicians, journalists, scientists and other writers brightening up their living room literary.

Hours: Seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Head north to Massachusetts Avenue from Harvard Square and you’ll find Porter Square Books, a fiercely independent bookstore specially designed for socially responsible selections. The books on their shelves cover everything hot in today’s debates, from racial politics in America to the important Indigenous perspectives that have reframed our nation’s history. They maintain a strong online community via social media that sets it apart from comparable stores. This recognition of the digital sphere can be reflected in their stock of books going viral on BookTok, a section on the popular TikTok app where users discuss popular books. Big sellers of the moment include fantasy novels or tales of classic myths, often from an LGBTQ + perspective, like the Glittering Novel The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. Grab a coffee and do your homework in their cafe or dive into one of their educational books.

Hours: Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Frugal Bookstore is impressive for a number of reasons. As one of three black-owned bookstores in Massachusetts, their highly curated selection of authors of color promotes books generally limited to a small section at other bookstores. Books by the most influential authors of color line their shelves, including essays by James Baldwin and hard-hitting novels by Toni Morrison. Their vibrant children’s and YA books focusing on the intersection of race, religion, ethnicity, and youth make fantastic gifts for younger siblings or cousins. The Frugal Bookstore has been a part of the Roxbury community for years, partnering with the nearby Boston Public Library branch to encourage high school students to read books to local children. Looking to stock up on the next read for your book club? Frugal Bookstore is happy to connect students to the most popular group readings. They also offer 10% student discount so it’s worth visiting this shop.

Hours: Monday to Wednesday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursday and Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Papercuts transports you to a charming and cozy bookstore that makes you forget the outside world completely. A cute puppy is there to greet you as you walk into the store, and the shelves are full of today’s bestsellers, such as Perplexity by Richard Pouvoirs. Papercuts takes the phrase “buy local” seriously. They publish and sell a collection of local author writings, coordinate events with JP Licks ice cream shop, and host outdoor author readings for the community. Their fiction and romance sections are usually students’ first stops, but their collection has something for everyone to love. Although they do not offer a student discount yet, they hope to have one soon.

Hours: Monday to Saturday 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The annual Boston Book Festival goes virtual this year, with an event lineup featuring enlightening and diverse authors and guests, genres ranging from fiction to mystery, and special author readings. From October 16 to 23, the festival begins its first evening with a discussion on Danger by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, where the two veteran journalists will join Mindy Marqués, vice president and editor of Simon & Schuster, to reflect on the end of the Trump presidency and the early days of the Biden presidency. Other discussions include the future of the pandemic, with special guest Sandro Galea, dean of the Boston University School of Public Health and professor Robert A. Knox, as well as the legacy of slavery and women on the workplace. The event is free to the public, and all tickets on Eventbrite can be found here.

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