Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sunday Salon - Nantucket Bookshopping

My husband and I are spending Fourth of July weekend at my inlaws' place on the island of Nantucket, off Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It's nice here, very peaceful, a nice place to read and relax. I'm still reading Pravda and A Voyage Long and Strange; I have some reviews to write but today though I wanted to talk about bookstores on the island of Nantucket.

Nantucket is an affluent, picturesque New England resort town. It came to prominence as a whaling and shipping center in the 18th and 19th centuries, along with towns like New Bedford, Fall River and Salem, Massachusetts. These days it's home to plutocrats and rich kids from New York and Boston, as well as seasonal workers from countries like Bulgaria, Russia, Ireland and Guatemala. Franchise-free (except for gas and groceries) it boasts some great shopping and eating as well as outdoor recreational activities.

But I'm a book girl, and when I go to Nantucket I just like to curl up and read. I do bring books but of course I like to shop for them too.

The two main bookstores are Nantucket Bookworks and Mitchell's Book Corner. Both of the main stores are in the center of town and since Nantucket is famously un-chain-friendly both are independent.

Nantucket Bookworks on Broad Street is a cozy shop selling a variety of fiction, nonfiction, touristy books and childrens' books, as well as gifts and accessories. This is the place to go for the serious reader. It's open late, until 10:30 daily until December (when the hours shorten slightly to an 8 pm closing time), and has a friendly, relatively uncluttered layout. The staff are great and I almost always leave with some new discovery.

Mitchell's Book Corner is on busy main street, right in the middle of the action, and its claim to fame is having the largest selection of books about Nantucket on the island. It's deceptively small; when you first walk in it feels very tight and cramped but it goes back pretty far and has a huge selection of historical and gift books about Nantucket and Cape Cod. It also has a great selection of children's books at the front of the store and a small selection of fiction somewhere towards the middle. I usually come well-stocked with books when I come to Nantucket but there are have been times when Mitchell's has saved me in some reading pinch.
When I first started coming here I used to think of Mitchell's as just the place you went to buy maps and coffee table books but it's really a unique little place. A while ago they featured a reprint of the 1931 novel Smuggler's Luck, by Nantucket historian Edouard A. Stackpole and featuring a forward by the author's son. This book is exactly the kind of specialty, hard-to-find material you can expect to find at Mitchell's.
The various museums also offer some specialty maritime material although I have to admit I'm not as familiar with them. For more Nantucket book resources and links to museums and some individual author pages, you can click here.
Happy reading and I hope everyone is having (or had) a great Fourth of July weekend.