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5 Boston Literary Haunts That Will Inspire You

Got writer’s block? Stuck in a study rut? These bookish retreats will spark your creativity and ignite your inner bookworm. All five are registered sites in the Boston Literary District and just a few blocks from campus.

1. The Boston Athenæum: 10 ½ Beacon Street


Founded in 1807, the Boston Athenæum is home to one of the most extensive collections of literature, art, and research materials in the city, and it’s one of the oldest independent libraries in the country. Besides its regularly rotating selection of books, it houses a rare books collection of over 100,000 volumes and an art collection of over 100,000 paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, photographs, and other works. There is a public gallery for non-members and a packed schedule of events including public lectures, readings, and concerts. Membership can get a little pricey, but there’s a Young Patron discount for anyone 35 and under, and the first floor is open to the public. If you do decide to become a member, you’ll be joining the ranks of many prominent writers, scholars, and politicians including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, John Quincy Adams, and John F. Kennedy.


2. Brattle Book Shop: 9 West Street

One of our favorite places near campus. What's yours? #EmersonSnaps #BrattleBookShop #Boston

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The Brattle Book Shop on West Street is “one of America’s oldest and largest used book shops” with three floors of used, rare, and antiquarian books. You can’t miss the giant No. 2 pencil hanging above the door or the outdoor sale lot stacked with frugal finds. Looking for something specific? The shop’s website allows you to search and browse their online listing, and an experienced buyer is onsite from 9-5pm. And if you love the look of old books or have set designing needs—we’re talking to you, film majors—they’ll even help you decorate with them.


3. Boston Public Library: 700 Boylston Street

It’s a classic for a reason. The historic Boston Public Library (BPL) Central Library in Copley Square is made up of two buildings, 930,000 square feet of space, and 22.7 million items in its collection. David McCullough described the BPL as one of the five most important libraries in America. It hosts hundreds of free public programs each year, from Basics of 3D Design & Printing, Cozy Crafts, and Adult Creativity Hour to film screenings, Concerts in the Courtyard, and Opera Night.


4. King’s Chapel Burying Ground: Tremont Street off School Street

More of a Stephen King than a Jane Austen? Get some graveyard inspiration at King’s Chapel Burying Ground on Tremont. It was the first burying ground in Boston proper, and besides the fact that it’s packed with history—John Winthrop and Mary Chilton are buried here—it’s also the burial site for The Scarlet Letter’s fictional Hester Prynne and Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale.


5. Commonwealth Books: 9 Spring Lane

Hidden down a side street in Downtown Crossing, this “brick and mortar” bookshop offers over 40,000 titles in everything “from medieval manuscript leaves to recent mysteries.” It is open every day of the year except for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and is an unofficial stop along the Freedom Trail. The shop is also home to an impressive collection of monographs, decorative arts, old prints, and engravings that span from the 1600s to the 1940s. If you’re lucky, you’ll even get to meet Leo the Cat.