Today’s Spotlight on Bookstores is written by Deborah Noyes, the author of Captivity, a historical novel combining the true story of the Fox sisters who started the American Spiritual movement in the mid-1800s with a completely fictional thread about its impact on a certain woman with a tragic past. A previous novel, Angel and Apostle, was also published by Unbridled Books. Not only does Deb write novels for adults, she has written books for children, is an editor, and a photographer whose work has appeared in many publications and exhibitions.
In this essay, Deb speaks of her fondness for Longfellow Books in Portland, Maine, and Harvard Bookstore and Porter Square Books (both in Cambridge, Mass.). Porter Square Books is having a special author event on June 15, 2010 – the official launch party for Captivity! I haven’t yet visited this near-to-me bookstore, and I’m hoping I can make it in; by the way she describes the children’s department and café area, my brood will be entertained as well. Here’s Deb:
Choosing a favorite bookstore is like choosing a favorite book. That is, impossible, at least for me. So I have to call out at least a couple of alternates.
One is Longfellow Books in Portland, ME. This is an intimate, quirky “fiercely independent community bookstore” where the owners and staff know their stuff and their customers and hand sell like crazy.
The other is Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge, MA. Another post has them covered so I won’t linger except to say they’re a mainstay and terrific.
The store I most often haunt today seemed like a suspect idea when it first arrived in the neighborhood in early 2004 or so.
Porter Square Books is the centerpiece of a strip mall — with a Shaw’s supermarket on one end and a Dunkin’ Donuts on the other. I had my doubts that an indie-minded store could take root in such soil, but PSB, owned and run by a handful of bookish friends with long experience in the industry, transcended the generic surroundings immediately, making the most of a high-traffic location steps from the Red Line T and Tufts University.
Today it’s a destination store offering some of the best author and book events in the area. There’s something going on almost every evening — across a broad range of genres and subject matter — and the events are energetically promoted.
On any given afternoon, you’ll find the counter in the wide front windows lined with laptop coffee drinkers (the store’s Café Zing is a destination all its own; my daughter and I often stop in just for the Vietnamese spring rolls).
PSB stocks a great selection of speculative fare, short story collections, audio, graphic novels, and off-the-beaten track offerings, as well as a wide range of journals and lit mags, and the staff picks are always interesting. (One thing I miss — at least I couldn’t find it the last time I was in — is the “Best of Both Worlds” section, where young adult and adult books of interest to teens [“crossover”] were shelved together. )
For all its intellectual trappings, the store is kid friendly, too, with a large nook in the rear of the store where they can sit, sprawl, read, or play with wooden toys while their adults roam the aisles. And you can always, quickly, zip in and find the perfect card or gift.