Friday, July 25, 2014

A Day At The Odyssey

Western Massachusetts has many blessings to be grateful about. We have wonderful seasonal changes, scenic country roads and urban cultural centers. It isn't all bubblegum and lollipops all the time though. We have our share of blizzards, political intrigue and social crisis. However, there is one lovely oasis called The Odyssey Bookshop. This place is a local cultural icon and a wonderful place to visit. 

Mt. Holyoke
Nestled in the Village Commons of the bustling suburb of South Hadley the eldest of the Seven Sisters colleges Mt. Holyoke with its inviting garden of a campus sits across the green. A theater, small shops and restaurants of the commons dot the surroundings. From morning to night students, shoppers and idling travelers walk along the road and pathways. I've been here on many occasions and can personally vouch for what I have described. It is a destination where one could easily spend a memorable day. 

Love this!
To truly understand this bookstore one really must understand its symbiotic relationship with Mount Holyoke college. Back in the 60's what originally was a pharmacy which was a popular meeting point for students of the college eventually morphed into what would become The Odyssey Bookshop. The original owner Romeo Grenier decided to sell a selection of Penguin title books. This decision truly took off and five years later the college approached him to become a full-time bookseller. He took a courageous step and agreed and the rest was history. Like any 50 plus year old business it had its ups and downs. Two attempts by an arsonist to burn the place down. A relocation. This place lived up to its name.

The store itself is beautifully stocked with an impressive array of titles. They have both used and new books. Inside are two-levels to browse and enjoy to your heart's content. Not only do they sell books, but they have an impressive spread of art supplies and local flavor. They are hip with the times and E-tail their wares online.What I really love about this place is the feel you get when you walk in. It is an independent, family run bookstore. It is a place run by bibliophiles for bibliophiles. They run book signings. Authors come in and read. They really have every aspect tailored well.

And so a couple of days ago on a 90+ degree day. I took a spin down. I drove the route I knew quite well. I had been wanting to blog on some local booksellers and said to myself now is a great time to do it. I walked along the brick pathways. Thought on what I could add to my growing collection of history books. I strolled into the air-conditioned sanctuary. Inside I indulged my joy of running my finger along the spines and reading the titles. I may have even sniffed a tome or two. It was good for the soul. 

Handy guide!
In the end I added two to my personal library. Afterward I dined at one of the local eateries and perused my new bought books. As I will be making more of these visits I will most certainly let you know the decadent fun I have.

Enjoy a novel on the patio.


  1. This is a famous store! I'd love to go there.

    And you're not going to believe this, but "The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England" is on my wish list. I was looking for it today, as a matter of fact.

    John and I stopped into Brand Books in Glendale, CA. It's one of those sprawling, overloaded used book stores, though not overwhelming because they alphabetize (thank heaven). The owners are retiring and they're closing, so everything was 70% off. I got two more in the "Making of Britain" series. (I don't know how many there are, but now I have five, it should be enough.) I also got a Twain collection, and Geoffrey of Monmouth's "History of the Kings of Britain." Plus a modern novel. I went a little crazy. I already have more books than I can read. But I mean to read them all, just the same.

    1. It is a wonderful store. You would have a great time. By the books you listed you added some great titles to your collection. I've been on the lookout for a nice Twain anthology myself.

      If it weren't a four or five day drive out there I'd love to hit that sale. It is sad that the store is closing. Too many good bookstores are going by the wayside. I know exactly what you mean by the ever-expanding books on the reading list. Not just the ones you want to read, but the ones you kinda have to read because you physically have the book. I've a bunch.

      Concerning the "The Time Travelers Guide to Medieval England" that is funny that it was on your list and I just stumbled upon it here. I remember somebody telling me that it was a good read. So when I saw it I made a beeline for it. It is a fun book. I just started reading it. If you find a copy definitely grab it.

  2. Time Traveler's Guide is available on Amazon, so not rare. I was just hoping to find a used copy. I'll get the book eventually, new or used.

    I've been reading about the book business and apparently independent bookstores are on the rise again, as awareness of the benefits of shopping locally brings people back into the stores. But used bookstores aren't counted among these ranks. It's tough for them to compete online unless they become an Amazon retailer, or join up with one of the other online stores. Then someone has to enter all those books!

    1. Amazon is a good resource. I do make the attempt to look in my local booksellers first because I do wish to support them. However, Amazon is just so easy to hop on and order. I have to keep the impulse buys firmly at bay.

      I am very happy at the news that independents are back on the rise. Perhaps when Borders folded some of that business went back to the independents instead of it all going to Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It is a nice thought. Not that I am knocking B & N either. I do like visiting there for browsing new titles. I want to see all aspects of the book industry healthy.

      Concerning the counting, I can see that difficulty with the online competition. It will probably eventually be Amazon vs a federation of independent online retailers. Its the only way for the independents to compete. Amazon is just too big for the independents to hope to remain in a model of oligarchic competition. (Still remember my high school economics!)

      Thank you for that great news and have a wonderful day!