Cameron Davis ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
When you walk into The Raven, an independent used bookstore located on Newbury Street, there are several things you might notice. One possibility is the light ukulele music serenading the secondhand book shoppers, or perhaps the local photography that hangs on the walls, giving the atmosphere a Boston sort of sensibility. But the most likely candidate is the wide array of sections that categorize the books. For a fairly small bookstore, The Raven houses a lot of literature on a variety of different topics. They range from the continental (Africa, South America, etc.) to the national—Europe is divided into countries. For the especially inquisitive reader, the Ireland section is largely devoted to Celtic practices.
But the diversity of The Raven’s selection doesn’t stop at geography. The store boasts a small section labeled “Anarchism”, antique novels of authors such as Flannery O’Connor. And, of course, no one could forget the impressive cookbook section or the sizable amount of books about opera, not to mention shelves on philosophy, science, and outdoor living. The fiction section is nothing short of divine, with offerings ranging from Agatha Christie to Jhumpa Lahiri, to Hemingway and Updike and back again. The young adult section is perhaps the most endearing, with classic favorites like Roald Dahl novels lining the shelves.
It may seem arbitrary to rattle off the inventory of a store, (particularly a bookstore) but in this case it is the books that The Raven houses which give so much insight into the store. When people think of books these days, the first thought to jump to mind is an idea of escapism—fiction, literature, relaxation, and a means to an end. The end, in this case, would be entertainment. Books that give concrete information, whether it be how to make a soufflé or on the basic constructs of science, are often forgotten because they are not novels. Even worse, many nonfiction books are tossed aside as boring, dusty, or obsolete in the age of the internet. But seeing all these books alive and well seems reassuring. It is comforting to see books that promote thinking, not just escaping. If a book can do both, all the better.
Of course, baking and espousing philosophy (and playing Celtic harp) is not everyone’s cup of tea. In this regard, The Raven has plenty of options for non-scholarly/instructional reading. It’s great that the selection of books does not alienate more casual reading with intellectual elitism. This is not a store for snobs, just for people who love to read. Books have become a loaded question lately—about technology, and how society is progressing. At least with newer technology such as Kindles, a love of reading is still fostered. But books are not in as much trouble as the common perception depicts. They are not wandering from bookstores and away from our minds. If the clientele at The Raven are any indication, it is safe to say they still have a long shelf life.