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Wellesley, Massachusetts is an extraordinary place - carved out from the Town of Needham in 1881, and named after the estate of the town's benefactor Horatio Hollis Hunnewell, which in turn was named for the banker's company, Welles & Co. in Paris (and NOT the 1st Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, as some thought). It quickly became a community where the richer citizens of Boston, the regional capital some 15 miles to the east, came to seek a quiet, bucolic lifestyle.

The establishment of Wellesley College in 1870 by Henry and Pauline Durant, ensured that the town would become one of the centers of women's education on the Eastern Seaboard. Over the years, the College became a liberal arts school with an international reputation for turning out intellectual, high-achieving alumnae; Madame Chiang Kai-shek, Eleanor Roosevelt, Madeleine Korbel Albright and Hillary Rodham Clinton to name but a few.

Wellesley is really a 'two and a half college' town, which is amazing since it has a population of only 28,000 spread over 10 square miles. Babson College is a highly ranked business school, and has a 'twinned' campus with Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, which is hard up against the town boundary, even though mostly in Needham. Dana Hall, an independent boarding/day school for girls in Grades 9-12, with an approximately 25% international student body, completes the town's major educational establishments.

As you can imagine, despite the growth of online book sales, this large student population allows an example of that very rare establishment, the independent book store, to actually thrive in the center of town. The economic health of the town is indicated by the fact that the shopping area of Wellesley includes such stores as the jewelers Lux, Bond and Green (other locations; Westport, Greenwich), and the German appliance makers, Miele (Boca Raton, Beverly Hills). I suppose you could say that the town can support the indulgence of a book store.

Wellesley Books lies on Central Street, not far from a Starbucks and two other coffee shops, and within a half mile of one of the gates of the Wellesley College campus. As you can see, it is beautifully appointed, and aims to attract the casual visitor inside by its well laid out window displays. Once inside you are immediately struck by the fact that this is no ordinary book store. It is becoming common for establishments such as this to sell the odd calendar or two, but Wellesley Books sell an amazing range of them - and locally made gift items, fine stationery, useful trinkets for the traveler, wrapping paper, and much more. I consider their stock as good as many a regular 'gift shop', and yet, all of this does not divert them from their main mission. Tables near the front door display the latest best sellers, whilst as well as the usual 'Fiction, A - Z' (to the left as you enter), there is an excellent selection of science fiction/fantasy (I usually buy any new Terry Pratchett I find) and the history/non-fiction is well worth a look.

Towards the rear of the store you will pass through a lot of 'teen fiction', and some low-cost 'trade paperbacks', and then arrive at the rear door (accessible from a large parking lot in the rear), which is next to another check-out desk and a lovely children's section. This has open spaces, good quality educational toys for sale, soft carpeting and places to read and play.

As you can probably see from the photograph of the front of the store, a relatively recent development has been the display of reasonably priced secondhand books - both hardback and paperback - on a couple of 'library carts' on the sidewalk, to entice the customer! This is backed up by a whole basement full of 'gently used books', which are accessible via a flight of stairs close to the children's section; have no fear, the stairs are protected by a half-height 'barn door' with a bolt, which removes any danger to the the smallest customers!

'The Book Cellar' has an impressive selection of educational books (as you would expect), a whole section on SAT prep, and AP courses for example. The secondhand books on offer are really in excellent condition, some of them being barely distinguishable from new. At the foot of the stairs - as you can see - there is a display of children's titles, with an appropriately-sized table and chairs to allow young readers to browse in comfort.

The store's online newsletter is excellent, listing the many talks and other events involving local authors, and news of what the staff are reading (and the reading groups that they lead, too). However, the most enjoyable feature is left to the end. This newsletter includes a 'Dog of the Week' ! This section consists of a photograph and a short description of a favorite pooch (yes, dogs are WELCOME in the store), which can either belong to one of the staff, or a customer. This is a truly wonderful idea!

Wellesley Books is that rara avis - an independent book store which is thriving.

Readers & Book Lovers Series Schedule






DAY TIME (EST/EDT) Series Name Editor(s)
SUN 6:00 PM Young Reader's Pavilion The Book Bear
alternate
Sundays
2:00 PM What's on Your E-Reader? Caedy
alternate
Sundays
2:00 PM Bibliophile's Wish List Caedy
Sun 9:30 PM SciFi/Fantasy Book Club quarkstomper
Bi-Monthly Sun Midnight Reading Ramblings don mikulecky
MON
alternate Mondays
2:00 PM Political Books Susan from 29
Mon 8:00 PM Monday Murder Mystery michelewln, Susan from 29
Mon 11:00 PM My Favorite Books/Authors edrie, MichiganChet
TUES 5:00 PM Indigo Kalliope: Poems from the Left bigjacbigjacbigjac
alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM LGBT Literature Texdude50, Dave in Northridge
alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM All Things Bookstore Dave in Northridge
Tue 8:00 PM Contemporary Fiction Views bookgirl
WED 7:30 AM WAYR? plf515
Wed 2:00 PM e-books Susan from 29
Wed 8:00 PM Bookflurries Bookchat cfk
THU 8:00 PM Write On! SensibleShoes
Thu (first each month) 11:00 AM Monthly Bookpost AdmiralNaismith
alternate Thursdays 11:00 PM Audiobooks Club SoCaliana
FRI 8:00 AM Books That Changed My Life Diana in NoVa
Fri 8:00 PM Books Go Boom! Brecht; first one each month by ArkDem14
Fri 10:00 PM Slightly Foxed -- But Still Desirable shortfinals
SAT (fourth each month) 11:00 AM Windy City Bookworm Chitown Kev
Sat 12:00 PM You Can't Read That! Paul's Book Reviews pwoodford
Sat 9:00 PM Books So Bad They're Good Ellid

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