Buy a Book

Shop in Amherst’s world-class bookstores

Archbishop Tutu bought a book at LAOS Interfaith Book Center during a 1992 visit

Photo courtesy of LAOS

Archbishop Desmond Tutu bought a book at
LAOS Religious Book Center during a 1992 visit

The Amherst town seal features a book and a plow, and our treasured bookstores and farms are both heroically persevering against the pressures of modern times. Ruth Backes’s 1989 guide, The Bookstores of Amherst listed 10 local booksellers. Today only 3 of them remain, and one is expected to close by year end. Fortunately, however, a couple newcomers have emerged, and Amherst continues to be as well endowed with good bookstores as any community in Western Massachusetts.

View Bookstores of Amherst in a larger map

Bookstores of Amherst

Bookstores of Amherst

  1. Eric Carle Museum Shop, 125 West Bay Rd. – The museum’s shop, run by veteran children’s bookseller Andrew Laties, has been described by Parents’ Choice as “very best bookstore for picture books in the entire world.”
  2. Yiddish Book Center, 1021 West St. – Holder of one of the world’s largest collections of Yiddish-language books. The adjoining bookstore offers a unique collection of Yiddish and Jewish-oriented books and CDs.
  3. A. J. Hastings, 45 South Pleasant St. – In addition to office supplies, Amherst College and UMass clothing, and greeting cards, Hastings sells newspapers, magazines, maps and a small assorment of local interest books.
  4. Jones Library, 43 Amity St. – Pay what you want for any book on the shelves of constantly changing donated titles in the public library foyer.
  5. Amherst Books, 8 Main St. – Book browsers’ paradise in the heart of Amherst. The shop has a well-stocked shelf devoted to Emily Dickinson. Used books are on the lower level. Recognized as “Best Bookstore in New England” by Boston Magazine’s New England Travel & Life in 2007.
  6. Food For Thought Books, 106 North Pleasant St. – Workers collective with an inspired selection of titles on current affairs, social issues, progressive politics, the environment and other subjects of an activist bent. It began in 1976 as an extension of the Amherst Food Co-op, hence the name.
  7. LAOS Interfaith Book Store, 233 North Pleasant St. – LAOS (Laymens Academy for Oecumenical Studies) Book Store’s specialties include Church history and theology, interfaith philosophies, children, families and Bibles. Located on the 2nd floor of the Carriage Shops and in operation since 1971.  Sadly, plans are underway to close the doors by year end.
  8. UMass Textbook Annex, 360 Campus Center Way – Textbooks for University of Mass. courses may be purchased or picked up here.

Beyond being sources of reading material, several of Amherst’s bookstores are event venues. My family and I will cherish the memory of meeting ex-presidential candidate Senator George McGovern this past March at Amherst Books where he was signing copies of his new book, What It Means to Be a Democrat. We were sad to hear of his passing last week at age 90. Mr. McGovern, who carried only Massachusetts and District of Columbia during his 1972 race against Richard Nixon showed his grace and good humor when he inscribed a book for my wife who was running for Jones Library Trustee at the time: “To Carol, Success in all your elections.”

George McGovern at Amherst Books

George McGovern at Amherst Books

3 Books about Amherst and Books

  • The Bookstores of Amherst, A Browser’s Guide. By Ruth Backes (1989). A survey of 10 bookshops and 2 book auctions in Amherst at the time. I’d like to thank the kind folks at LAOS Interfaith Bookstore for giving me a copy.
  • Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books. By Aaron Lansky (2004, Algonquin Books). The Yiddish-book-saving adventures of Hampshire grad Aaron Lansky that led to the founding of the National Yiddish Book Center. Lanksy won a MacArthur Award for his book preservation efforts, and the 2005 Massachusetts Book Award for the book.
  • Rebel Bookseller: Why Indie Bookstores Represent Everything You Want to Fight For – From Free Speech to Buying Local to Building Communities, 2nd Edition. By Andrew Laties (2011, Seven Stories Press). Memoir of his decades in the bookselling business and call to action on behalf of the buy local movement, by the manager of the Eric Carle Museum bookstore.

The first title is out of print, but the other two are available. You can purchase or order them from a local bookseller.

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