Online options abound for the book lover, making book shopping quick. But, the online options miss the experience of being in a brick and mortar bookstore. Luckily, there are many such bookstores in the area along the Wildcat Transit routes, though some are better than others.
Dover used to be rather lacking on its bookstore options—there was one used bookstore, and the books were not well maintained. That bookstore seems to now have no online existence (if it ever did), but another store has filled the book gap in Dover.
A Freethinker’s Corner Books & More: This is a store that opened a year and a half ago, according to Foster’s Daily Democrat. It is along Route 108 and close by multiple bus stops. Though I’m remiss that I’ve not yet been, photos from Foster’s and on Google suggest that the store features recently published and new books laid out in an old house. The store also hosts many regular events, from local authors to visiting nearby festivals, including open mic nights. Patrons can even buy art from a featured monthly artist. If interested in pursuing new books and supporting young businesses, this may be the store for you.
The small town of Newmarket has a singular, small bookstore: Crackskull’s Coffee and Books, along Main Street and near two of the bus stops. While the coffee is great, the book selection at Crackskull’s is rather eclectic, composed of used books that were traded in, along with a few volumes from local authors and poets. If you’re trying to find the latest books or the most popular, Crackskull’s isn’t the place to go to, though if you’re looking to browse, Crackskull’s is a fine option. Plus, they’re a multimedia store: you can find vinyl/records in a dedicated section. They’re also strongly supportive of local wordsmiths and community—every month they have open mic nights, which are on Tuesdays, overlapping Wildcat Transit’s runs.
Looking for the most bookstore options? The Newington/Portsmouth bus route is your best bet. There are four bookstores along this route.
Barnes & Noble: This national chain has a great spot in the Fox Run Mall area in Newington, and frequently has author events, including local authors. I’m partial to Barnes & Noble because of its size and I grew up going to (living in) one, but this Barnes & Noble is a good one, with a nice selection, including non-book items such as gifts, cards and a Starbucks cafe. The employees go the extra mile to find a book for you, but as with all Barnes & Noble stores, if a book isn’t popular, they may stop carrying it in store, though you can always order it to pick up there. This store used to have a large media section, full of movies, TV and music, and recently downgraded that section to a small selection. Due to its size, if you want to browse the latest books on practically anything you can think of – coin collecting, for example – undisturbed for hours at a time, Barnes & Noble is the place to go.
RiverRun Bookstore: A quaint but well stocked bookstore, RiverRun bookstore is on Daniel Street, toward the water when leaving Market Square. RiverRun carries both used and new books in a wide variety of popular genres, along with a display of staff picks that aren’t just the latest bestsellers. The store runs its own small publishing press, Piscataqua Press, which focuses on local authors, selling the press’ books in store. RiverRun is a very personable store, and is the store to go to if wanting to speak to people familiar with the books being sold.
Sheafe Street Books: This is a charming bookstore, along Sheafe Street—a side street, mostly residential, in Portsmouth. Sheafe Street Books is on a residential street because half of the building is the owner’s home. This bookstore has a wide variety of books, most used but some new and recently published. The books cover niche topics, and fill the store to the brim. Everywhere you turn there are more books. The cash register is even between book shelves. Sheafe Street Books is a fun place to peruse, though a bit of a gamble if looking for a specific title.
Portsmouth Book and Bar: Perhaps one of the most famous of the Portsmouth bookstores, Portsmouth Book and Bar is true to its name: It sells both books and has a bar. Located near Market Square, its book selection is eclectic, and it takes pride in supporting independent wordsmiths and the local community, like Crackskull’s. The Book and Bar’s selection is broader than Crackskull’s, though, as it literally takes up more floor space, and has a greater variety of genres and options, including local authors and occasionally recently published works. The Book and Bar is a very lively place, and while many do use it as a place to get some work done, it’s not the bookstore you can quietly spend hours at.
Durham Public Library: Not a bookstore, but all the same, it is technically along the three Wildcat Transit routes, and is a place of books. The Durham Public Library is located along Madbury Road and is a wonderful place. UNH students get a library card with their student ID. The library has an entire room dedicated to young adult fiction, plus extensive sections of other popular genres: i.e., shelves of mystery books, including books just published. The library offers a variety of programs, offers discounted passes to museums, hosts local authors, and runs book clubs. The library is great if wanting to stay in the area or participate in a program, and is budget friendly, as books, unfortunately, can be expensive.