5 Questions for Brookline Booksmith

Brookline Booksmith opened its doors in 1961, during John F. Kennedy’s first year in office—three blocks from where the future president was born in 1917. Named for its founder, Marshall Smith, who died in 2022, the Booksmith has been a vital and valued part of Brookline’s Coolidge Corner community, just up the hill from Boston. Lisa Gozashti is now the store’s owner, along with Peter Win.

ZYZZYVA: What’s the coziest spot in your store for reading?  

LISA GOZASHTI: We have two comfy midcentury modernish chairs in front of a large window that faces the street, with a small table to share. They’re part of our art and design books wing, where browsers can sit in lovely light with a book and a coffee. The people-watching from there is wonderful, as is the tranquil hum of activity, as folks joyfully make their way through our spaces.

Z: What’s a little-known fact about your store? 

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LG: Before us, the building was a neighborhood grocery store. We still have parts of the ancient meat locker that was once in service here. 

Z: How would you describe the smell of your shop?

LG: Our store smells exhilaratingly like the promise of books, fresh paper, and the perfectly aged wood of our creaky floors.

Z: Which new book would you recommend most to readers?

LG: Greek Lessons, by Han Kang, is a masterwork.  It’s a spare and searing meditation on what it means to see, and what it means to speak, as told through the perspectives of a man losing his sight, and a woman who has become mute. Their stories intertwine throughout the novel in the form of an invisible embrace. By turns, first hers, then his, the reader gains entrance into their individual heartbreaks, regrets, and windows of awakening.

Z: Aside from your own, what’s your favorite bookstore?

LG: McNally Jackson curates their stores beautifully and rigorously, with categorizations that are bold and thoughtful. Browsers are led from one shelf to the next with a palpable sense of discovery and that feeling of awe that accompanies original encounters. The visual architecture is such that everything comes together, bookcase by bookcase, display by display, in a subtly sublime and mind-expanding way.

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