Bookstore Review: Commonwealth Books; Boston

In a little alleyway in Boston, snuggled between Cheese Boy and a Fedex Store, lies a bookstore like no other. Right in Boston’s Literary Quarter, this book shop is ideally located for literature history buffs. And that’s not even the best part: they have a pet cat! What goes better with books than a furry feline friend?

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The first book I remember purchasing from Commonwealth Books and Old Prints was not one I necessarily planned on reading, at least not immediately. It was a pretty, old fashioned book published in 1912 titled Chivalry in English Literature. Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly intrigued by the subject, but it’s not Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, or some other fantasy or science fiction book, especially with a dragon on the cover (like one of the books I purchased on a subsequent visit).

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Since that first visit, I’ve graduated college, moved out of the family household, and gotten two part-time jobs that fill my pockets long enough to pay my bills and save a little bit. I may claim to love books as much as Chaucer’s clerk, but I don’t think I would really starve myself for knowledge. This is the age of the Internet and eBooks – I hardly think it necessary to use all the grocery money at the bookstore. But now that I have to pay for things like rent, mainly so I have a place to store all my books, I’ve only bought books that I need or intend to read not long after purchase. Ha ha. Nope, couldn’t even write that with a straight face! But I have gotten more selective of books, and as I learn more about them, the more I get picky about what books I choose to bring home.

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Before I started dating, I had a lot of “me time,” and one of the things I liked to do was go into Boston, namely to visit this bookstore. Being in an alleyway, it’s separated from the loud commotion of daily life in the city, making it a nice place to forget my problems and get lost in all the literary worlds. I most frequently found myself in the Mythology and Folklore section, although I did glance through Poetry and browse through Fiction, searching mainly for fantasy books in the latter. I can’t say for certain which of all my books I purchased at this haven, but here are some that I’ve added to my bookshelves, besides Chivalry in English Literature, and (surprisingly) still haven’t read:

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Dream Days by Kenneth Graham

I literally bought this book because of the dragon reading on the cover. I did start reading it not long after I bought it, but never finished it. I probably got distracted by other books.

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The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit.

As if the words “enchanted” and castle” weren’t enough, the book is about how a handful of characters discover and wake a beautiful princess who had been in an enchanted sleep in the garden for 100 years. An interesting twist on the Sleeping Beauty fairytale, the princess disappears, made invisible with a magic ring! Now that I’ve re-found this book, I might actually read it to see if they can save the princess.

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The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell.

In college, I took a class on myths and fairytales in which I was introduced to the ideas of Joseph Campbell. Myths and fairytales are my favorite type of story (probably the reason I only read fantasy and science fiction lately), and this guy is supposed to be some sort of expert on myths. The book is a conversation between him and journalist Bill Myers, who interviewed him.

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Complete Poems of Keats and Shelley, published by the Modern Library.

All the poems of John Keats and Percy Shelley. Need I say more? As an English major, this was a gem of a find.

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There are probably many more books I’ve bought from Commonwealth Books and forgotten about, hiding in my book stacks, hoping to be read one day. Maybe if I ever get around to weeding my bookshelves, I’ll find these forgotten friends and open them up for a read.

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