Many people complain that Harvard Square has become too corporate and mall-like in recent decades. Those people should browse in the depths of Harvard Book Store until they feel better. The Boston area is blessed with an unusual number of independent bookstores, and Harvard Book Store vies with the Brookline Booksmith for most impressive local events schedule. There are author talks almost every night, most in-store but with the more prominent ones (Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Lethem) taking place in a nearby Unitarian church or in the Brattle Theatre. Like the store’s in-house bestsellers list and their emphasis on books by local authors, these events foster a great sense of community.
I like to start visits in the basement, which is jam-packed with used and remainder books. Even if there’s nothing in particular I’m looking for, there’s likely to be a well priced recent novel, unusual monograph on art, or oddball history book that I have to leave with. There’s also a strong selection of cookbooks, both used/remaindered and new. Upstairs, such academic disciplines as philosophy and history are especially well represented- a reminder of the many professors and students among the loyal clientele.
Don’t see what you want on the shelves? There is also on-demand printing available (via Paige M. Gutenborg, the bookprinting robot) in case you just have to get that particular selection right away. The monster of a machine in the back that performs this task is also worth a look even if you don’t.