Cape Cod’s Independent Bookstores and Local Authors

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In today’s Cape Cod Times, I read an article about one of Cape Cod’s quirky bookstores, Parnassus Book Service. Located in Yarmouthport along the Old King’s Highway (scenic Route 6A), the store has always been a curiosity. A Cape Cod institution for the past 50 years, Parnassus is a jumble of old and new. Clearly not subscribing to the Dewey decimal system of organizing book titles, the shelves of Parnassus are filled with a seemingly random array of everything from “how to” to “whodunit”.

If you visit the shop, do it on a day when you are not in a hurry or at least when you are not looking for anything in particular. Although some books are arranged alphabetically, most are only loosely categorized by subject. Apparently that arrangement is on purpose and not just a happy result of poor organizational skills on the part of the owner, Ben Muse. According to the Times article, Ben “wants people to explore, finding new worlds on the bookshelves”. According to Sarah Romano, the owner’s daughter, “It’s what you find on the way to what you’re looking for” that is the philosophical foundation of Parnassus.

Most visitors are happy just to wander through the stacks in search of whatever, perhaps hoping for some banter with one of the store’s idiosyncratic employees, like Paul Noonan. Clearly a frustrated comedian in search of an audience, Paul’s quick one-liners and snappy retorts are equally as fun as finding a dusty tomb among the chaos.

Titcomb’s Bookshop, in Sandwich, is another cherished independent purveyor of books, both old and new, on Cape Cod. Often host to author signings, it is a welcoming spot no matter what the season, with its eccentric statue standing proudly beneath its sign. The owners host a monthly book club, and sponsor a number of local events annually. You never know what’s next at Titcomb’s, a Fancy Nancy party, Harry Potter Day, or a tribute to “Fonzie”.  At any rate, it was at Titcomb’s where I found my latest read, the “Bridge of Sighs” by Richard Russo.

It was a good read, my first of Russo’s, and when I turned the final page, I read that his next novel takes place on Cape Cod. Titled “That Old Cape Magic” it got me thinking about a whole host of books featuring Cape Cod’s history, its natural beauty, or its unique locale. There is no shortage of great reads about Cape Cod, but what about Cape Cod authors? Do we harbor great writers here on this picturesque peninsula who write about other locales? So I did some investigating of my own and found out that indeed there are several natives of Cape Cod and the islands that have penned novels, and nearly as many part-time residents that are also published.

Now I haven’t read any of the following titles by Cape Cod authors, but I hope to, just as soon as I finish “That Old Cape Magic” and perhaps a reread of “Catcher in the Rye” as homage to J.D. Salinger, who just passed away. If any of you have read any of these books, I love to hear your thoughts on them.

  • Exiles in the Garden, by Ward Just
  • Seen the Glory, by John Hough Jr.
  • Object of Desire, by William J. Mann
  • Summer House: A Novel, by Nancy Thayer
  • The Castaways, by  Elin Hilderbrand
  • Morning Glory Farm and the Family That Feeds An Island, by Tom Dunlop
  • Swedish Blood: A Peter Frost Mystery, by John Amiard
  • Sheet Music: A Rock ‘n Roll Love Story, by Ann Lister
  • Murder at Thoreau Pond: A Cape Cod Mystery, by Alice Iacuessa