Home to some of the world’s leading universities (Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for example), it should come as no surprise that Cambridge seems to be a stronghold for quirky, independent bookstores.
And while you can always cross the Charles for a large-scale bookseller like Barnes & Noble, the bookstores in Cambridge are charming in their intimacy. There are shops that specialize in foreign language texts, that sell university souvenirs and clothing alongside shelves of brand-new best sellers, and those that sell rare and used books at wallet-pleasing prices.
Whether you’re searching for a leisurely read or an academic textbook, you don’t have to look too far to discover a wonderful bookstore on this side of the river.
Schoenhof’s Foreign Books
Visitors from around the world can find a good book to tuck into at this bookstore, which specializes in foreign language texts. Founded in 1856, Schoenhof’s Foreign Books claims to be the oldest shop of its kind in the country, and to have the largest collection of international texts in all of North America. Come here to browse thousands of titles in Latin, German, French, Spanish, and even Japanese.
Harvard Book Store
Not just for matriculated students, the university’s eponymous shop carries a healthy mix of new releases and academic titles. And it’s not just novels on the shelves. An in-house printer can turn digital anthologies into physical works (check out the shop’s curated anthologies of travel writing and short stories). The Harvard Book Store is also a popular spot for Cambridge souvenirs, like Harvard-crested sweatshirts.
Raven Used Books
Owner John Petrovato recently moved his popular used bookstore to Church Street, in Harvard Square. He stocks some 15,000 titles, and are between 50 and 80 percent off the cover price. The liberal arts (particularly philosophy, art and architecture, music, among others) are particularly well represented.
Bryn Mawr Book Store
Just a 15-minute walk from Freepoint Hotel, this shop on Huron Avenue donates all proceeds to Bryn Mawr College. Some 30,000 texts, spanning virtually every, can be found inside the shop (including rare texts). Be sure to bring cash or your checkbook, however, as credit cards are not accepted.
Porter Square Books
Located in the Porter Square Shopping Center, this independent bookseller is a great place to pick up a signed tome from a local author (like Celeste Ng, or young adult author M.T. Anderson).Visitors can also refuel with a bite from Cafe Zing, which sells coffee and tea alongside locally-baked goods.