When I think of literary Boston, I picture historical figures like Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow roaming the streets with walking sticks and bowler hats, admiring the buildings and the parks and thinking deep thoughts. I’m pretty sure that image isn’t accurate anyway (I’m 99% sure Louisa May Alcott never wore a bowler hat), and it’s definitely different than my Localist book tour of Boston.
My tour started with an Uber car (I’m 100% sure Hawthorne never used Uber) in Nashua, took me to a huge warehouse full of books in Newton (home of — you guessed it — the Fig Newton) and led me to a train that brought me into the heart of Boston’s theater district. From there I Google mapped my way through Chinatown to a hostel in the center of the city where I had just enough time for a bowl of pho and a short story before talking about localism to a group of travelers.
My trip might’ve been modern, but it wasn’t without its literary charms: Sam Cornish, Boston’s Poet Laureate, stopped by my signing and we talked about poetry and readings; I had a nice chat at the hostel about ebooks versus paper books; and I had several fantastic conversations about localism and about writing. I also got sort of lost in Boston, and that felt very romantic since the day was sort of misty and rainy.
Also, like any traveler — in a novel or otherwise — I discovered a couple of wonderful places along the way …
I wasn’t sure what to think of New England Mobile Book Fair when I first saw it. It’s basically a warehouse, and it took me awhile even to find the entrance. Once I did, I found a surprisingly bustling store totally full of books — from bestsellers to publisher overstock to teacher supplies. They also had lots of cute book-related merchandise (like magnets, coffee cups and even socks) that I was tempted to take home as gifts. All that, and the staff was incredibly knowledgeable and kind (they even gave me a ride to the train station so I wouldn’t have to walk in the hail). This place is a destination for most people, but if you’re into books and you’re wanting to stock up, it’s definitely worth it.
I’m not to proud to admit that I made the “I’m speaking to a hostel audience, but hopefully not a hostile audience” about five too many times last week. When I got matched up with Hostelling International as a speaker, I didn’t know what to think — the event was obviously a little different than my usual bookstore event space. I’m so glad I said yes and had the opportunity to visit this amazing space — the hostile was incredibly nice. It was clean, modern and spacious. As soon as I walked in the doors, I felt relief: They had food and coffee (really good coffee), plus a place for me to unload, plug in my computer, get some work done and relax a bit. But the really amazing part of this Boston hostel were the people. Everyone who came to my talk was really engaged and intelligent, and the staff were absolutely perfect, helping not only me but also every visitor I saw walk in the door. I’ve never stayed in a hostel before, but I’m definitely looking into Hostelling International for my next trip.
This week I’m in New York City for the last signing of the northbound leg of the tour, and then I’m heading home for a few days before heading out again to south Georgia. For the story between the blogs (or to see a preview of the next blog before I write it), be sure to follow me on Instagram and Twitter at @crollwagen.
Carrie Rollwagen is author of The Localist: Think Independent, Buy Local and Reclaim the American Dream, creator of 30 Days of Local Praise and co-founder of Church Street Coffee & Books. Find her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @crollwagen.