Looking for your next big read? The perfect gift for the book lover on your holiday list? Look no further than your local independent bookseller. Rhode Island is teeming with these treasures, from Charlestown and Wakefield to Newport and Warren. The Indies are the heart and soul of their communities, supported by owners as diverse and interesting as the books they keep.
We chatted with folks from a few of them to get their thoughts on what makes their store special – and we got some book recommendations as well.
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Books on the square, Providence
471, rue Angell, Providence, booksq.com or on Facebook, (401) 331-9097.
Jennifer kandarian, manager and adult buyer
Question: Books On The Square will soon be celebrating its 30th anniversary. Do you attribute its longevity, in part, to its involvement in the community?
A: Books on the Square has been a part of the Providence community since 1992. We participate in many book fairs and events, donate hundreds of books each year to non-profit organizations, and invite everyone to browse the bookstore. Books on the Square wouldn’t be here without the support of our amazing community, which understands the value of a local bookstore where you can run for a last minute giveaway, wander the piles, and staff picks looking for inspiration, or get a personalized bookseller suggestions.
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Question: Books on the Square was one of the first bookstores in the area to welcome customers’ dogs. Can you talk about a few of them?
A: We have so many great four legged friends who visit us. Some of our (almost daily) visitors are Rosie, the sweetest black lab, who carries her favorite toy everywhere with her. And so many great Corgis stop to visit.
Question: What are some of your top picks right now?
A: “The sentence”, by Louise Erdrich; “Once upon a time there were wolves” by Charlotte McConaghy; “Five Tuesdays in Winter,” by Lily King; “The French Gift”, by Kirsty Manning; and “Lemon”, by Kwon Yeo-sun.
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Ink Fish Pounds, Warren
488 Main St., Warren, inkfishbooks.com or on Facebook, (401) 368-6827.
Lisa valentino, owner
Question: What prompted you to open a bookstore?
A: I founded Ink Fish Books because bookstores connect a community by providing a space to share the ritual of browsing, thinking and communicating. The name is inspired by my passion for books and reading, and the town’s roots in fishing and boat building.
Question: What sets Ink Fish apart from other independent bookstores?
A: Our commitment to the community and support for local authors and creators by matching local books and articles. Ink Fish Books features many local authors and products from Hope & Main (the food business incubator), many of which are women-owned businesses. This expands the reach of the support and makes a perfect gift.
Question: Can you give an example of the perfect book gift?
A: An extension of my vision for Ink Fish Books is the Rhody Reader Book Box to support local community authors and creators and give back to a local nonprofit organization. This year, I teamed up with local author Elizabeth B. Splaine and Books are Wings. All of the box items have been personalized to complement Splaine’s historical fictional novel “Swan Song”.
Books on the Pond, Charlestown
289 Narrow Lane, Charlestown, booksonthepond.com or on Facebook, (914) 450-9598. Reopening on December 1st for the holiday season.
Alexandra Lehmann, owner
Question: What brought you to Charlestown?
A: Memories of a happy childhood at East Beach in Quonnie, combined with the ability to own and build our art and writing center in a city encouraging our mission.
Question: You opened in the summer of 2019. What was it like starting a new business then?
A: Our intergenerational community – residents and visitors – was so welcoming. We hosted a popular “Woodstock Renaissance” and memorable read with the Tomaquag Museum and the Charlestown Historical Society. These programs have encouraged us to create more conversation and interaction programs in a larger place.
Question: What are the special features of Books On The Pond?
A: We are located three miles from the stunning beaches of South County. There are three barns on the property showcasing various genres and an outdoor cafe terrace that guests love, as well as a red pole and beam barn used for open-mic / spoken word and author readings. . The red barn “Reading room” is also an art gallery. We offer an upstairs studio residency for working visual artists. Our additional private apartment is also home to working writers who work and teach here.
Charter Books, Newport
8 Broadway, Newport, charterbookstore.com and on Facebook, (401) 236-8678.
Steve Iwanski, owner
Question: What sets Charter Books apart from other independent bookstores? Is there a particular focus or genre of predilection?
A: Our goal is to add variety and texture to the options for Newport County readers. That said, our focus is on the signed books, Newport history and culture, and staff choices. Our children’s section represents a third of our store and we hope to create a fun family atmosphere for the enjoyment of the little ones.
Question: What was the community’s response?
A: The response from the community has been overwhelmingly positive. Last holiday season, we offered curbside pickup and free local delivery, and although we were brand new, the neighborhood immediately supported us. It’s only gotten better since then, and we love our Lower Broadway neighbors, which have some of the best bars and restaurants in Newport.
Question: I would like to know a little more about your bookish journey.
A: I majored in English but didn’t pay much attention to contemporary literature until I started working at Turnrow Books in Greenwood, Mississippi. Popular bestselling writers made it a destination, and I was able to learn enough to take the plunge myself and start Charter Books here in Newport.
Rarities Books & Bindery, Wakefield and North Kingstown
Bookstore: 396 Main Street, Wakefield; Binding: Shady Lea Mill, 215 Shady Lea Rd., Studio 201, North Kingstown; raritiesonline.com or on Facebook, (401) 379-9970.
Kelly Allen-Kujawski, owner
Question: What is the link between the book community and Rarities?
A: Most of the rarity inventory comes from Allison Goodsell of the Kingston Hill Bookstore. She has been a book powerhouse in the state for the past 40 years, and when she retired I took over her inventory. The Rhode Island Rarities name is a tribute to the local authors featured in the store. There is a good sized section dedicated to selling their artwork.
Question: What interested you in the art of bookbinding?
A: It was through a completely random video that came across my Facebook feed. I was teaching before I had kids and didn’t want to come back. I wanted to work with books and fell in love with bookbinding.
Question: Are your customers sharing stories with you?
A: I love to hear the family stories of some of the books for sale or repairs that come into the store. These stories also help me stay connected to the community. … I can’t tell you how many regulars I have now!