THE PROBLEM with a secret is that once you tell it, it isn’t one anymore. The Bryn Mawr Book Store in Cambridge is under the radar, and I like it that way. It’s quiet, it’s small, it has a gazillion books, its prices are low, and it doesn’t have that picked-clean feeling you sometimes sense in a used bookstore, as if all the good finds have already been found. There. I’ve told you. (Now I’m wondering if I should head back over and buy that hardcover copy of “Speak, Memory” before this column runs in the newspaper.)
A visit to the Bryn Mawr starts with a glance at the little white bookshelf just inside the front door, which is stocked with small old hardcovers, mostly of English novels. The logic of shelving them there, rather than in the regular hardcover fiction section, is at once unfathomable, mysteriously correct, and quintessentially Bryn Mawr-ish: You know to look there for books of a certain type and feeling, an old Everyman edition of “Robinson Crusoe,” or the Maude translation of “War and Peace” in a small fat volume, or any novel by Joyce Cary.