In between hitting up all the top attractions when visiting Boston, it’s worth checking out at least a few specialty shops depending on your interests. If you’re a book lover or simply want to take a few minutes to relax and post up with a cup of coffee, Boston has many independent bookstores to pop into.
Read on for some of the best bookstores in Boston to choose from.
While its name may be misleading, the Harvard Book Store isn’t just for Harvard University students—book lovers of all ages and backgrounds can buy both new and used books here. You can find the Harvard Book Store at Harvard Square in Cambridge, which is easily accessible via public transportation on the MBTA Red Line.
Their warehouse in Somerville, which is only open to the public a few times a year, offers a healthy selection of discounted books. It's a 15- to 20-minute walk from the Porter Square T stop—but it's totally worth the trek if you want to pad your home library. Check the Harvard Book Store's website to see if it's open when you're in town.
In addition to the bookstore, they also have the Harvard Book Store Café on Newbury Street, which has been running since 1980.
Located on Newbury Street in the Back Bay, this popular Boston bookstore has been in business since 1984. In addition to books, they sell magazines, cards, and gifts. Trident hosts a variety of events, such as book clubs, trivia, paint nights, beer tastings, and author readings.
They also have a full-service restaurant, where they serve an all-day breakfast as well as smoothies, tacos, burgers, and more. Note that the restaurant takes reservations on weekdays only.
The Brattle Book Shop has even more history than Trident, as it dates back to 1825 and has been owned by the Gloss family since 1949. And while Trident sells new books, Brattle is one of the country’s oldest and largest sellers of used books, with more than 250,000 books, prints, maps, and more available. Here you’ll find two floors of used books, along with a third floor containing rare finds like first editions and other collectibles.
If you have a specific book you’re on the hunt for, you can submit a form online and get a response within a couple days. For those looking to sell books, they’ll take walk-in appointments if you come in with 200 books or less.
This nonprofit is much more than a bookstore. More Than Words works to teach young adults in challenging situations—such as those who are homeless or living in foster care—what it takes to run a business. With that, this bookselling business has individuals between the ages of 16 to 24 learn all kinds of skills as they help manage the online and retail stores, run events, and participate in the wholesale side of the business.
The Boston location of More Than Words is home to over 40,000 books, in addition to the events space which can be rented out.
The iconic Curious George Store was a Harvard Square staple for 23 years before it shut down in 2019. As a family-friendly destination for both locals and tourists alike, the bookshop has lived on, noting on its website that it's under new management and fans should continue to follow along for updates.
Located in downtown Boston, Commonwealth Books has more than 40,000 books to choose from, offering everything from current titles and poetry to medieval manuscripts, prints, maps, and more. While they haven’t been in business as long as some of the other Boston bookstores, Commonwealth Books has become another popular spot in the 25 years it's been open. The store owners pride themselves on offering “an interesting and affordable collection of hard-to-find books and prints for both the scholar and collector.”
Located in Jamaica Plain, this woman-owned indie bookshop has been a go-to for those in the community since it opened in 2014. The owner, Kate Layte, worked in the book industry for a decade before using her knowledge to open her own store. Papercuts has an extensive collection of new books and is proud to offer even more books from self- and independently-published authors thanks to their consignment program.
The Brookline Booksmith is another oldie-but-goodie bookstore that can be found in Coolidge Corner, just outside Boston.
Originally called the Paperback Booksmith, this bookstore has been around since 1961 and has always been known for their wide range of—you guessed it—paperback books. They were one of the first to focus on soft covers, along with organizing books by category and author instead of by publisher.
In 2004, Brookline Booksmith opened their Used Book Cellar in the basement of the shop, which offers more than 25,000 books. The store also hosts a variety of events, including book clubs and children’s story time.