As soon as I stepped out of my home today and felt the near-wintry chill against my face, I knew that I’d be paying a visit to the venerable Brattle Book Shop in downtown Boston. You see, for some reason, I associate cold weather with books and bookstores, especially used bookstores. It’s like a Pavlovian response.
The Brattle just happens to be one of America’s truly historic bookshops, tracing its origins back to 1825. It is a treasure trove for those of all budgets. You can watch a short video about it here:
For this visit, I made two purchases: A hardcover edition of Iain Pears, The Dream of Scipio (2002), and a beautiful Folio Society edition of Richard Holmes, The Age of Wonder (2008). Total tab? $20 plus tax. Darn good.
I also chatted briefly with Brattle’s proprietor, Kenneth Gloss. Along with local radio personality Jordan Rich, he does a regular podcast titled the “Brattlecast,” which can be accessed here. It’s a geek’s delight, full of Gloss’s stories about books, bookselling, and book collecting.
As to cold weather and bookstores: Maybe I simply regard winter as a perfect time to hunker down with some good books. Or perhaps in a past life I lived in London and frequented its quaint little bookshops, following in the footsteps of Dickens & Co. Boston is a fine match for all that. It remains a city where books, reading, and learning still count for a lot. It is steeped in history. And we have real seasons here, including some brutal winters.
In any event, bookstores continue to serve as places of discovery, enlightenment, and sanctuary to me. When the temperature starts dropping, I am drawn to them even more.
Heaven is a used bookstore (2014)
A bookstore visit triggers memories of meeting an intellectual hero (2014)
I don’t read as much as I used to. I’ll go through spurts of reading a few books but then go for a long time without. When I was young, reading was a refuge, an escape. BUT I don’t feel that need to escape as much anymore.
Brad, for me I must confess that social media has had a negative effect on my attention span for books. Also, ironically, being an academic means that I use books more than I read them, at least the non-fiction ones. I want to carve out more time for pure book reading, without feeling that I should be doing something else.
“without feeling that I should be doing something else.”
And then there is that feeling. It gets in the way as well.
There is another factor: I think maybe I’ve become too cynical for some of my once favorite genres. I don’t have the optimism needed for science fiction nor the idealism needed for high fantasy.
I still like murder mysteries of the Agatha Christie style: not gory and not forensic no wallowing in romance, no recipies and not written from the point of view of a cat.
I just made a note of this bookshop so, the next time I’m in Boston on a rainy day, I’ll visit the shop!