Spotlight on Bookstores: Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Massachusetts
You know how they say “you can’t go home again” ? Well, when it comes to the Harvard Book Store, “they” are wrong!
Today I’m going to share a little about one of my favorite bookstores. Now, usually I don’t say favorite in these Spotlight posts, I just want to highlight what makes each store special, without labelling one as my favorite. But, how can I not call it a favorite bookstore? Every time I visit it brings back great memories, and I feel about 15 years younger; it’s hard to beat that!
When J and I were dating back in the early 90s he had an apartment near Harvard Square. We each spent a lot of time there individually, but shared many evenings together grabbing dinner (or, at least, ice cream!) and browsing the bookstores.
In those earlier student days I spent most of my time at the Harvard Book Store in the lower level. That’s where they shelved (and still do!) used books and remainders. I was often able to get used lit books for classes, and purchased many fine gifts from the remainder tables. I haven’t sold any used books to the store, but it seems the process is straight-forward, with guidelines clearly outlined on their website.
We moved out of state after getting married, and always tried to squeeze Cambridge into our list of areas to visit when we’d come back to see friends. Now that we’ve moved back, I’m happy to have it on a regular rotation when we get into Harvard Square. It was great to be able to introduce our kids to the store; they are also too fond of books!
I still enjoy the bargains I can find in the lower level, but I spend more time on the main floor now. New arrivals, bestsellers, staff recommendations, and undiscovered gems … you can find it all here. If I know what I’m looking for, but it’s not on the shelves, the friendly staff will have it ordered and shipped to me.
Speaking of shipping, Harvard Book Store has a very cool eco-friendly delivery service (how perfect that this post is running on Earth Day!). They’ve recently begun a bicycle delivery service for the surrounding towns, offering same- to 3-day deliveries, depending on location. I live too far away to use this service, but I applaud their initiative.
Back in the “dark ages” (1993) we had very limited email; now I’m a subscriber to the weekly News, which details newsworthy items (#amazonfail), new arrivals, book club info, and upcoming events.
The author events offered by Harvard Book Store are incredible. Many are held in the store itself; I wondered where they would house these, then I saw that the bookcases are on casters so they can be pushed to the side. Larger events are held at the Brattle Theater or First Parish Church, just a few blocks away (pic of David Ebershoff from a reading last fall).
The store has a frequent buyer program, which electronically tracks your purchases. After $100 in purchases you earn a 20% discount on a single purchase (not a single item, this is a great deal!). They offer other discounts throughout the year, and have partnered with a few museums and theaters to offer discounts. I really like the program because they track sales using a plastic card that I keep on my key ring – no large membership cards or punch cards to fill up my wallet!
If you’re in Cambridge, the Harvard Book Store is a must! It’s easy to get to via public transportation, about a block from the Harvard Square T and bus stops. There’s lots to do in the area (lots and lots!), including visits to Harvard and its museums (this pic was taken looking out from the Yard), music, people-watching, etc. And, how can you argue with an “age-defying” bookstore?!