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Monday, February 10, 2003

Fall of the House of Sarah.

After sixteen years, House of Sarah Books closes shop in my Cambridge neighborhood. How did it ever last so long? You couldn't buy a John Grisham novel or a self-help book there; its collection of used books — including a section of shelves in back from other dealers — was tilted toward religion, scholarship, literary fiction, and rare books. I considered it the best used bookstore in this book-dense city.

The store's last day is Valentine's Day, so here's a love letter to the shop and the books I've discovered there over the years. I found novels like Frederick Buechner's The Son of Laughter, Sarah Willis's Some Things That Stay, and John Kenneth Galbraith's A Tenured Professor — which anyone who has spent much time around Harvard Yard must read. I first heard the album "Boomerang" by The Creatures at House of Sarah, but I especially enjoyed listening to Red Sox games while browsing through the stacks on sweltering afternoons. The cat was unimpressed by customers, of course, but sometimes stayed put when one of us sat down on the couch.

I picked up histories like Bernard Bailyn's The Peopling of British North America (which is very good) and The Transformation of Theology, 1830-1890: Positivism and Protestant Thought in Britain and America by Charles Cashdollar (which, I'm sorry to say, didn't hold my attention for long). I bought books on jazz, Bach's piety, Genesis, and the architectural history of Mid-Cambridge. I spend a lot of time in Cambridge bookstores — I browse for novels and history at the Harvard Bookstore, art and design at Wordsworth, poetry of course at the Grolier — but House of Sarah often had just what I needed. I am especially grateful to have found George Packer's memoir Blood of the Liberals in the political science section last summer, never having heard of him before. (Every liberal should read it — and his more recent essays.)

I have no idea how a used bookstore survives, especially one as dedicated to high quality books as House of Sarah. I loved my neighborhood bookstore, and I'm sorry to see it go.

Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 10 February 2003 at 11:38 PM

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