Best store for new books
If you think the only revolutionary bookstore to launch in the last five years has been Amazon.com, you haven't been to Newtonville Books. Instead of joining the discount wars, the independent Newton bookstore set about inspiring and forging a reading community. Its Books & Brews series, co-hosted by a local restaurant, features an in-store reading and signing followed by free appetizers and a free drink at the restaurant, where patrons mingle with staff and the author. The bookstore is organized to encourage browsing; there are no signs for the sections, which are organized either by subject or author.
Harvard's academic underpinnings may have taken it on the chin from new president Larry Summers, but the bookstore that bears its name remains both a scholar's and a reader's delight. At the Harvard Book Store, you'll find an awe-inspiring array of nonfiction, including sections devoted to Islamic studies, globalization, and graphic novels. The journal and periodical offerings are diverse, with McSweeney's sharing space with the bound Journal of South Asia Women Studies. The thoughtful staff picks highlight fiction you'd likely overlook otherwise, and the audio-books section avoids CDs typically found in franchise bookstores in favor of the likes of James Joyce or the complete works of David Sedaris.
Newtonville Books, 296 Walnut Street, Newton, (617) 244-6619; Harvard Book Store, 1256 Mass Ave, Cambridge, (617) 661-1515.