I spent most of yesterday wandering around Cambridge, and I learned three things:
1. College freshmen annoy me. I conveniently forget that I very recently was one.
2. I need a heavier coat. This whole icy-wind-cutting-through-to-my-bones thing is not working for me.
3. The Harvard Coop is perhaps the greatest bookstore known to mankind.
Now, there are bigger bookstores. Powell’s in Portland, Oregon, claims to be the largest independent bookstore in the world, and I believe it. It’s all warehousey and fantastic. There are cozier bookstores; personally I’m a fan of the small cramped used bookstore that barely has enough room for all the shelves, let alone people. But–wow. I love the Coop.
It has four levels of books and a cafe held together by some beautiful architecture, but I think what really made it marvelous was the people. The bookstore was simply full of people, it bustled with activity–rare for a bookstore these days. And the people themselves just–I don’t really know how to put this–everyone seemed smart. I had the same reaction in the MIT Coop a few hours earlier. (Like I said, I was wandering.) I think it’s true of many high-level college bookstores. You walk in and it’s full of smart people. I mean, people in bookstores tend to be of the literati anyway (I mean, duh) but in the Harvard Coop it just seemed like I was in the midst of a meandering crowd of brilliance.
You can tell that it is owned by Barnes and Noble or something–it has a very B&N feel underneath all the coolness. Bleh. But that’s well-buried under the store’s massive amounts of character. Really, you can hardly tell.
So anyway. People from the Boston area probably don’t need to be told about this, but any visitors: totally hit up the Coop while you’re here. It’s fantastic. And it’s totally within walking distance of where I’m about to move…