Need a reading? From second-hand novels to slightly broken paperbacks, these seven used bookstores prove that new isn’t always better.
A beautifully filled shelf is something to admire, but it takes a lot of work to achieve. And for anyone who likes owning books rather than checking them out at the library, a trip to a second-hand bookstore can be a way to fill those lovely shelves without spending too much.
But a good used bookstore is also usually a great repository for oddities and rarities. Sure, you might find a copy of a recent bestseller that someone has already read and thrown away, but at best, second-hand bookstores offer the perfect opportunity to browse and discover the treasure you have. didn’t know you needed.
From nonprofits to diversity-focused vendors and bargain cellars, these second-hand bookstores around Boston are paving the way for voracious readers to have the book collections of their dreams.
wonder of the book
Don’t be fooled by the small appearance of this bookseller (it occupies a corner of Medford’s 4GoodVibes gift shop). Its collection of graphic novels and books for all ages is powerful. Book Wonder’s selection focuses on stories that shine a light on underrepresented communities, including people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and people with disabilities, to name a few, books from children’s images to young adult fiction. All sales help fund her Little Free Diverse Library in downtown Medford, as well as donations to local classrooms and libraries.
4GoodVibes, 392 Main St., Medford, 617-312-2660, facebook.com/bebookwonder.
Probably Boston’s most photographed bookstore, the Brattle’s exterior carts filled with assorted used books are instantly recognizable. In hot weather, there’s no reason not to spend an hour or more scouring the tomes for a hidden gem. If you want a little more organization, inside the three-story shop you can find everything from fiction to history, cookbooks to biographies, and a rare book room filled with first editions, collectibles, and more. There are also maps, prints and postcards, if you prefer pictures over words.
9 West St., Boston, 617-542-0210, brattlebookshop.com.
If you’re up for a scavenger hunt, head to Brookline Booksmith. You might not even realize there’s a treasure trove of leftovers (or publisher surplus books), children’s books and more right under your feet – in the used book cellar, for to be more precise. Affordable finds range from recently released popular reads to classics, essay collections, feminist literature, graphic novels, memoirs – we could go on and on. Browse the stacks (or their website, if you don’t want to leave home) and be sure to check back often for new arrivals.
279 Harvard St., Brookline, 617-566-6660, brooklinebooksmith.com.
A wide selection of antique prints and maps is another reason to visit Commonwealth Books. The first reason is the collection of more than 40,000 titles, ranging from mysteries to architecture, arts and philosophy, to medieval manuscript pages (yes, you read that right). You probably won’t find many modern romance novels here, as they lean towards the classics. But who knows, there might be a few bestsellers hidden away on the shelves. But you’re more likely to find a few leather-bound Charlotte Brontë novels, children’s books, vintage magazines and comics, or niche history and reference books that you didn’t know you wanted to put on. your to-read list.
9 Spring Ln., Boston, 617-338-6328, commonwealthbooks.com.
A basement of books with deep discounts on everything from tutorials and science fiction to self-help and psychology? Count on us. The aisles of this Harvard Square store are always bustling, but claim your right to the shelves and scan the thorns at your leisure. A few times a year, the Harvard Bookstore also holds a big extra sale at its Somerville warehouse, so be on the lookout for an invitation to buy its carefully curated selection of books at low prices, including overstock tomes in like new condition.
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-661-1515, harvard.com.
Raven Used Books
Just beyond the hub of Harvard Square activity is a literary oasis. Walk down Church Street and find a red awning storefront just waiting for you to sift through its shelves for shelves of novels, poetry and an entire wall dedicated to art books (if you’re looking for a almost mint coffee table book at a reasonable price). There are also plenty of leftover and surplus books — which, for non-bibliophiles, are almost new excess inventory from publishers. Your literary snobs friends will be none the wiser when you add a few to your shelves.
23 Church St., Cambridge, 617-441-6999, ravencambridge.com.
more than words
What’s better than slightly used books? Those who give. More Than Words is a nonprofit organization that employs Boston youth to run its online, retail, and wholesale book programs. It allows people who are homeless, in the foster care system or involved in the courts to gain work experience and even benefit from a career services program once their work at More Than Words is over. Every purchase, whether it’s a second-hand classic purchased from the organization’s website or a best-seller from their South End or Waltham storefront, benefits the organization’s mission to purpose non-profit. Plus, their bright space is filled with plush desks and armchairs perfect for a quick read.
242 East Berkeley Street, Boston; 56 Felton Street, Waltham; 781-788-0035, mtwyouth.org.