Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Boston's North Shore- A Used Bookstore Tour

Just about the only thing I enjoy more than fried seafood in summertime is finding a new bookstore.

Last week, my husband and I decided to take a day and do some book shopping. Big surprise, right? Well, instead of hitting our favorite indies or checking out the new big-box chain, we decided to drive up to Cape Ann, on Boston's north shore, to visit four new-to-us used bookstores.

After a delicious lunch of fried clams at the magnificent Clam Box (246 High St., Ipswich, Mass.), we headed to nearby Rowley and the fun Broken In Books (317 Haverhill St., Rowley, Mass.).

Broken In Books stocks a great mix of used paperbacks and hardcovers in most genres; you can find neatly organized shelves and piles of new arrivals and random things, as well as glass-cased collectibles and rarities. I browsed the craft section while Jeff got a first edition of a David Eddings book, The Demon Lord of Karanda.

After a pleasant time at Broken In Books, we headed off to Middleton and Hand It Back Book Smyth (240 S. Main St., Middleton, Mass.), a smaller strip-mall bookstore. But don't let the size fool you. Hand It Back Book Smyth is stocked wall-to-wall with all the books you could want. The plentiful and well-organized sections for romance novels and science fiction got my attention at first, but a little wander lead me to their nice selection of general fiction. You can spend a good long time among their generous offerings.

Once you're done here, head over to Richardson's Ice Cream (156 S. Main St., Rte 114, Middleton, Mass.) for one of their legendary cones.

Once we had enjoyed one cone of pineapple coconut ice cream (me) and one of German chocolate cake (Jeff), it was time to head up to Manchester-by-the-Sea for what turned out to be my favorite bookstore of the day, Manchester By the Book (27 Union St., Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass.).

All I can say is, wow. Lately I've found myself collecting Margaret Atwood first editions and this remarkable store full to the brim with rare and collectible volumes had an entire shelf of them. And they had a beautiful Folio Society edition of Jane Eyre, and all very reasonable. I came home with the Jane Eyre, two Canadian Atwood firsts (Wilderness Tips and Bodily Harm), one British first (The Robber Bride) and a British first edition of A.S. Byatt's Angels and Insects. It wasn't the cheapest bookstore run ever, but it wasn't that bad, all told, and I found some real treasures without even getting past the B section.

We went out to the picturesque seaside town of Gloucester for our final bookstore of the day, the Dogtown Book Shop (132 Main St., Gloucester, Mass.) Dogtown has a respectable collection of used fiction but it seemed to me that its real strength is in nonfiction, especially nautical and local history. Dogtown also has a lot of really rare and valuable old books, cased in of course, as well as an interesting collection of old cookbooks and art history. I spent all my money in Manchester by the Book so while I did enjoy a nice browse, I didn't end up buying anything here.

But I did discover four great new bookstores, all of which I'm sure I'll be visiting again!