Cambridge Bookstores Celebrate Their Independence

Cambridge BookstoresPorter Square Books events coordinator and bookseller Sarah Rettger poses with her current book pick. Photos by Emily Cassel.

On April 18, scores of rabid vinyl collectors began lining up in the wee hours of the morning for Record Store Day, the annual music celebration that lures shoppers into area record stores with limited-edition pressings and in-store performances. Literature lovers now have a similar day of festivities all their own: Independent Bookstore Day, which will be commemorated by more than 400 book shops across the country for the first time on Saturday, May 2.

Much like Record Store Day, this nationwide indie book bash will feature rare editions and prints that you won’t be able to get anywhere but your favorite local book shop. Harvard Book Store‘s Marketing and Events Manager Alex Meriwether says he anticipates that a signed chapbook by Roxane Gay of “Bad Feminist” fame and autographed Hyperbole and a Half prints will be among the items that fly off the shelves come Saturday, and he’s also excited about a coloring book of “literary lushes” called Hemingwasted.

Will you need to line up at 4 in the morning to get your hands on one?

“Actually, we’re all kind of wondering, because a lot of the merchandise is really cool and is limited edition,” says Meriwether. “We’re prepared for there to be a line, but we’ll see.”

If rare books and art aren’t enough to get you out of bed on a Saturday morning, you may be interested in one of a number of author talks and demonstrations that will be taking place at Cambridge bookstores. At Harvard Book Store, Dan Souza of America’s Test Kitchen will be dishing out shortbread cookies and signing books from 1-2 p.m., and New Yorker staff writer and critic James Wood will be stopping by at 7 p.m. for a discussion and signing of “The Nearest Thing to Life.”

Cambridge Bookstores

The Indie Bookstore Day display at Porter Square Books

At Porter Square Books, area businesses including Cambridge Naturals and Healthworks will offer demonstrations throughout the day, and chef Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery—who has a new cookbook coming out—will be on hand for a cooking demo from 3-4 p.m. Porter Square Books shoppers will also want to browse with a sharp eye as they as they wander through the shelves on Saturday, as the staff will be hiding surprises throughout the store.

“We’re all very excited to see how this turns out,” says Porter Square Books events coordinator and bookseller Sarah Rettger.

According to Rettger, a sense of community is what sets indie booksellers apart from behemoths like Barnes and Noble and e-retailers like Amazon. “We have people who are in here three times a week, and we know what’s going on with their lives,” she says. “There are a lot of people who have been coming here for 10 years now and know their customer number by heart.” This event is an opportunity to celebrate the shoppers and staffers who give the shop a personality all its own.

Meriwether agrees, noting that the centerpiece at Harvard Book Store on Saturday will be a “biography in books” display of literature chosen by the staff—not necessarily recommended titles, but books that were important to the shop’s employees at different points in their lives. “The limited edition merch is great, but it’s mostly artwork and signed prints,” he says. “We’re a bookstore and we love books … and we thought that this bookseller ‘biography in books’ would be a great way to put forth our own staff’s personality and stories.”

You can find a full rundown of Independent Bookstore Day events for Harvard Book Store here and for Porter Square Books here.

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