Local CBS news identifies Raven Used Books in Cambridge as one of the best book stores in city

Book Lover’s Delight: The Best Bookstores In Cambridge


CAMBRIDGE (Hoodline) – Wondering where to find the best bookstores near you? Hoodline crunched the numbers to find the top bookstores in Cambridge, using both Yelp data and our own secret sauce to produce a ranked list of the best spots to venture next time you’re in the mood for a good read.

1. Harvard Book Store

o Book Lovers Delight: The Best Bookstores In Cambridge
Photo: Beth H./Yelp

Topping the list is Harvard Book Store. The Cambridge institution is unaffiliated with the university, and instead of textbooks, it boasts two floors of fiction, nonfiction, children’s books and more, both new and used. It also hosts author events on an almost daily basis.

Located at 1256 Massachusetts Ave. in Harvard Square since 1932, it is the highest-rated bookstore in Cambridge, boasting 4.5 stars out of 310 reviews on Yelp.

2. Raven Used Books

o Book Lovers Delight: The Best Bookstores In Cambridge
Photo: Schiller D./Yelp

A few blocks away is Raven Used Books, situated at 23 Church St. With origins in Western Massachusetts (including Montague Bookmill, of which Raven owner John Petrovato was a co-owner in the 1990s), Raven moved into this spot in 2015. It specializes in scholarly and literary titles and benefits from a large volume of turnover, so that there is always something new to discover.

With 4.5 stars out of 112 reviews on Yelp, the shop has proven to be a local favorite.

3. MIT Press Bookstore

o Book Lovers Delight: The Best Bookstores In Cambridge
Photo: MIT Press Bookstore/Yelp

MIT Press Bookstore is another top choice, with Yelpers giving it five stars out of 38 reviews. This shop is owned and operated by the university press. It stocks most of the books and journals published by the MIT Press, along with selected books from other publishers working in related fields, such as art and architecture, computer science, cognition, neuroscience and linguistics.

The bookstore moved in 2016 from its longtime but cramped quarters in Kendall Square to this much larger store at 301 Massachusetts Ave.


As Schoenhof’s Shutters, a Look at the Square’s Independent Bookstores

As Schoenhof’s Shutters, a Look at the Square’s Independent Bookstores


Photograph by Chensiyuan/Wikimedia Commons

ON MARCH 25, Harvard Square will bid a final farewell to Schoenhof’s Foreign Books. The 150-year-old bookstore currently lives on Mount Auburn Street, and rents its basement storefront from the Spee Club. Daniel Eastman, director of sales and marketing, told The Boston Globe that the club “has been really kind with us. This should have happened three years ago, but they tried really hard to find some way to help us stay.” The demise of Schoenhof’s, the largest brick-and-mortar retailer of foreign-language books in North America, is more than just a blow to wistful world travelers and language learners; it’s a loss for the Harvard community, which similarly lost The Globe Corner Book Store, one of the largest map and travel-book retailers in the country, to untenable rent increases in 2011.

In the final weeks of Schoenhof’s physical presence in the Square, other local independent booksellers face mounting rent prices, a shift in book-buyers’ purchasing behavior, and, most notably, tough competition from the Harvard Coop, which came under the management of corporate giant Barnes and Noble roughly two decades ago. For niche book lovers, Grolier Poetry Book Shop is an unmissable gem—it boasts a collection of more than 15,000 volumes and has a history of hosting celebrated names like e.e cummings ’15, T.S. Eliot ’10, Litt.D. ’47, and Marianne Moore. Ifeanyi Menkiti, who purchased the store as it was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy in 2006, says, “For us, it was all about this place and its history. It would be a shame to lose this culture. I’m from Nigeria, where history and culture matter.” Menkiti is professor emeritus of philosophy at Wellesley, and cites the income stability of teaching as a key reason why he and his wife felt able to take on the responsibility of running Grolier in the years it was struggling to stay afloat. “It is a labor of love,” says Menkiti. He remembers recently hosting a teenager from Newton-North High School who spent hours reading and laughing while perusing the shelves of the bookstore. The sense of fulfillment derived from seeing young people continue to discover and enjoy poetry sustains Menkiti’s mission to share Grolier’s collections with audiences who journey from across the country or across Harvard Yard to read the volumes he has available.

Just around the corner, Harvard Book Store offers ample reading material, both new and used, to patrons seeking a more generalist selection. Jeff Mayersohn bought the store at the end of 2008, “probably at the worst possible moment to buy a bookstore,” he says, referring to the economic turmoil in the United States at the time. Yet running a bookstore was a long-running dream, and Harvard Book Store was up for sale just around the time he was ready to retire and turn to a new project. Like all independent booksellers across the country and in Harvard Square, Mayersohn admits that the rise of online retailers like Amazon has posed a serious challenge for business, but explains how he found a silver lining: “People were lamenting the digitization of books as the end of the brick-and-mortar book store, but I saw it as a huge advantage. With the cloud, we had access to the same books that massive corporate book stores did.” To this end, Harvard Book Store is home to an Espresso book machine, which offers patrons the opportunity to print books on demand, including their own works. In addition to offering print services, Harvard Book Store holds betweetn 350 and 450 author readings each year in order to drive business to the store and combat steadily rising rents. Both the Harvard Book Store and Grolier rent from the University itself, and Mayersohn says Harvard has reassured his staff of its commitment to protecting brick-and-mortar businesses in the Square.

For John Petrovato, who has run Raven Used Books for roughly 20 years, the rent increases in Harvard Square have been something of a blessing in disguise. After Raven moved from its pricey basement location on busy JFK Street to a cheaper spot on Church Street, sales have been up and foot traffic has been higher than ever. “For what we do, the Square is the best place in the country we could be,” he says. Raven’s shelves of used books serve students, faculty members, and tourists looking for a brick-and-mortar shop that can match Amazon’s bargain prices, a luxury that places like Schoenhof’s and other new-book sellers don’t have. Petrovato explains that the prohibitive cost of retail space in the Square will continue to shape the kinds of stores that open there, citing prominent real estate that has gone to corporations like CVS and Urban Outfitters instead of small businesses. “World-class bookstores are trying to get into Harvard Square, and they just can’t afford the rents. Since I’ve been here, there’s easily been an increase of three to four times.”

Perhaps somewhat ironically, Schoenhof’s will continue to serve readers online, putting a medium that played a critical role in the store’s demise to good use in this next stage of the business. Its decision echoes steps considered by old Harvard Square mainstays like WordsWorth Books, which went out of business in 2004 and similarly considered taking its business online, only to fail to do so. For the time being, the best way for the Harvard community to help local booksellers may be to spend a peaceful afternoon perusing their shelves, instead of quickly typing a title into an Internet browser.

National Geographic story about Portsmouth, NH — specifically mentions Portsmouth Book and Bar




Is Portsmouth the U.S.A.’s Greatest Small Town?

A dash of colonial history, a taste of a local craft brew, and a peek at a sunset over the water—New Hampshire’s Portsmouth has all you need this summer.


Diners enjoy a view of the water at the Martingale Wharf in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

A woman in a century-old straw hat, sitting with a needle and thread, warns me “the sun can crisp you up.” Nearby another woman, speaking at first in Hebrew, says, “My husband came from Ukraine in 1903. I moved here in 1904.” Afterward I chat with a cooper with sharply parted white hair. He’s proud of a recent deal he made: a barrel for two brooms.

No one ever tells you how to respond to this stuff. You know, these sorts of costumed role-players or living historians. Here at Strawbery Banke—a charming collection of a few dozen colonial-era buildings in Portsmouth, New Hampshire—I’m finding it’s rewarding to just play along.



Settled in the early 1600s, Portsmouth might be America’s greatest small town. The port town was built on the Piscataqua River for exclusively the king’s commerce. On the wharves, workers built British ships—ships later used against the colonies in the Revolutionary War. In the years since, it simply never expanded like Boston, or even Portland, Maine, just north. (The tidal river isn’t ideal for constant comings and goings, one local tells me.) Still, there’s lobster and sand, history and theater, New Hampshire’s best restaurants and lots of beer. And walking by 18th- and 19th-century town houses along its lively cobbled center, it’s hard to believe only 21,000 people call it home.



Left: A bus moves through an intersection in downstown Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

 Right: Street art decorates a wall in downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire.


Opened in 1958, the Strawbery Banke Museum is considered the first urban renewal project in the United States to favor preservation over demolition. (“Its impact ripped through the preservation movement like a sound wave,” Linda Landry writes in her 2003 book, Classic New Hampshire.)

Frankly, I enjoy its colonial-era punch of the few dozen buildings more than I expected. The Shapley-Drisco House is a time-warp peek split evenly between its different incarnations: One side of the house is made up like a home in the 1790s, the other like the 1950s.

And in the Pitt Tavern here I learn about Portsmouth’s other big passion. A gray-haired man with white loafers and a crimson shirt laments to me how New Hampshire used to be “number one in beer consumption” (42.2 gallons per capita in 2013) but recently fell behind North Dakota.

Check Out Our Trips to North America

“That’s only because of all the petroleum going on there,” he says with some bitterness.

Yes, beer is big in Portsmouth. A handful of breweries line the winding central streets (my hotel, the Ale House Inn, is a former brewery), while the bigger-name Smuttynose and Redhook breweries are within 20 minutes’ drive. One of my favorite spots for a pint in the center is Book and Bar, a used bookstore in the former U.S. Custom House that’s now licensed to sell microbrews.



Left: The Redhook Ale Brewery in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, offers guided tours to the public.

 Right: The Redhook Ale Brewery, originally founded in 1981, opened its Portsmouth brewery in 1996.


On a back alley, Earth Eagle Brewings is a compact bar-eatery with playful artwork and nine tables that quickly fill with locals. The focus is experimentation by beer, mostly local microbrews. The Spruce Bringsteen is a sweet pale ale, while the Beltane, an amber gruit, has “a real barnyard quality, think blue cheese,” says my waitress.

I get her barnyard description once I try it, and their “figgy pig” special (a flatbread sandwich with Gruyère, bacon, porchetta, and fig jam) is my favorite meal I’ve had in New Hampshire so far.

Portsmouth’s a great walking town. On my first day, I walk down quiet streets with Georgian homes (five windows on the second floor, two on either side of the front door) and stop in Sheafe Street Books, complete with a “pirates” section. The owner, an upstate New York transplant, sends me to nearby Peirce Island, where I see people wandering the riverside trails.

In the morning I join a walking tour led by Jeff Thomson, a local from just across the river in Kittery, Maine. One stop leads us to something I missed on my first day’s ramble. A short walk from John Paul Jones’s old home, the African Burying Ground is the site of a slave cemetery only discovered during road construction in 2003, and it is now a moving memorial. Part of it features eight faceless figures. “I stand for those who feel anger,” one reads. “I stand for those who find dignity in these bones,” reads another.

Thomson notes, “We don’t always like talking about it, but we must remember slavery existed here too.”


Lobster cages line the dock in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Another big draw, of course, is the coastline. New Hampshire’s doesn’t last long—only 13 miles (21 kilometers)—but is lined with sand and rocky beaches that draw sunbathers and surfers. Quieter Rye, just outside Portsmouth, is home to mansions you can visit. For me, the best part of the coast is the lobster. You find it everywhere, at fish shacks on the beach and restaurants in town.

A friend of a friend, Robert Nudd, invites me for a lobster dinner at home with his wife, Sheila. His family has been here since the 1600s, and he’s been fishing, sometimes for 60 days straight, for four decades. His crew sometimes ribs him for holding onto pre-digital technology, he says, and he can’t imagine doing anything else. Today he’s caught dozens of lobster, and is cooking up way too many for our dinner.

Lobster is big up and down New Hampshire’s wee coastline. Shacks and sit-down restaurants boil up fresh catches.

Get that? Portsmouth is a lively colonial town that’s escaped most traveler radars. It has beaches and beer and theater, and its lobster is delicious.

Waves roll into the coastline in Rye, an oceanside town just outside Portsmouth.
Video by Ronan Donovan


Stay: Ale House Inn has compact boutique rooms within walking distance of all the center shops, restaurants, theaters, and sites.

See: Strawbery Banke is a district of a few dozen homes with costumed role-players. The $19.50 admission lasts for two consecutive days. The bulk of the sandy beaches are in Hampton, within a 20-minute drive. They get busy.

Do: Discover Portsmouth hosts several themed walking tours. For $12, I got a lot out of the 60-minute daily walking tour. You can kayak by islands in the Piscataqua; Portsmouth Kayak Adventures rents kayaks and offers tours.

Drink: Book and Bar is a used bookstore with beer, open late. Earth Eagle Brewings on a back alley is worth the chase.

New collections update 9/12/16

As many people have noticed, we have been pouring in tons of incredible books of late.  Perhaps because we have purchased nearly 100,000 books in the last 2 months alone.  Large collections include subjects such as Philosophy, Mathematics, Physics, Political and social theory, fiction, Ancient and Medieval studies.  Not sure why this year we are getting much more books than previous years…..perhaps has to do with the baby-b00mer generation having build libraries and are now in the process of downsizing, retiring, etc.   Whatever the reason, it has been truly amazing and we have weeks worth of book collections scheduled already into the fall.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.

Austin country musician Billy Eli to perform Portsmouth Book and Bar!

FRIDAY, JUNE 21 9:00 p.m. > BILLY ELI

Texas songwriter Billy brings his “country that rocks and rock that’s country” to Book & Bar with his band featuring world class musicians. Comparisons to Billy’s style have been made to Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, and Steve Earle. billyeli.com



Indy rock legend Ken Stringfellow to perform at Portsmouth Book and Bar


Founding member of The Posies, member of R.E.M for ten years and with Memphis’s Big Star for seventeen years, Ken comes to us from his home in Paris for a night of solo performance from his new record “Danzig in the Moonlight” and beyond. Ken’s shows are legendary, pushing minimalism to its core definition, often performing without using the house PA. His voice soars, cries, leaps from barely audible to room-filling anguish, joy, sorrow and humor. Ken’s live shows have been raved about in packed audiences from Lithuania to Lima, from Taipei to Tasmania, from Johannesburg to Trinidad. kenstringfellow.com



Ken Stingfellow to play first ever show in Portsmouth, NH.

Mark your calendars for Ken stringfellow coming to Portsmouth Book and Bar on July 6th. I have been a fan of his since the Posies in the 1990s, through his solo stuff and his work with REM, Big Star and others. Should be a great event.

REdesign: libraries – Speaker Bios for event at Worcester Art Museum, May 3, 2013

Matthias Waschek, PhD, became Director of the Worcester Art Museum in November 2011. Originally from Germany, Dr. Waschek wrote his PhD on French art theory of the end of the 19th-century, which encompasses thinking about the Fine and Decorative Arts, as well as architecture and literature in a globalizing world. Dr. Waschek served as Head of Academic Programs at the Louvre Museum in Paris from 1992 to 2003. His broad range of publications, along with his teaching (Ecole du Louvre, Parson’s School of Art, Sciences Po, Université de La Rochelle, etc.), had one major focus: exploring the relationship between artwork, artists and their public. He was instrumental in enhancing the Louvre’s academic profile by creating a series of international symposia and lectures on art historical and archeological themes.

As Executive Director and Curator of the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts (2003-2011), Dr. Waschek published extensively on 20th Century and Contemporary Art. He shaped the identity of the Foundation as a young and experimental institution with a strong community impact by clarifying its mission “as a laboratory and a sanctuary.” Waschek is widely respected for his innovative programs and exhibitions, as well as his talent for establishing robust strategic partnerships with community stakeholders and businesses. During his successful tenure at the Pulitzer, he built a stable organizational and financial structure to ensure long-term strength and sustainability. In order to raise the Foundation’s institutional profile and impact, he grew the annual operating budget by 52% over six years and increased professional staffing considerably. Throughout his museum career Dr. Waschek has generated numerous collaborations between universities and museums to develop experimental programs, such as a partnership between the Pulitzer Foundation and the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. Dr. Waschek hopes to make the Museum an urban player in Worcester, strengthening an already existing culture of creativity, innovation and cohesion. His goal is to maximize the Museum’s regional impact, to engage the local community including more than 30,000 college students, and to make the institution organizationally and financially more sustainable for the next chapter of its growth.
Kristin Waters, Ph.D. is Professor of Philosophy at Worcester State University, and a resident scholar at the Brandeis University Women’s Studies Research Center.  Recently she was named the first Presidential Fellow for Art, Education and Community and in this role serves as a liaison between the university and museum facilitating pilot programs to engage WSU students and faculty, and working towards making WAM a university museum. Her recent scholarship reclaims the philosophical work of women and African Americans situating it historically and within contemporary intellectual frameworks.  Her book, Black Women’s Intellectual Traditions: Speaking Their Minds (UPNE 2007), co-edited with Carol B. Conaway was awarded the Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Prize for best anthology from the Association of Black Women Historians.  The 2000 collection, Women and Men Political Theorists: Enlightened Conversations (Wiley) remains one of the few race and gender-inclusive political theory collections.  Her most recent book chapter, “Past as Prologue: Intersectional Analysis in Nineteenth Century Philosophies of Race and Gender” appears in Why Race and Gender Still Matter: An Intersectional Approach, will be published by an imprint of Cambridge University Press in March, 2014.

Kulapat Yantrasast, a native of Thailand, is the co-founder and principal of wHY Architecture which he founded with fellow architect Yo-ichiro Hakomori in 2003 in Los Angeles, and opened with a New York location in the spring of 2012. Newsweek magazine’s recent article on architecture noted wHY Architecture as one of the most innovative architectural practices of the new generation, and their philosophy of integration of creative thinking with timeless design, along with their focus on intelligent and high-quality construction, have gained them a reputation for their architectural works and projects for the arts and culture all over the United States. In 2007, wHY Architecture completed the Grand Rapids Art Museum, which became the first new art museum in the world to receive the LEED certification for environmental design. Current projects include the expansion and renovation of the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, the oldest and largest art museum in the state, a series of gallery design and collection installations at the Art Institute of Chicago and at the Harvard Art Museums, the Art Bridge at the Great Wall of Los Angeles, and the new Tyler Museum of Art in Texas as well as many residential and commercial projects. Other recent art cultural projects include the new Pomona College Studio Art Hall facility in Claremont, California. Prior to wHY Architecture, Kulapat worked as a close associate with Tadao Ando and served as a project architect on many projects during 1996 – 2003, which includes the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth in Texas, the ARMANI / TEATRO in Milan, the projects for the Calder Museum in Philadelphia, the Fondation Francois Pinault in Paris and the project for the Sterling and Francine Clark Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, that he continues to work on with Tadao Ando. Kulapat graduated with degree in Architecture from Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, and received his Masters and Ph.D. in Architecture from the University of Tokyo under a scholarship from Japanese Government. He lectures regularly in the US and worldwide, and since 2005 he has served on the Artists’ Committee of American for the Arts, the nation’s oldest organization for the support of the Arts in society. He was also awarded the prestigious Silpathorn Award in 2009 from the Government of Thailand for outstanding achievement and notable contributions to Thai contemporary arts and culture; in doing so he became the first architect to receive the award. In 2012, he was named as one of the 100 Most Powerful People in the Art World in Art+Auction’s annual Power 100 issue.










Michael Edson is the Smithsonian Institution’s Director of Web and New Media Strategy. Michael has worked on numerous award-winning projects and has been involved in practically every aspect of technology and New Media for museums. In addition to developing the Smithsonian’s first Web and New Media Strategy, the Smithsonian Commons concept, and the Smithsonian’s multi-award winning Web and New Media Strategy Wiki, Michael helped create the Smithsonian’s first blog, Eye Level, and the first Alternative Reality Game to take place in a museum, Ghosts of a Chance. Michael is an O’Reilly Foo Camp veteran and was named a Tech Titan 2011: person to watch by Washingtonian magazine. Michael has a BA from Wesleyan University. He has worked at the Smithsonian for 20 years.





Adam Reed Rozan is the director of Audience Engagement at the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts, overseeing education, the studio class program, marketing, design and visitor services. Previously, he was the Audience Development manager at the Oakland Museum of California, and before that, served in various functions at Harvard Art Museums, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Children’s Museum, Boston Public Library and Boston Museum of Science. His expertise is in visitor engagement through online and onsite innovative programming, and in-gallery/exhibition exploration. Rozan is a frequent lecturer and writer on museum engagement and contemporary art, and holds a Master of Liberal Arts degree in Museum Studies from Harvard University Extension School.



Jeff Goldenson works at the intersection of libraries, technology and fun. He is the designer in the Harvard Library Innovation Lab where he imagines and builds new library projects, from policy to software to experiences.  He’s Co-Teacher, Harvard Graduate School of Design Seminar 09125, The Library Test Kitchen, a workshop where – with the financial support of the Harvard Library – students design and build their own library projects.  Previously, Jeff was an artist-in-residence at EdLab, Teachers College, Columbia University.   He earned a Masters of Science from the MIT Media Lab and a BA in Architecture from Princeton University.


Tona J. Hangen is a social and cultural historian of the 19th and 20th century U.S. at Worcester State University in Worcester, MA, where she also serves as the Assistant Director of the Commonwealth Honors Program. She holds a Ph.D. in American Civilization from Brandeis University and a B.S. in Anthropology/Archaeology from MIT. She is the author of Redeeming the Dial: Radio, Religion, and Popular Culture in America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002) and a contributing author to the recently published Cambridge History of Religion in America and to the Oxford Handbook of Mormonism (in press) and the forthcoming Routledge Companion Volume to Religion and Popular Culture. Her essays on media and religion have appeared in Radio Cultures: The Sound Medium in American Life, edited by Michael Keith, and in Radio Reader: Essays in the Cultural History of Radio, edited by Michele Hilmes and Jason Loviglio. Her research interests include popular culture, media, religion, women’s history, digital humanities, and the pedagogy of history. She has consulted with Teaching American History programs affiliated with the American Antiquarian Society and the Five Colleges consortium in Northampton, MA.

Molly Rubenstein joined the Artisan’s Asylum staff in July of 2011. First working as volunteer Outreach Coordinator and then Director of Operations, she is honored to be serving now as Interim Executive Director. Molly’s professional background is in community organizing, education, and the performing arts — she seeks out systems through which a community of people can explore new things and engage in a common vision. Her previous work with the public policy initiative Workplace Flexibility 2010 strengthened her conviction that there should be other options available for professionals than the standard 9-5 job; she’s excited to help makers and fabricators of all kinds find ways of supporting themselves through their creative work. Molly is a graduate of Yale University with a degree in Linguistics that she likes to find creative uses for in her day-to-day life.




Martha Mahard has more than three decades of professional experience with the Harvard University Libraries, including work in photography and visual collections at the Fine Arts Library, visual resources at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and the Harvard Theatre Collection of The Houghton Library. She has written numerous publications and presentations in the field of photographic archives and visual information. Mahard received her D.A. and M.S. from Simmons GSLIS. She is currently Professor of Practice at the Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science.

John Petrovato
has been a bookseller for over 20 years in Massachusetts.  Co-owner of the Montague Book Mill in the 1990 to 2000 and currently owner of Raven Used Books located in Harvard Square in Cambridge (2004) and on Newbury Street in Boston (2009). Also, co-owner of the newly opened Portsmouth Book and Bar in Portsmouth, NH.   The Raven specializes in used scholarly, literary, and art books in excellent condition. Winner of the “Best of Boston” by Boston Magazine (2012) and “Best Used Bookstore” by Boston Phoenix in 2011, each store sells over 5000 books monthly and 2012 was the best year thus far.   The Portsmouth Book and Bar combines used books along with a full restaurant and Bar and books well known regional and national musical acts.