The undulating spines of a row of books, the papery smell of unturned pages, the velvety feel of a new book cover. For even a casual reader, a bookstore is an alluring place. For a bibliophile, it is something close to magic.
Perhaps 10 years ago, the small local book shop seemed an endangered species, with big box stores, online retailers, and e-books threatening to take over. Independent booksellers proved resilient, however, and today, sales are growing: At the end of 2017, sales in independent bookstores were up 2.6 percent compared to the previous year, while sales in the book industry as a whole were down 3.7 percent.
“It definitely feels like there’s a bit of a comeback,” says Arwen Severance, owner of The Bookstore of Gloucester.
Book lovers of the North Shore are lucky to have an array of these independent retailers to accommodate their literary desires. We’ve rounded up three of our favorites.
The Book Shop of Beverly Farms
At first glance, the big yellow house with its beautiful flower gardens might look like a private home. Inside, however, readers will find one of the North Shore’s oldest bookstores; the shop turned 50 this year.
The two-story shop lets visitors wander from room to book-filled room. Children’s books occupy their own cozy room at the top of a winding staircase. Because the space is small, owners Pam Price and Lee Brown focus on quality over volume, carefully choosing the best books in each category.
The owners take pride in hosting events that feature authors with local ties, including Anna Solomon, Lily King, and, before his death, John Updike. The overall goal is to create a place for the community, Price says.
“We have a dedicated customer base that values having a neighborhood bookstore,” she says. “Many people still seem to prefer holding a real book in their hands.”
The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George
Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine, by Joe Hagan
Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White, by Melissa Sweet
40 West St., Beverly, 978-927-2122, realbookshop.com
The Bookstore of Gloucester
The Bookstore of Gloucester, operating out of a small storefront in the city’s quaint, bustling downtown since 1975, has become something of a local tradition.
“People come in here and remember coming back when they were kids—there’s a lot of community love for the store,” says owner Arwen Severance, who bought the store in May, after working there for 17 years.
The shop carries a wide range of titles, and Severance tries to mix older selections by notable authors in with the latest bestsellers. A section featuring nautical history draws on the city’s long maritime history.
The children’s section is particularly strong, perhaps, in part, because Severance taught kindergarten and first grade before becoming a bookseller. A new mural depicting book-loving mermaids and seagulls anchors the space and provides a whimsical setting for children’s story hour.
One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd, by Jim Fergus
The Why of Things, by Elizabeth Winthrop
The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah
61 Main St., Gloucester, 978-281-1548, thebookstoreofgloucester.com
Wicked Good Books
Denise Kent had always dreamed of owning a bookstore. Then, the last mainstream book shop in Salem closed and Kent decided it was time to pursue her goal. Thus, four years ago, Wicked Good Books was born with the mission of ensuring Salem always has a local bookstore.
The shop occupies a 900-square-foot space in a historic brick building. Despite its small size, the store packs in popular and notable new books, a range of used volumes, and some literary apparel and gifts for book nerds.
Kent, who has a background in history, has taken care to stock books on local history that look beyond the witch trials for which Salem is known and instead investigate the culture, architecture, and maritime lore of the city. “We try to tell a broader story, a deeper story of Salem,” she says.
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay
Death of an Empire: The Rise and Murderous Fall of Salem, America’s Richest City, by Robert Booth
215 Essex St., Salem, 978-594-1938, wickedgoodbookstore.com