Just when I thought my list of favorite bookstores in the United States was kind of set in stone, along comes the Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, Massachusetts. It’s a good thing the list wasn’t engraved yet! Since my son began at UMass, my husband and I have been exploring lots of bookstores in Central Massachusetts, but a good friend encouraged us to visit the Odyssey Bookshop a few miles up the road from Amherst. Finally, this past Saturday, we drove to South Hadley and found the bookstore that will now be engraved on my Top 5 list.
There are some bookstores with a special feel that true book lovers recognize the second they walk in the store. We had only been in Odyssey for about two minutes before my husband said “I think we’re going to be here for awhile.” And that was before I met the store’s kind and knowledgeable manager, Emily Crowe.
The Odyssey Bookshop has an incredibly well edited selection and a quiet assumption that their customers want to read good books. The store has a comfortable feel, and I had the feeling that I could pick up any book in the store and it would be engaging. This is a store that respects readers.
Of course, we bought books. And since it will take my son at least four years to graduate from college, we plan to make many more trips to South Hadley. During this visit, my husband bought two books – a historical novel and a travel book. I should have looked more closely at the travel book because it may have told me what he was thinking about future vacations. I spent most of my time looking at children’s books and getting ideas for school. I also enjoyed talking with Emily, who probably had lots of other things to do, but was so generous with her time.
We also bought a copy of My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop – a collection of 82 essays from authors about their favorite bookshops. It was not at all surprising to find a chapter about the Odyssey Bookshop in the book – in fact, it’s Chapter One!
My own list would include these five:
– Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, Massachusettts
– The Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle
– McNally Jackson Books, New York
– Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, Massachusetts
– Buttonwood Books and Toys, Cohasset, Massachusetts – my local bookstore which is, like my home and Starbucks, a place that makes me happy!
Here are a few pictures from our visit to Odyssey…