Better Know a Bookseller is a new feature on this blog where we’ll introduce one of our wonderful stockists. Publishing this series is only half the battle, and the booksellers in these stores all over the world really help keep us alive. If you are a bookseller or know of a store near you that stocks 33 1/3 please get in touch!
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
Follow Harvard Book Store on Twitter!
Answers from Serena Longo, marketing assistant, with contributions from the rest of the staff.
- Where is your store located?
We’re located in Harvard Square at 1256 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts, right across the street from Harvard Yard.
- Describe who is in your store at 5pm on a Tuesday. What are they buying?
- Students, picking up the novels and poetry for their English courses
- visitors and tourists, loading up on postcards, discovering titles among our collections of curated suggestions, and books to read on the plane home
- professors browsing our Academic New Arrivals display
- families back in the kids section
- curious folks watching our book printing machine in action
- locals dropping in to check out what that evening’s author event is going to be, wandering the shelves, browsing our used section downstairs, or just stopping by for a chocolate bar or newspaper.
- Describe your most memorable customer interaction.
One of my favorite memories: around last Christmas, a customer had asked me for a recommendation, not for a gift, just for something to read. I grabbed a copy of Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel and a copy of The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters and told her a bit about each. When I was done, she asked me which I’d go for if I had to choose. I said I really wasn’t sure, because those were my two favorite books of the year, to which she responded, “That’s all I needed to hear,” and promptly bought them both.
4. What was your favorite book/record store to visit growing up?
My favorite bookstore was a small indie in my hometown of Montpelier, VT called Bear Pond Books (still going strong, I’m happy to report). I practically lived there for most of my childhood and adolescence. I’d park myself in a chair between humor and sci fi and alternately tear my way through Calvin and Hobbes or The Wheel of Time. The staff was lovely—incredibly forgiving and patient with the random 12-year-old to taking up their space and reading their books all the time.
- What book or record sells very well but also makes you cringe?
No judgment: we’re just glad people are reading books!
- What book or record doesn’t sell well but deserves much more attention?
Unless they’re incredibly lucky, debut novelists often have a hard time getting the attention they deserve from the reading public. Buying a book by someone you’ve never heard of before is a risk, and a lot of people aren’t willing to take that risk unless someone has directly urged them to.
Luckily, though, that’s what staff recommendations are for! One of my recent favorites is a debut by Scott Hawkins called The Library at Mount Char. It’s weird, unsettling, hilarious, and almost dangerously engrossing. Perfect for hot summer nights with a fan and a flashlight.
- If an anonymous donor gave you 1 million dollars to use expressly to invest in your store what would you do with it?
Bookstore gift cards for our brilliant, dedicated, book-loving staff.
- What is your favorite time of day in your store?
I love the hour between 3 and 4 pm, after the booksellers who will close the store at 11 pm arrive, and before the openers go home. It’s the time with the most activity and motion and life. The whole store is bustling with customers and there are so many staff people that we all bump into each other behind the registers and ask about each other’s day and answer questions and start or finish projects. The pure kinetic energy of it all is infectious and invigorating.
- What is your favorite 33 1/3 and why?
Carl Wilson’s 33 1/3 about Celine Dion is a classic choice, but browsing and shelving and checking out the series as a whole on our shelves is very satisfying.
- Would you rather live in a world with no books or a world with no music?
This is quite a question, but I’m a bookseller by trade and at heart, so I think you can probably guess my answer.
- What does the future look like for your store?
We’re looking forward to remaining an innovative bookstore (through author events, print-on-demand services, local partnerships, and social media) who continues to honor the old-fashioned values of discovering, recommending, and reading a good book.
3 Thoughts to “Better Know a Bookseller: Harvard Book Store, Cambridge”
Great place, it’s so cool that they’re still there. My mom and I lived at 1306 Mass Ave. in the 70’s. So much of the old Harvard Sq. from that era is long gone but there’s still that little stretch with the Harvard Book Store, Bartley’s, the Hong Kong, and Grolier’s just around the corner.
Great place, I’m so glad they’re still there. My mom and I lived at 1306 Mass Ave. in the 70’s. So much of the old Cambridge from that era is long gone but there’s still that little stretch with the Harvard Book Store, Bartley’s, the Hong Kong, and Grolier’s just around the corner.
Awesome bookstore!! Harvard Yard is so cool.
A bit of an ego trip here since I am so glad my Cambridge Companion to Hip-hop is next to the 33 1/3ds. Nice to be in good company. Made my day.