Let’s fall in love with left bank books
The Romantics’ Bookstore on Hanover Main Street
Left Bank Books is a bookstore for romantics. Named after the booksellers of Paris, the store embodies the beauty and adventure of second-hand book culture. Students may come to Left Bank Books for its immaculate selection of curated literature, but we stay for the whimsical atmosphere and excellent customer service. From a floral tea set, hidden between crocheted gloves and an antique copy of Babar’s Visit to Bird Island, to a vintage anthology of TS Eliot poems, Left Bank Books is filled to the brim with hidden gems and bait. conversation.
Left Bank Books opened in 2007, undergoing multiple ownership changes since its inception. Rena Mosterin ’05 took over the store in the summer of 2020 when it was in danger of closing due to COVID-19. Currently, the store is supported by community book donations. In addition to keeping inventory and running the store, Mosterin writes experimental poetry, leads local poetry workshops, and teaches in the MALS program.
When sorting through books, Mosterin looks for unconventional voices and stories. It spotlights local authors and poets, devoting entire sections of the store to their work. Its inventory is divided into several sections – including Native American Studies, Philosophy and Political Theory, Shakespeare, “Poet’s Corner”, and various Dartmouth College Yearbooks and Publications.
“In a new bookstore, you get books that go through the same gatekeepers of the time,” Mosterin explained in reference to publishing houses. “These institutions have changed so much over the past hundred years. On the shelves of this bookstore you have a lot of different conversations, different custodians – I imagine the books fighting over the shelves.
Dom Carrese ’19, a Thayer graduate student who currently works at Left Bank Books, described Mosterin’s selection as “eclectic” and “creatively excellent.”
“There’s a lot more diversity in our selection,” Carrese said. “You might find something you didn’t know you were interested in or weren’t looking for.”
Carrese presents Left Bank Books as “an alternative to the waste economy”. By preserving books that would otherwise have been discarded, Carrese said Left Bank Books is a method of sustainable consumption for avid readers.
Carrese encourages the practice of second-hand shopping for more than just durability. He savors “the serendipity and the adventure” of old novels. Many Left Bank books are cluttered with notes and annotations – the whispers and reflections of past readers.
For Mosterin, Left Bank Books is more than a business venture. She sees the store as a community space and a refuge.
“All kinds of people write and it’s important to have space for their voices,” Mosterin said. “In a second-hand bookstore, you might not feel like your literary tastes matched that exact moment and for those people, it will be easier to build a community in a store like this than to create a community at Still North or the public library.”
Mosterin’s favorite part of his job is talking to Dartmouth students. This sentiment is echoed by Carrese, who enjoys recommending books and talking to undergraduates.
“Compared to a more commercial establishment, there is an opportunity for more casual conversations,” explained Carrese.
“This town needs small businesses run by community members who care about you and want to chat with you,” Mosterin explained. “If someone is having a bad day and they want a cup of tea, I’m happy to make them a cup of tea.” Mosterin gestured to the set of mismatched gold teacups adorning a shelf.
Left Bank Books attract curious thinkers. As Mosterin described, “people shopping here want to follow recommendations that are off the beaten track.” Mosterin’s carefully curated environment encourages curiosity. You could spend an entire afternoon browsing the shop’s diverse selection of literary artifacts.
“One of my secret dreams is for someone to meet the person they are going to end up with here. I would like this to be a bookstore where people fall in love with each other,” Mosterin said.
Left Bank Books is certainly worthy of a cute encounter; its floral armchairs and paper doilies create a warm and welcoming environment.
Frances Pool-Crane ’23 said she appreciates Left Bank Books’ fair pricing. As an English major, Crane tries to get all of her required reading from Left Bank Books. Earlier this year, she scored on an $11 biography of Virginia Woolf for her graduation thesis – a book she would never have purchased at retail.
“There’s no point buying a new printing of an older book if I can find it used,” Crane explained.
But Crane loves Left Bank Books for much more than its economics.
“I feel like there’s no pressure to spend money there. Obviously I would love to if I can, but I feel like you can definitely go there and just look around and hang out and you don’t feel like someone is rushing you to buy something,” she said.
In a somewhat similar vein, Carrese sees Left Bank Books as an escape from a technology-driven culture aligned with “techno fetishism” and “recency bias.” For him, Left Bank Books is an oasis from the hostile confines of the engineering class.
“It’s very difficult to be in an engineering environment where people don’t think or read books or enjoy creative practice,” he described. “It’s amazing to be part of an institution that subscribes to a different model of value exchange.”
Carrese sees Left Bank Books as an anti-capitalist community space focused on promoting book culture, rather than a business enterprise focused on maximizing profits. As he said, the main exchange of value at Left Bank Books is that of pleasure rather than money.
Unlike many crudely commercial storefronts on Main Street (I’m looking at you, J Crew), Left Bank Books embodies everything we love about Hanover: community, intellectualism and spontaneous teatime.