National Independent Bookstore Day

Douglas Forsythe

The story for this article starts a week or so back when I was, like a normal teenager, watching a little documentary on the Rare Book Business in New York. I could literally describe the film for an entire article’s worth of time but I also want to get another point across. So, instead, I will tell you the name and a streaming service or two that it is available on. The film is titled The Booksellers and can be found on Amazon Prime with a membership, Kanopy via an account via the Boston public library (accessible to anyone with a library card from the state of Massachusetts), and on Pluto TV for Free with ads. Anyway, I can most recall two scenes in particular. The first one is where one of the people being interviewed says something along the lines of “You know, before Barnes and Noble came along, “Independent Bookstores” were just called “bookstores,” because that’s what they were.” The other scene can basically be summed up as the expression of  general frustration exhibited by independent bookstore owners towards companies such as “Barnes and Noble” and “Amazon.” 

Right around this point in the Documentary, after listening to all these people talk about the struggles of owning and operating a rare/used book business,  I began to remember something that had been nagging at the back of my brain for a week or two. On April 24th, it will be National Independent Bookstore Day. It has been a hobby of mine to go around to various independent and used bookstores for years now. With the pandemic going on, and numerous shops closing, I have also been trying to buy something at every store to try and keep them open.  The other thing about these stores (mainly the used bookstores) is that the books are typically cheaper than those from Barnes and Noble or Amazon. Knowing that there are most definitely readers and book collectors out there at LHS, I am hoping that now I can spread the word of this endangered species of the store, so that it may one day thrive again. They might not have the vast selection that Barnes and Noble or Amazon may have, but smaller stores will have something for everyone.

To get your path to support started, here are a few small bookstores that I know of. The first 3 are favorites of mine. In Littleton, Massachusetts lies a little book shop nestled near a record store and grocery shop. Valley Wild Books is one of my more frequented stores, because of how close it is to Lowell as well as the general friendliness of the staff. It is open every day, except Tuesday, from 10 AM-8 PM. With a selection ranging from children’s stories to classics novels, from sci-fi and fantasy to cookbooks and Manga, Valley Wild Books truly has a nice variety in its collection. This, along with the rewards program for frequent customers, makes it a nice stop on any day. 

Up Next is the Used Book Superstore up in Burlington, Massachusetts. The sheer volume and variety of books that this store has been amazing. It has shelves upon shelves of every genre that anyone could ask for. I would say this store might just have it all. It also has movies and CDs, but the main reason to go, in my opinion at least, is the books. The store is open 10 AM-7 PM on all days except Sunday when it closes up a bit earlier. 

Up next is Toadstool Bookshops in Peterborough, NH. They have a nice mix of used and new books. This store also has a good selection of CDs. This store is part of a chain which is scattered across New England. This is actually the only store in the entire chain that sells used and new books. The store is open 10 AM-6 PM on weekdays, 10 AM-5 PM on Saturdays, and 10 AM-4 PM on Sundays.

Up next are a few that are a bit harder to get to due to the pandemic and/or traveling distance. In Portsmouth, New Hampshire there are 3 book stores that I know of. There is Riverrun Books, a small store with a nice selection. It is open 10 AM-6 PM on all days except Thursdays. Then there is Sheafe Street Books. One of several stores on this list that is run out of older houses/stores, Sheafe Street Books is a wonder to be inside. Walls completely covered with books. This is the one bookstore I always stop by when I’m in Portsmouth because I can always find something interesting. It is open Tuesday-Thursday from 10 AM-6 PM, 10 AM-7 PM Friday-Saturday, 11 AM-5 PM on Sunday, and closed Monday. 

Up next are two stores that I have heard about but have not visited. In Boston, there is Brattle Book Shop. One of the older stores in the state, it deals mainly in used/antiquarian books. With up to three stories (ha!) of books, it is definitely a good stop for anyone with the time and willingness to sit through the traffic to get into Boston. It is always open 9 AM-5:30 PM. There is also Lawrence’s El Taller Books. Both a cafe and a bookstore, El Taller is open to all and features books in both English and Spanish. They hold a selection with a very diverse range of authors. El Taller also works with the Lawrence community in many ways. It is only open on weekdays from 10 AM-6 PM.

So, whether you want to try and find a copy of Asimov’s I, Robot, that isn’t a movie tie-in (it’s a hard battle to find one but worth it), or an old vintage copy of Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, make sure to go out at some point on April 24th to support any of the independent or used Bookstores (listed here or otherwise) to find what you’re looking for. Who knows, it might actually be more fun than you think it would be.