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Posts Tagged ‘bookstores’

strand bookstore awning nyc

One of my favorite things about traveling alone: I can go to as many bookstores as I want. My husband is a patient man, but when we’re traveling together, he occasionally wants to see something other than the inside of a bookstore. (I can’t imagine why.)

On my solo trip to NYC in mid-August, I indulged my book-browsing habit to the tune of five bookstores in four days. I came home with a dozen new-to-me books (stuffed into the Strand tote bag I had prudently carried along), and a full bookworm heart.

three lives co bookstore nyc front

I stayed at the Larchmont Hotel in the West Village, so my first stop was Three Lives & Co., just a few blocks away. It’s a cozy, well-curated space with shelves that reach nearly to the ceiling.

three lives bookstore interior

I eavesdropped on a bookseller who was talking novels with a customer, and chimed in to second his recommendation of Where’d You Go, Bernadette. (My purchases: Robert MacFarlane’s Landmarks and Thomas Montasser’s charming novel A Very Special Year.)

Last time I visited Idlewild Books, they were in a second-floor storefront near Union Square, but they have moved to a spacious ground-floor shop in the West Village. I went in for a browse and picked up a quirky New England travel guide. The a/c was on the fritz and the box fans were blasting, but I loved nosing around the stacks and dreaming of trips I’d love to take.

idlewild books nyc interior

Up on Bleecker Street, also in the Village, bookbook provided another break from the heat and a fascinating place to browse. I picked up some good nonfiction at 50% off, including The Empathy Exams and H is for Hawk.

bookbook bookstore bleecker street west village nyc

I spent a good portion of my Sunday wandering the Upper West Side, and Book Culture on Columbus Ave. was a must. I love their huge ground floor full of gorgeous fiction, fascinating nonfiction and beautiful gifts, and their cozy children’s section in the basement is perfection. I came away with a whole stack: fiction, nonfiction and a couple of children’s books. And I loved this display toward the front of the store.

book culture women display

The Strand, with its 18 miles (!) of bookshelves, wasn’t far from my hotel, but I didn’t make it there until Sunday night – too busy wandering. I slipped in for a browse just before closing time and bought The Art of Slow Writing, which Addie had recommended. And then – because I could – I went back the next morning before my train left, and came away with a journal and a couple of gifts.

strand bookstore nyc exterior

I’m heading back to NYC later this fall, and a couple of these stores will definitely be on my list. If you’ve got other favorite NYC bookstores, let me know – I’m always looking for more bookish places to enjoy.

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brattle bookshop doors boston

Fall is the time to dig into new books (though, really, that’s every season around here). The doors above are from the outdoor sale lot of the fabulous Brattle Book Shop in Boston, and the books below are what I’ve been reading lately:

A Very Special Year, Thomas Montasser
I heard Liberty talk about this novel on All the Books and picked it up at Three Lives & Co. Valerie takes over her aunt Charlotte’s bookshop after Charlotte disappears. Despite her career plans, Valerie (of course) finds herself utterly seduced by the shop’s books and readers. A truly delightful slim novel, in the vein of The Haunted Bookshop or The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.

Outlander, Diana Gabaldon
I’d heard about this sweeping time-travel romance series from a dozen friends, plus my mom. Claire Randall is traveling with her husband in the Scottish Highlands after WWII when she steps through a circle of standing stones and finds herself in 1743. It’s a wild (often violent) ride as Claire adapts to an entirely different world and becomes tightly linked to the clan MacKenzie and a young outlaw called Jamie Fraser. Powerful storytelling, fascinating history and dry wit, though with waaaay more sex and violence than my usual fare.

Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms, Katherine Rundell
Wilhelmina “Will” Silver relishes her life running wild on the farm her father manages in Zimbabwe. But after his death, she’s sent to England and finds herself completely unequipped for the foreign, catty world of boarding school. I found the book’s African scenes much more fully realized than the English ones, but I loved Will’s fierce, bold spirit and Rundell’s writing. Found at Book Culture.

The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing, Richard Hugo
I’d never heard of Hugo’s poetry, but I found this essay collection at Book Culture and loved much of his wry, thoughtful advice on writing poetry and being a poet (two different things). Witty, aphoristic and encouraging, if a little uneven. A good read to start off the fall.

First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies, Kate Andersen Brower
The role of First Lady is visible, public and largely undefined – so each woman who takes on that mantle truly makes it her own. Brower draws a sharp, thoroughly researched, fascinating portrait of First Ladies from Jacqueline Kennedy to Michelle Obama. Really well done (and, obviously, so timely).

The Bell Family, Noel Streatfeild
I discovered Streatfeild via You’ve Got Mail, so I was delighted to find this novel at Book Culture on the Upper West Side (shades of The Shop Around the Corner!). The Bell family lives in a crowded vicarage in the East End of London, and their adventures are funny, sweet and altogether delightful.

Links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

What are you reading?

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halifax harbour j k

After our glorious five nights/four days in PEI, the hubs and I headed to Halifax for the weekend. We’d never been there, and we thoroughly enjoyed checking out this smallish, vibrant city on the water.

halifax harbour dusk

I’ve said it before: on vacation, we like to wander and we like to eat. That is exactly what we did in Halifax, for two days.

We arrived on a Friday afternoon, checked into our Airbnb apartment, and immediately went a-wandering. We found the Halifax Common, and a few streets away, DeeDee’s ice cream.

jer-deedees-ice-cream

(J’s berry-swirl ice cream happened to match his polo.)

katie-deedees-ice-cream

I had raspberry passionfruit sorbet, which is as tart and delicious as it sounds.

We strolled the neighborhood a while longer, then drove down to the waterfront that evening for dinner at the Bicycle Thief.

bicycle thief sculpture halifax

While we were waiting for our reservation (it was crowded), we walked along the harbourfront. Live musicians, food trucks, cool old ships, and lots of families out enjoying the lovely evening.

ships halifax harbour

When we did have dinner, it was delicious. I had a truly amazing lobster-corn chowder with new potatoes and bacon. (Also: their bread is focaccia and it’s homemade. Yum.)

bicycle-thief-chowder

We sat outside, and the view was as fantastic as the food.

bicycle thief restaurant halifax

We wandered around town in the long dusk, and split a decadent chocolate torte with raspberry sauce at the Middle Spoon. I could not get a good picture, but it was scrumptious.

The next morning, we headed to Annie’s Place for breakfast.

annies halifax

Annie herself welcomed us, and we had huge chai lattes (not that either of us were complaining) and excellent eggs, bacon and toast.

We spent most of the day exploring after that. First up was Woozles, an utterly charming children’s bookstore down the street from Annie’s.

woozles bookstore halifax

We didn’t spot any Heffalumps (or Woozles), but there were plenty of gorgeous books.

woozles interior

We also stopped by Bookmark – I’d been to their Charlottetown store, but enjoyed exploring this location.

bookmark halifax

The Halifax Public Gardens are close by, and they are gorgeous.

halifax public gardens

We’d heard the Halifax Central Library was worth seeing – though, to me, a library is always worth seeing. This one did not disappoint.

halifax central library

We ate lunch at the Seaport Farmers’ Market, then wandered back downtown, popping into more fun shops, including The Loop, a sweet little yarn shop.

loop yarn store halifax

For dinner that night, we ate at 2 Doors Down – really good pub food and local Nova Scotia wines.

two doors down halifax wine list

We weren’t quite ready for dessert, so we spent a while playing board games and eating popcorn at the Board Room Game Cafe. A Canadian friend had told us about this trend – it was so fun.

jer board room game cafe halifax

We capped off the night by splitting a slice of cheesecake at Sweet Hereafter. (It’s J’s favorite dessert.)

jer cheesecake sweet hereafter

We had to hit the road on Sunday, but stopped at Coastal Cafe for brunch first. J’s face says it all. (The huevos were amazing – some of the best Mexican food we’ve had outside of Texas.)

jer brunch halifax

Halifax, you are charming. Cheers!

halifax mural

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strand books nyc exterior

It’s no secret by now that the bookstores are the first place I go when I visit a city. This is particularly true of New York City, which has tons of great bookshops.

On my recent solo trip to NYC, I visited half a dozen – several new-to-me spots and one old favorite. So here’s a roundup of the bookstores I visited, what I bought and what I loved.

book culture columbus interior nyc

Book Culture has three locations on the Upper West Side. I’d visited the one on 112th Street before, but didn’t even know about the one on 82nd and Columbus Avenue. Luckily for me, it was right around the corner from where I was staying. The first floor is packed with beautiful books and gifts, and the children’s area in the basement is enchanting.

book culture childrens department

I spent ages in there on the first night of my trip, browsing the shelves. I bought three books (and a couple of other treasures) that night – then went back the next day and scored a lovely copy of Anne of Green Gables from the remainder table. (Because you can never have too many editions of Anne.)

westsider used books nyc

Westsider Used & Rare Books on 81st and Broadway is narrow, crowded and fascinating. I popped in for a browse on my first day in NYC, and loved eavesdropping on other patrons’ conversations with the owner. She said about an author whose name I didn’t catch, “Sometimes we put him in the philosophy section because he’s weird.”

I was a little overwhelmed, but picked up a Mrs. Pollifax mystery for just $3.

mysterious bookshop sign nyc

On my second day in NYC, I hopped a train down to TriBeCa for the express purpose of visiting the Mysterious Bookshop. What a fabulous name, no? (That’s the door sign above.) It’s nearly all mysteries, and the entire back wall is dedicated to Sherlock Holmes and Sherlockiana.

mysterious bookshop nyc

Also: multiple ladders you can climb to browse the stacks! Be still, my mystery-geek heart.

I left with three mysteries: one set in Oxford, one fun vintage find and one middle-grade mystery featuring Enola Holmes, Sherlock’s younger sister.

idlewild books nyc exterior

I love books and I love travel, so a travel bookstore is my happy place. Idlewild Books, on 19th St. just north of Union Square, is tiny but delightful. I picked up a Chicago travel guide for a friend (on sale) and a book about English football for my Tottenham Hotspur-loving husband.

The Strand needs no introduction from me. It’s a hulking wonderland at 12th and Broadway, near Union Square. It has 18 miles (!) of shelving on four floors.

strand bookstore exterior nyc

I’d been there once before, but couldn’t pass up the chance to go again. This is a slice of the first floor, taken from the staircase above:

strand interior nyc

And this is how my head felt after browsing the fiction, poetry, mysteries, food and kids’ sections:

fiction essentials sign strand bookstore

I did pop down to the basement to check out the travel and essay sections, too. Here’s what I bought:

strand books bag

Board books for a friend’s baby girl, a foodie exploration of New York, a meditation on “idle travel,” a chick-lit novel by an author I like, and possibly the only E.B. White essay collection I didn’t already own. (I love him.)

My shoulders were so sore from lugging my purchases around (and of course I’d brought half a dozen books with me). But my bookworm heart was so, so happy.

What are your favorite NYC bookstores? Any spots I missed?

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nashville guitar postcard

In mid-February, the hubs and I hopped a plane to Nashville, in an attempt to escape the frozen winter weather that (still) has Boston locked in its icy grip. We must have taken it with us, because we had two nights of near-record lows and a wicked ice storm that delayed our flight home by a day. (The same thing happened to us in West Texas over New Year’s.)

We still had a great time, though – a weekend full of books, friends and good food. Three of my favorite things.

katie bethany coffee shop

My college roommate Bethany (above) lives in Nashville, and she and her husband, Chad, welcomed us with open arms. So did their German shepherd puppy, Luna. She’s adorable – all long legs and jackrabbit ears.

luna puppy

Upon arrival, we headed straight to Pharmacy Burger in East Nashville, for delicious burgers and sweet potato fries. We then drove to a place I’ve been wanting to see since it opened: Parnassus Books.

parnassus books nashville

Two friendly shop dogs, a kids’ section with glowing stars hanging from the ceiling, quirky greeting cards, friendly booksellers, and shelves and shelves of books. It was everything I dreamed. (I bought a lovely novel, Etta and Otto and Russell and James.)

parnassus cooking travel section bookstore

Since I frequently bemoan the lack of good Mexican food in Boston, it was a treat to have dinner that night at Las Maracas. Enchiladas smothered in spicy salsa verde, plus delicious chips and salsa. Yes, please.

The next day, we headed to Tenn Sixteen for brunch – chicken and waffles. I’ve been skeptical about the combination, but these were delicious.

chicken and waffles

After brunch, Bethany and I headed to Edgehill Cafe for tea with the lovely Leigh Kramer.

katie leigh cafe

Leigh and I have been Internet friends for a few years, and we’ve been talking about meeting up for ages. The three of us sipped tea and chatted happily for more than two hours. I only wish we’d had more time together.

Bethany and I caught up with the guys later at the Opryland Hotel. It’s a gorgeous building – but what really captured my attention was the (indoor) landscaping.

opryland hotel

Green plants! Ferns! Orchids! In the middle of winter! (I may be a tiny bit traumatized by all the snow and ice we’ve had in New England.)

For a Valentine’s Day double date that evening, we had crepes at the Red Bicycle in Madison. We were the only customers, and as we were finishing our savory crepes, the cooks brought out this creation:

valentine dessert crepe

Strawberries, chocolate and whipped cream. With hearts. Adorable. (And delicious.)

The next morning, after church and a lunch of Thai food, we headed to Barista Parlor (possibly the most hipster place I’ve ever set foot in).

Bethany had a gourmet hot chocolate flight:

bethany hot chocolate

And the guys amused themselves making hipster faces:

jer hipster face barista parlor

The highlight of the afternoon was seeing our friends Lawson and Lindsey, who drove over to meet us on super-short notice.

katie lawson

Lawson is an old friend from college days. We hadn’t seen each other in several years, but we slipped right back into easy conversation. It was the first time we’d met Lindsey (though we have lots of mutual friends), and she is lovely.

The freezing rain started on Sunday night, so we spent the rest of our trip hanging out at Bethany and Chad’s house. Eating pizza and pancakes and drinking lots of tea. Playing card games and guitar. Watching movies and playing with Luna. And, of course, talking to our hearts’ content.

Bethany and I used to share not only a house, but so much of our lives: friends and a church, a college and a workplace, in a way that’s not possible now. We have built our own lives in different cities, but I miss having her close by. So it was wonderful to step into her world for a few days. We were long overdue for some concentrated time together. And it was lovely.

Nashville, you’re all right. We’ll definitely be back.

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Around here, Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer. I had the day off, and the hubs did too (after one early meeting) – so we hopped in the car and headed north to Portsmouth, N.H.

portsmouth street

We’d been to Portsmouth once before, taking a day trip last summer to poke around the downtown area and browse several bookstores. We did that this time, too, but first we had a different, specific mission in mind: Mexican food.

vida cantina portsmouth nh

After nearly four years in New England, I’d all but given up on finding decent Mexican food anywhere in this area besides my own kitchen. We make burritos and enchiladas regularly, but we miss the fiery salsas and distinctive flavors of the Tex-Mex restaurants in our home state. (Hence why I ate four Mexican meals during my recent trip to Austin.)

Needless to say, we were excited – though a bit nervous – to check out Vida Cantina, on a recommendation from one of J’s co-workers.

jer tacos vida portsmouth nh

I think his face says it all.

We stuffed ourselves with chips and three kinds of salsa (including the best salsa verde I’ve had in months), then munched on several varieties of taco – chicken, two kinds of fish and fried avocado. While the tacos were a little chichi and a lot hipster (the menu involves kale and pork confit), they were fresh, filling and delicious. More Mexicali than Tex-Mex – but who’s complaining? Not this girl.

tacos vida cantina portsmouth nh

After clearing our plates, we headed downtown, where we spent several hours wandering in and out of shops. We tasted jams and mustards at the Stonewall Kitchen shop, savored ice cream from Annabelle’s

annabelles ice cream portsmouth nh

…and browsed the shelves at both RiverRun Bookstore and the delightful (and extensive) Book & Bar.

portsmouth book & bar

Bonus: I snapped this photo of a gorgeous rainbow bookshelf at the whimsical Pickwick’s Mercantile.

books by color portsmouth nh

All in all, a wonderful day out with my love. Portsmouth, you were delightful. (And delicious.)

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Recently, my friend Abigail had two questions for me: “What are you doing this weekend?” And “Do you want to go to Maine with me?”

Abi’s co-worker and friend, Lisa, was getting married in Maine, and Abi and her husband had planned to go, but then he couldn’t get that Saturday off work. She really wanted to go, she said, but she wasn’t eager to make the four-hour drive alone. Would I be up for a one-night getaway to a tiny Maine town, complete with an outdoor wedding?

I was.

abi katie harbor

Abi and I have been friends since our college days in Texas, when we sang in our school choir and on our church’s praise team together, along with the men who would become our husbands. (Together, the four of us make a perfect vocal quartet. She’s a soprano married to a bass; I am an alto married to a tenor.) They moved up to Boston about a month before we did, and I am constantly, deeply grateful for the presence of a longtime friend in a city that still feels new and overwhelming at times.

Bonus: she’s available for fun adventures like this one.

We left on Saturday morning, whiling away the miles with conversation. (We can talk for hours, and do, when given the chance.) We reached our hotel just after 2 p.m., and after a flurry of check-in and clothing changes and primping, we hopped back in the car and headed down a few country roads to the farm where the wedding was being held.

We arrived at 2:55, a little nervous because the wedding was supposed to start at 3. But we needn’t have worried: we had ample time to hang around, drinking lemonade from mason jars, before the ceremony finally started around 3:30. (It was, shall we say, a laid-back affair.)

abi katie wedding

We hung around in the wedding tent (above), enjoying cold hors d’oeuvres, then dinner, and some serious dancing. The party was still revving up when we left – but we were ready for a girls’ night in. We changed into pajamas and flipped through InStyle magazines and talked until midnight. And in the morning, we headed out to explore Camden.

downtown camden maine

We enjoyed breakfast at Boynton-McKay, which included buttermilk biscuits, a delicious omelet (for me) and steaming cups of Earl Grey (for both of us). Fortified, we spent several happy hours strolling downtown, poking into adorable shops.

We visited three bookstores, including Stone Soup, a tiny rabbit warren of used books:

stone soup books exterior camden maine

stone soup books interior camden maine

Abi (who teaches preschool) was ecstatic to find the children’s section:

stone soup used books camden maine

She bought a couple of picture books. I scored a vintage E.M. Forster hardback and a Trixie Belden mystery – I used to love reading about Trixie’s adventures with Honey, Jim and the rest of the Bob-Whites.

After visiting Once a Tree (where I bought a gorgeous, Maine-made wooden cutting board), we headed down a side street for some harbor views:

camden maine harbor boats

We couldn’t pass up the Owl & Turtle Bookshop, with its hilarious sign out front:

owl turtle bookshop sign camden me

And its animals keeping watch over the door:

owl turtle bookshop sign camden maine

The interior is also charming:

owl turtle bookshop interior camden maine

We grabbed some sandwiches (and a blueberry crumble bar) at Fresh Bakery, and then, regrettably, it was time to hit the road.

We hit some heavy traffic on our way back – it took us an hour more than the trip up – but we chatted and snacked and laughed our way back to Boston. We felt the way you feel after the best road trips: tired and hungry but content, sated with sunshine, good talk and the glow of a weekend adventure together.

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