Exploring Indie Bookshops in Maine

In mid-May my husband and I took a road trip up to Maine. His family recently had work done to update their family cottage and we wanted to inspect the work before the rental season started. In between working remotely, wrangling contractors, and doing our own handywork, we managed to find time for a little bit of fun!

As fate would so conveniently have it, we “stumbled” into some cute indie bookshops during our exploration of downtown Portland and Camden. Of course, we popped into other shops and whetted our whistles on plenty of great local beer, which is all just as swell. But let’s be real–we’re here for the book-sploration!

Before I get to the fun stuff, apologies in advance for the low quality of these photos. They’re all phone photos edited and downsized using Lightroom and Photoshop. I’m not quite sure why the quality is so low, but I give up on trying to figure it out. Anyway….

In downtown Portland we stopped in at Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shops. If I’m remembering their sign correctly, they boast being the oldest book shop in Maine. I forgot to take photos in the store, but I love that their staff recommendations are near the shop entrance. Because of this set up, I discovered and bought Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake. Another feature I like about the store is that they had a clearly marked LGBTQ+ reads section. I’ve only been book blogging for a couple of months now. However, in that amount of time I’ve noticed how so many advocate for inclusivity in the book community. So I thought it was great to see that this bookstore strives for inclusivity and boosts awareness of these books and authors.

We also visited Yes Books and Green Hand Bookshop, which are both used bookstores. Yes Books is perfect for those who enjoy wandering through a maze of genres and hunting for treasures. They had quite large sections for different history subgenres; their section on books about Native American history sticks out in my memory.

Green Hand Bookshop is more organized than Yes Books, which I appreciated because we were short on time. Green Hand Bookshop has a lot of vintage sci-fi and fantasy paperbacks. They’re the kind that are all uniform in size and whose cover illustrations are reminiscent of the 70s and 80s. They also clearly price mark rare/hard-to-find editions of books by authors such as Octavia Butler or Frank Herbert.

I was hoping to find the first book of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, or even something with the original cover art from the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, but I came out empty handed. If I’d had more time to research some of the vintage sci-fi and fantasy books, I probably would’ve walked out with a few books. But I was happy just the same to only peruse the stacks.

Owl and Turtle Bookshop and CafeIn Camden we weren’t actively looking for a bookstore, so we truly did stumble across Owl & Turtle Bookshop and Cafe. This store is after my own heart–most of the books on the shelves are paperbacks! I personally rarely buy hardbacks because they’re expensive and take up a lot of precious space. In my perfect book world, the paperback version of a book would be released simultaneously with the hardback version. But I digress.

Owl & Turtle lends itself well to book browsing. There aren’t a ton of books to cause decision paralysis, but there are plenty enough to satisfy different interests. I ended up purchasing two books: Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell and The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker.

Stone Soup BooksLast, but certainly not least, we explored Stone Soup Books, which has used books bursting out of its seams. It isn’t a very large store, but there are plenty of different genres to sift through. There’s a large general fiction section, not to mention hefty classical, philosophy, and nonfiction sections. I even saw some vintage Nancy Drew books from the 1950s. I almost bought a couple of books by Kazuo Ishiguro, but I’ve heard different opinions about his writing style, so I wasn’t ready to commit to my own copies.

Before this trip I hadn’t been inside of a bookstore since well before the pandemic hit. Since we were mainly homebound during the pandemic, I rediscovered my love of reading. Once things started to open for in-person browsing, I was excited to go to a bookstore for the first time in ages. In this digital age we can order a book and receive it lickity split. But I don’t think that will ever replace (for me) being able to walk into a bookstore, explore the selection, and physically handle a book before making a decision about one’s next literary escape. Not to mention you can’t get that new (or used) book smell through your computer.

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