In Edgartown, on Main Street, under the welcoming shade of a large tree, is a quiet unassuming two-storey structure. Actually, there are a lot of them. This one is different though. This one sits behind a large porch with wooden tables and chairs. On a sunny summer day people sit on the porch and read, sipping a coffee, and eating a treat from ‘Behind The Bookstore’. On a rainy day, they do the same thing, but they do it under an awning considerately rolled out by the management. You see, there is one thing that sets this building, with its bay window and porch, aside from every other building on the street. In fact, one thing sets it aside from almost every other building on the island. It’s a bookstore. The sign beside the steps that lead up to the porch and directly into the side door reads ‘Edgartown Books’.
I love Edgartown Books. I love everything about it. It truly has a Martha’s Vineyard feel. Martha’s Vineyard is an island of art and whimsy, intelligence and style. Edgartown Books is all of that. The first thing everyone notices, when they walk in, is the staircase. Each polished, wood step is labelled on its face with a different genre of reading material—mystery, romance, humour, nautical, teen, reference, and so on—and it always makes people smile. On the shelves of Edgartown Books, you will find the latest in pop culture and the classics. You will find excellent photographs by local photographers and cards with paintings by local artists. In fact, Edgartown Books seems to go out of their way to display the works of all local artists of every medium. I think that’s what makes it so special. They have an inherent understanding of what makes Martha’s Vineyard singular but, typical of the island itself, they’re not going to brag about it but rather leave it up to you to figure it out for yourself.
There are two sections devoted to the island. The ‘Martha’s Vineyard’ section is filled with books about anything and everything pertaining to the island and her goings on. You will find Peter Benchley’s JAWS and Edith Blake’s ‘On Location On Martha’s Vineyard’. Tom Dunlop’s ‘Chappy Ferry Book’ is a must have in my opinion. That, of course, will take you to one or two tomes on the Ted Kennedy incident. I would encourage you to grab the Martha’s Vineyard Cookbook. Carly Simon’s autobiography can be found here as well—I loved that book.
Front and centre, just under the cash register, you will find my favourite part of the store, ‘Local Authors’. There are so many talented people on Martha’s Vineyard and their works are all here: Cynthia Riggs, Philip Craig, Tom Dunlop, Tom Dresser, and Holly Nadler. I am also extremely proud to say that I can be found on the shelves among these great talents, some of whom I am proud to count among my friends.
W.P. Kinsella once wrote, “If you build it, he will come.” Well that might be true. You can throw books on a shelf and call any building a bookstore, but if no one likes you, they’ll come, but they won’t stay. The staff in Edgartown Books is exceptional. They are consistently warm and friendly and always knowledgeable. Making sure that you find what you are looking for, enjoying your time in their store, is clearly important to them.
Most small bookstores are already gone. Even the big bookstores are disappearing. The fast streams of the digital world are desperately trying to take over, and maybe on the mainland, they have. Edgartown Books is its own dry land between two waters, and I, for one, so appreciate what they do.