March 21, 2017

Four Must-Visit Bookstores For History Buffs

  • By: Katherine Flynn

Since a love of history often goes hand-in-hand with a love of books, we thought we would take it upon ourselves to round up a few places where those who identify as bookworms AND history buffs can enjoy both. If you ever find yourself near one of the independent bookstores listed below, be sure to stop in. (And if you're one of those people who loves the smell of old books? Go ahead and take a deep breath—we won't judge you.)

photo by: Curtis Cronn/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

City Lights Books, San Francisco.

City Lights Books, San Francisco

The legendary City Lights Books, founded in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin, originally made a name for itself after Ferlinghetti published Allen Ginsburg’s Howl and Other Poems in 1956, prompting an obscenity trial the following year. (Ferlinghetti won.) Located at an intersection of the city’s North Beach and Chinatown neighborhoods, the store offers visiting book lovers three floors of bliss. City Lights was a hub of 1960s counterculture in San Francisco, and in 2001, the city made it an official historic landmark—the first time this designation was granted to a business, rather than a building. It’s a must-see for any bibliophile visiting the Bay Area.

photo by: Andrew Houser/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Baldwin's Book Barn, West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Baldwin’s Book Barn, West Chester, Pennsylvania

Built in 1822, this five-story former milking house is the perfect spot to peruse shelves upon shelves of used books, cozy up to a wood stove, or make friends with one of the resident cats. William and Lilla Baldwin established a used book and collectible business in nearby Wilmington, Delaware, in 1934, eventually moving their operation to “The Barn” in 1946, where it has resided ever since. Today, it boasts over 300,000 used and rare books, and well as items like vintage maps and art prints. Located in the idyllic Brandywine River Valley, this is a necessary stop on any book lover’s pilgrimage through the U.S.

photo by: Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

Brattle Book Shop, Boston.

Brattle Book Shop, Boston

Founded in 1825, the Brattle Book Shop has been owned and operated by the Gloss clan since 1949. Current proprietor Ken Gloss is an expert in the fields of antiquarian books and book appraisal, and if you’re on the hunt for collectibles or first editions, Brattle Book Shop has you covered. Located in a three-story building in downtown Boston, there's no better place to spend an afternoon—or a whole day.

photo by: Ken Lund/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi.

Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi

Oxford, Mississippi, perhaps best known as the hometown of novelist William Faulkner, has a literary pedigree than runs deep. For proof of this, look no further than Square Books, located in a historic building on the city's town square. Founded in 1979, the shop houses over 10,000 books in two stories, and its two adjacent stores, Off Square Books and Square Books Jr., focus on quirky gifts and children's books, respectively.

Katherine Flynn is a former assistant editor at Preservation magazine. She enjoys coffee, record stores, and uncovering the stories behind historic places.


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