Independent Bookstores: Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle

When we walked into the store, I knew right away that this was a good one. The books extended as far back as I could see, with carefully curated selections on every endcap, handwritten staff recommendations dotting the wooden shelves, a coffee shop in the back and an upstairs whose low ceilings made it feel like a treasure-filled attic.

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Independent Bookstores: Wicked Good Books, Salem, MA

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.

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Independent Bookstores: Harvard Bookstore, Cambridge, MA

The first time I popped into Harvard Bookstore was a little over a year ago. I’d just gotten accepted to Emerson and my mom and I had come up to Boston to check it out. On a free afternoon we made our way to Harvard Square and stumbled upon the bookstore. I fell in love immediately, due largely to the tall, tall wooden bookshelves and the ladders that lead to the tops of them. After all, I’ve always been envious of the castle library in Beauty and the Beast.

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Independent Bookstores: Commonwealth Books, Boston

Keep your eyes peeled as you come up Washington Street. As you approach the Chipotle on School Street, look the other way. Because that Chipotle used to be the store that published and sold Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, and now it’s a burrito factory. But also because Commonwealth Books is across the street and it’s easy to miss.

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Independent Bookstore: The Grolier Poetry Bookshop, Est. 1927

The phone rang behind the desk and the clerk turned away from our chat to answer it. I was the only customer in this 400-something square-foot space, so I couldn’t help overhear her end of the conversation. She used words like “marketing campaign,” “Facebook,” and “Tumblr.” Those words sounded strange in this space, as if it were still 1927 inside.

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