37 Spring Street, Williamstown, MA
Williamstown is a gorgeous little spot tucked into the rocky hills and sweeping valleys of northwestern Massachusetts. The town is home to prestigious institutions such as Clark Art and Williams College, the latter being particularly important as Williams is Williamstown, and vice versa. At least it always felt that way to me. Driving through town you find regal older homes, towering brick halls, and stylized glass structures, all seemingly connected to one of the two organizations that make the town so unique, and they all surround the small downtown strip that makes up the social and commercial hub: Spring Street. With cafes, gift shops, a college bookstore, an ice cream stand, a small movie house, and a pub, Spring Street has enough to keep most students and locals occupied on any given day, but with the addition of Chapter Two Books, a new bookshop in Williamstown, there’s an extra reason for bookworms in the area to drive out and enjoy a few hours in this picturesque college town.
The shop gives the appearance of specializing in brand new books because it’s clean, organized, and has plenty of recent bestsellers on display in both hardcover and paperback editions. But the truth is it’s a used bookstore, they just happen to be in excellent condition. Just inside the door there’s a blue case for local authors, with many focusing on regional or local topics, and some fiction titles mixed in too. The front area has an excellent array of literary fiction along the left wall, with mysteries, and some sci-fi/fantasy, as well as plenty of memoirs and biographies. Again, the books were in top shape and most were recent hits or classic titles, and they were available for deeply discounted prices, with many falling in the $2 to $5 range. All proceeds go to the local library too, so it’ll feel twice as good when you start carrying armloads to the front desk.
Moving toward the back section, I found most of their nonfiction books in a few portioned-off areas, with shelves dedicated to gardening, history, social sciences, performing arts, food, health, psychology, religion, adventure, sports, writing advice, essays, humor, politics, and more. There’s a section of food-related books specifically donated by Storey Publishing, and I found a little area containing a wide range of children’s books, from picture titles to middle grade and YA too. The bookshop wasn’t large but they made good use of their space and there are plenty of shelves to sort through. A shelf of vintage titles contained a handsome selection of books from the early 20th century, some even older than that. There was a small poetry section but not too much, and I didn’t see any horror, but that’s not everyone’s cup of tea and there’s no harm in that. There were plenty of other books to keep you busy.
After a second pass through I bought Emily, Alone by Stewart O’Nan and The Chicago Way by Michael Harvey for a total of $5. That’s an absolute steal and you will definitely be able to fill up on excellent titles in this shop and have plenty of money leftover for ice cream or lunch just up the block. If you’re passing through the area or just looking for a fun afternoon road trip, I highly recommend heading toward this shop.
Atmosphere — Clean, bright, and organized. It’s a welcoming shop with plenty to offer.
Quality — The books are used but of the highest quality. They’re like new!
Quantity — There are a good number of books here for a small shop. It has just two “areas” to browse through but they make good use of their space.
Diversity — As stated above, they have a good range of genres and categories, but I’d say the main sections are fiction, biographies, history, and children’s.
Affordability — Extremely affordable, to the point where driving out from Albany was worth the effort, and all the proceeds support the David and Joyce Milne Public Library.
Amenities — It’s a small shop, so you’re there for the books. There was a chair in the kid’s section, though. Plenty of things to sate your hunger or thirst just down the street.
Location — From Albany it’s a twisting drive through hills and valleys, a bit long but not too bad, and the shop is located right in the center of the village not far from the cinema.
Customer Service — The staff are all volunteers and the ones I met were very kind, informative, and eager to help.
Overall — This is a lovely little shop that offers exceptional value for the kind of high quality books on sale. I hope the community doesn’t take this shop for granted because bigger towns have less desirable stores and some have none at all. Stop in, stock up, and tell your friends. Chapter Two Books is a keeper.