A Review of Symposium Books


240 Westminster Street, Providence, RI

I came across Symposium Books quite by accident while wandering downtown Providence, Rhode Island, while searching for the indoor arcade where the Lovecraft bookshop is located. But after a quick look around inside this store, I got the feeling that this might be one of my Go-To bookshops if I lived in Providence, or Rhode island for that matter.

Right inside the door I saw an eclectic vinyl collection that appeared to include spoken word selections from the likes of Charles Bukowski, and music from artists all over the world. There were various home decorations for the literary minded in this area as well, but the vast bulk of the shop was dedicated to discounted and new books.

The front area of the shop is bright with plenty of seating along the massive front windows. There are tables full of staff selections, new arrivals, bestsellers, and notable titles to interest general readers. The long shelves leading deeper into the shop were full of new and gently used titles alike, and many were discounted to about half off, sometimes less, sometimes more. And the shop covers a lot of ground, with your usual array of fiction, poetry, history, memoir and biography, music and the arts, and so on.


In the back there was an area with tables and chairs, racks and displays of cards, journals, gifts, and collectibles, and a restroom (I add this because you’d be surprised how many bookshops don’t have one for the public!) and the shop seemed like the kind of place where tables and displays can easily be shoved aside here or there for events, so check out their website and see what they have coming up.

But the real reason to stop into Symposium are the sheer number of quality discounted books. If I wasn’t on such a tight schedule that day I could have spent a solid hour browsing and wandering and probably spending more than I should, but I’d have gotten a hell of a deal if I did because the prices were right. If you’re ever passing through, set aside a few minutes for this shop.   

Atmosphere — High ceilings, bright natural light, clean organized shelves, plenty of seating, and big discounts on all kinds of books and the hallmarks of this shop.  

Quality — The books are all new or like-new, and the vinyl selection is unique.

Quantity ­­— There are a load of books here considering the shop is just one big room. The shelves go on for days.

Diversity — There’s a good variety here. Classics and bestsellers are mixed in with underground artists and the avant-garde, so most readers should be able to find something they’ll like.

Affordability — Very affordable, great discounts.

Amenities — Plenty of seating and it’s downtown near a lot of cafes and eateries. They buy as well as sell and they have a delivery service. Check their website for more.

Location — Downtown Providence, not too far from theaters, restaurants, and the Lovecraft bookshop.

Customer Service — I didn’t interact with the staff but they had a couple people there helping out.

Overall — Symposium Books has excellent book deals offered in an artistic, comfortable space with great music and bright natural lights. I recommend it for any book lover passing through Providence.