Independent Bookstores: Wicked Good Books, Salem, MA

I stopped in to Wicked Good Books the other day after a trip to the Peabody Essex Museum. The shop opened last year, shortly after its predecessor, Derby Square Books, had closed. Not interested in living in a town without a bookstore, husband-and-wife team Denise Kent and Mike Gibson set up their own shop in the same location. You can read more about Wicked Good Books’ beginnings in this Shelf Awareness article from last May.

The space is beautiful, with hardwood floors, exposed brick, and giant Palladian windows. With the right touches, it could be the ultimate cozy winter spot. The current layout, however, feels more suited to storage than solace. Industrial carts on either side of center become the focal points of the store, with stacks upon stacks of five-dollar hardcovers.

The shelves along the wall won’t help you out much, either, with no shelf-talkers and very few face-outs. Just endless rows of new and used books shelved next to each other. The front table holds one copy each (display only, or okay to take?) of a few bestsellers and buzz books, and another center table shows off Salem-related books, right next to seasonal books, right next to self-help books.

All this is not to say there’s nothing to read, here. The selection is vast, if you’re willing to dig. I prefer a more guided browsing experience in a more loiter-friendly environment but, for those who are after the thrill of a hunt, Wicked Good Books may just be a wicked good choice.