Derby Square Bookstore – Salem, Massachusetts - Atlas Obscura
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Salem, Massachusetts

Derby Square Bookstore

"Try not to knock anything over!" 

Sorry, Derby Square Bookstore is permanently closed.

Update: Derby Square Bookstore is gone. The shop is still a bookstore, but all the toppling piles and ceiling-high stacks are gone under the new name and ownership.

In downtown Salem, MA, there’s a unique little bookshop that’s a bibliophile’s dream and a claustrophobe’s nightmare.

Rather than the typical bookshelf approach, Derby Square Bookstore opts to display its selection in tall teetering stacks. Floor to ceiling piles pack the store, creating a maze of narrow aisles through which customers browse, squeeze, and try not to cause a book avalanche.

The store has an impressive selection of books, fiction and non-fiction, for all ages. Despite the visual chaos, there’s categorization. Handwritten cards hang from the ceiling over the general areas where you can find books of a certain genre. The mix of bestsellers, classics, and more obscure titles make browsing a thrill-of-the-hunt experience.

There are other neat peculiarities about the store beyond just the overwhelming layout of book towers. For one, every book is 50% off the cover price, and the many signs placed around the store make sure you don’t forget it. If you happen to find a book you like, you pay the man behind the counter through a narrow gap of—you guessed it—more stacks of books.

Derby Square Bookstore has been running for nearly 40 years, and locals confirm that the shop always claims to be going out of business. So if you’re in love with books and discovering new reads, this place is a must before this claim someday becomes a reality. But heaven help you if you see a book you want from the bottom of a pile.