Contributing Writer

Nestled in Boston’s Back Bay is a quaint little bookstore with a whole lot of character: Brattle Book Shop.

Viewing the store from the sidewalk, you might get the sense that most people happen upon it accidentally. The street adjacent to West Street is packed with department stores and high-end retailers, and if you walk a couple more blocks north, you’d find yourself stranded in a cluster of towering office buildings.

However, the exterior of the bookshop is charming in all the romantic, old-fashioned ways. A classic sign with gold-lettering is suspended over the doorway, and a very large, very kitschy number two pencil (also bearing the shop’s name) is tacked above the entire front face of the building. In an empty lot next to the store, rows and rows of used books are displayed outside, all housed in shingled bookcases that look like mini houses themselves.

The inside is even more of a treat. Although the indoor bookcases are mostly metallic, the space still manages to give off a warm, inviting vibe—probably because of the sheer number of used and gently used books packed from floor to ceiling. There are cloth-bound, leather-bound, and general hard-cover books; there are cheap finds starting at a dollar, and reasonably-priced books on any subject you can imagine.

And, for what it’s worth, the employee behind the counter is pretty darn cute.

With the sales of print-media dwindling and the popularity of electronic readers growing, books have to work especially hard to justify their physical presence. It’s not enough to be a “good read” anymore; book buyers are looking for volumes that have more to offer than the words on the page. This usually comes down to aesthetics: is a physical book attractive enough for you to make room on your bookshelf (and in your wallet)?

At Brattle, most of the books are. While not all of them are beautiful, there is such a wide variety that you are bound to stumble upon something that excites you. I recently discovered a red, leather-bound collection of Victorian poetry—for only $3.

If you’re willing to browse for a while, visiting the Brattle Book Shop is a must. Get on the T and ride it to Park Street. From there, you’re just a few minutes away by foot from this funky vintage haunt.

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