Boston’s always been a book town. With so many schools – and smart people – it’s hard not to be. The city is home to one of the country’s first public libraries.
There’s something special about the local independent bookstores in Boston. The welcoming vibe – like all those words on pages are softly humming, waiting to share stories with whoever discovers them.
Where to Find Independent Bookstores in Boston
Unlike chain outlets, indy shops often reflect their communities. In turn, they’re considered part of the local family. Many offer a range of events from author appearances and kids’ story hours to unique book clubs. Some even serve tasty treats, providing nourishment for body, mind and soul.
For our list of Boston’s indy bookstores, we’re staying “very local.” No shops across the river or at the outer fringes of the Green Line. We’ve gathered a mix of the familiar – and a few new gems to discover. Pop in, say hello and pick up a book or two. They’ll be happy to see you!
Located in the bustling Back Bay, beloved Trident can be considered the tried-and-true favorite. It carries a wide selection of books in all categories as well as gift items and a full-service cafe with sidewalk seating. The long, narrow shop has many nooks where you can get lost browsing – and the sale table up front is always busy. Trident offers many popular events including author readings, poetry open mics, trivia nights, writing groups and even speed friending. Being on fashionable Newbury Street, you might even bump elbows with a celebrity in the mystery section.
While the original Porter Square Books is across the river, the Boston shop has prime waterfront space in the Seaport. After all, a new neighborhood isn’t complete until it has a bookstore! The shop is partnered with the nonprofit group Grub Street Center for Creative Writing. Opened in 2020, the colorful shop has a broad selection of titles, including a kids section, with a coffee bar in the works. A modular setup allows shelves to be moved to accommodate audiences for readings and discussions on the round stage. Smaller events include a popular children’s story time and a “silent” book club where people bring their own books to read and then talk about them.
Located in the heart of Roxbury’s growing Nubian Square, Frugal Bookstore is the only Black-owned book shop in Boston. The cozy, high-ceilinged store boasts a variety of books on Black culture and history, the latest fiction faves and more. Cheerful Black and brown faces grace book covers in the warm, inviting children’s section. Nearly all of its titles are written by people of color. The store is a valued member of the neighborhood, hosting meetings for community groups and highlighting local authors and artists. It also offers poetry and music events and book clubs that give readers the opportunity to discover and appreciate the voices of Black literature.
Located in the quirky, homey streets of the North End, I Am Books caters to the neighborhood’s Italian community. On nice days the garage-style front wall opens to the street, giving it the feel of a European sidewalk bookseller. Inside is a thoughtfully curated collection of books and gift items — from the epic poems of Dante to contemporary Italian best sellers. You can also find English translations of Italian books, Italian translations of English literature, beautiful journals printed in Italy, and, of course, books on Italian food and culture. Pick up a biography of Michelangelo to enjoy with your espresso at Caffe Vittoria and dream of Florence. You’re practically there!
Located in SoWa, More Than Words is much more than a bookstore. It’s a nonprofit organization that provides underserved teens with paid job training and life skills. Young people work every aspect of the operation – from cataloging inventory to creating merchandise displays. MTW primarily sells used books along with some new titles (over 15,000 in store) and gift items by local artisans. As a social enterprise, all revenues go toward the program. The former factory’s wooden beams, exposed brick and tall ceilings give the new store the feel of a grand old library – just right for relaxed browsing. A mobile store is in the works for pop-up shops to reach other areas of the city.