Derby Square Book Store

Now to uncloak that layer of radio silence that has permeated around here all week. This past week, I went to Massachusetts to spend Thanksgiving with the family. In between gorging, my father and I took a few day-outings to visit various places along the coast, including a walk around Salem, Mass (emphasis on walk…too much food).

During our stroll, we came across the Derby Square Book Store, which is packed from toe to ceiling. The store is small and made even more so by the walls of books. Claustrophobics stay away but if you are a bibliophile destined for a good buy, go on in. All hardcovers and paperbacks are 50% off.

I was trying not to buy anything but at the top off of one mountain was The Alienist by Caleb Carr; it’s been a “to-read” for me for a while and I figured it was about time. I nabbed it from the top but that copy was a bit worn and then I spotted one in better condition but, alas, it was squeezed in the center of one of the store’s precarious towers. My father proclaimed with much assurance that he would be able to grab it without any fuss. To jump to the conclusion, every book in that column came tumbling down†. Once that mess was taken care (which ended with the salty employee asking if I found everything I needed), I went to the front desk to pay.

The total with tax came to $3.78 plus a recommendation from the owner, which he wrote down for me. Besides his pursuits into novels, Caleb Carr is foremost a historian. The owner recommended Carr’s nonfiction book The Devil Soldier. He told me that if I liked The Alienist then The Devil Soldier about sailor and Salem native son Frederick Townsend Ward should be next.

It had been ages since I had been to Salem, MA and it really is more than witch history and charlatan psychics. The literary history and seafaring ways are a real treat. Perhaps, in a future post I shall ramble on about Nathaniel Hawthorne and a favorite short story of mine from Mosses from an Old Manse. But for now, I encourage you to drop by Derby Square Book Store where the books are aplenty and the prices good.

I’ve featured other bookstores in the past from New York and London. Scroll through and enjoy.

215 Essex St, Salem, MA 01970
(978) 745-8804
† I suppose this makes us even for the time when I was a child and I knocked over the entire shampoo display at a drug store.
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16 comments

      1. You won’t be disappointed.

        If their goal is to sell books and they still insist on stacking them in such precarious ways, they cannot be surprised if stacks come tumbling down!

  1. Was the recommendation the owner wrote down for you “Please seek assistance when retrieving books from the stacks!”? 🙂 But, seriously, it sounds like a neat place, and I do also envy you for treading the same ground that Nathaniel Hawthorne did so long ago…
    -Jay

    1. Ha! Yes, but I put full blame on my father who insisted.

      In the past, I’ve been inside Hawthorne’s house. It’s a curious town for a visit. I have some photos (so maybe they’ll go in a future post).

  2. Thanks for the recommendation! We love independent and used book stores and although we make it to Salem every summer (usually to visit the Peabody Essex) from Cape Ann, we don’t know the Derby Square Bookstore- can’t wait for next summer. Have you been to Dogtown Books on Main St. in Gloucester? Warning: the owner’s a bit of a brusque character himself. Pay attention to his signs on how to pick up books and woe unto you if you bring a coffee in!

    1. I hope you can make a visit when you’re there next. I haven’t been to Dogtown Books. When I was in Gloucester last, we went for an art fair/festival where the local artists displayed. It was truly awful and bizarre. My father came up with a story idea from being there and I might actually write about it.

      1. Hee, hee—I know exactly what you’re talking about. The “aht” scene is very varied. However, I can whole-heartedly recommend The Gloucester Stage Company (and theater usually makes me cringe) for a nice night out with dinner on Rocky Neck or Main St afterwards…

        Please, please write the story, can’t wait to read it!

      2. Thanks again for the recs! I am working on a big project now but maybe, if I have down time, I’ll work on that story. It sounded great when we discussed it after we left.

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