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Posts Tagged ‘Brattle’

I love books. (In case you didn’t already know.) I love reading them, talking about them, lending them to friends, receiving them as gifts or loans from friends, checking them out of the library, smelling them, flipping through them, writing about them.

I go through them pretty fast, so it’s nowhere near practical for me to buy all the books I read – hence my ardent adoration of libraries, and of borrowing books from friends. But I love to buy them when I can. And like a good reader/writer/bookworm, who doesn’t want to see the publishing industry go under or switch solely over to e-books or be totally monopolized by Amazon, I try to do most of my buying at local indies. (Most notably, my beloved Brattle – for used books – and the Booksmith, with occasional forays to Concord. And, okay, I sometimes still order occasionally from Amazon.)

I was sad to hear Borders had filed for bankruptcy and is closing more than 200 stores – though a tiny part of me cheered for the indies who will (I hope) see more business from this development. Mostly I worried for the future of the book industry in general – as lots of publishing professionals have said, fewer bookstores means fewer places to sell books, for everyone. And I’m sad for the communities in which Borders is the local bookstore, similar to the way in which Barnes & Noble is the (only) bookstore in my hometown.

However, I’ve been heading down on a semi-regular basis to the Borders near Copley Square, to scope out the deals at its closing sale. On my most recent visit, I scored three trade paperbacks for $23. This was after picking through shelves of disorganized books, shoved into crooked lines under scribbled-over signs with discounts larger than the section names. And though I was glad to score a deal, I felt a little like a vulture, picking over the remains of a carcass.

There’s something here about the devaluing of books in general, and supporting the big chains because discounts are attractive (which is the exact reason The Shop Around the Corner closed in You’ve Got Mail), and also something about not having the budget to buy nor the room to store all the books I’d like to own. I can’t quite articulate all the layers, nor am I seeking to condemn anyone for where they buy their books. (And I know some folks love their Kindles and nooks and iPads, though I am such a paper book fanatic that I don’t want one.)

But seeing the unruly shelves and the crossed-out discounts (replaced by higher discounts) and the empty space on the second floor, cordoned off like a crime scene with yellow Caution tape, really got to me. It felt like taking part in the dismantling of the store, though I know Borders’ problems go well beyond my ken. Nevertheless, I won’t be going back there. I’ll be more committed to doing my book shopping at the Booksmith and Brattle and other indies I love – because while I was sad to see this Borders close, I think I’d cry if any of my favorites had to close up shop.

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When Bethany traveled to Boston a year ago, she came home singing the praises of Brattle Book Shop, and blaming it for some overweight luggage (hers and other people’s) on the way home. Last week, I had a free afternoon and restless feet, so I hopped the T into the city to see for myself.

And oh MY. It’s a treasure house, people. I’m lucky I didn’t spend hundreds of dollars and come home lugging dozens of books. For look what meets your eye when you walk up:

Book stalls and book carts galore! Just like at my beloved Shakespeare & Co. in Paris! And ALL the books outside are $5 or less. There’s a fair bit of stuff to wade through, especially on the $1 racks, but a lot worth looking at and quite a bit worth having. And I love the fun art on the alley walls.

The carts are wheeled in at night, best I can guess, and the shelves are locked up. I spotted some of the sliding door panels resting in a corner:

Inside, there are three floors of literary goodness – fiction, New England interest, politics, philosophy, history, languages, children’s and MORE. I could have spent HOURS, and oh how I coveted the beautiful rare edition of Anne of the Island, sitting in the rare-book case. (Alas, I don’t have $250 to spare. And Serenity, I thought of you.)

I did come home with one treasure: an early edition of Jean Webster’s Daddy-Long-Legs. I’d heard of it because it features in Dear Pen Pal, part of the Mother-Daughter Book Club series, but I’d never read it. It’s such a charming story – and isn’t my copy beautiful?

Needless to say, I’ll be going back to Brattle often, and I’ll take all my bookish friends there when they come to visit. I haven’t even been to the rare-book room yet – though I’m sure I’ll find lots to covet, and perhaps even something to take home.

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