fb-pixel Skip to main content

Your guide to the indie bookstores of Cape Cod and the islands

The Cape & Islands Bookstore Trail has 23 spots for book lovers to check out.

Titcomb's Bookshop in East SandwichCourtesy of Titcomb's Bookshop

For those who love reading, there’s nothing like losing track of time while browsing a bookstore. Now you have an extra excuse to stock up on beach books and explore Cape Cod and the islands this summer: You might just win more books.

Cape Cod independent bookstore owners are encouraging book lovers to return to the Cape and Islands Bookstore Trail this summer. First launched in 2019, the trail was on hiatus the past two years due to the pandemic. Now, it’s back on, and with even more stores — currently some 23 and counting, from Buzzard’s Bay to Provincetown, Nantucket to Martha’s Vineyard.


Here’s how it works: Now through Oct. 31, readers can grab a map at any participating store, or print one via capeandislandsbookstoretrail.com. A full list of participating stores is on the web site. Get your map marked at each participating store. Visit five shops and get a Cape & Islands Bookstore Trail sticker. Visit 15, and you can enter to win a $50 or $250 gift card to the bookstore of your choice.

This year’s trail is organized by Eight Cousins Books in Falmouth and Titcomb’s Bookshop in East Sandwich.

“It was so much fun the first year,” said organizer Vicky Titcomb, owner of Titcomb’s Bookshop. “There were people who did all of the bookstores.” Many told her the trail “became an excuse to go visit the town.... We heard from bookstores that they had people in who had never been before. So it was all just very positive, and quite low-key. No one needs to buy anything. So we’re thrilled to do it again.”

Her goal for the trail is simply to get readers to “explore the stores, to realize there is a wealth of wonderful independent bookstores on Cape Cod, and to go out and find some they’ve never seen before.”


Eight Cousins in FalmouthMatthew Olive

Parnassus Book Service in Yarmouthport may be one of the oldest stores on the list, Titcomb said. According to the shop’s website, Ben and Ruth Muse moved their mail-order service to Hyannis in 1957. After four years, they moved into the 19th century building in Yarmouth­port — formerly Knowles General Store, built in the early 1800s.

One newer store, Footprints Cafe, is a Black-owned, woman-owned, bookstore — with coffee shop coming soon, according to their site.

A few shops carry used and rare books. You might stop at Isaiah Thomas Books and Prints in Cotuit, suggested Sara Hines, co-owner of Eight Cousins. “They have everything — a really big local section, a lot of used and rare Cape Cod, a lot of Cape-related items.”

Hungry? Hines mentions Bread + Roses in Hyannis, where, according to their site, the plant-based menu includes smoothies and breakfast fare — from avocado toast with roasted Roma tomatoes to gluten-free chocolate chip pancakes. For lunch, try creative veggie sandwiches, or browse around dinnertime and sit down to spicy portobello burgers or oyster mushroom tacos, plus cocktails, beer, wine, and house-infused spirits.

It’s worth a ferry ride to the Vineyard for Bunch of Grapes Bookstore — a favorite of the Obamas. Where the Sidewalk Ends, a mother-daughter-owned bookstore in Chatham, also boasts a Children’s Annex, according to their website, full of “educational books and imagination-enriching toys.”

You might also time a visit to a book signing. Titcomb’s upcoming list includes B.A. Shapiro talking “Metropolis” May 26 at the Sandwich Public Library. To commemorate Juneteenth, Kate Clifford Larson discusses “Walk with Me: A Biography of Fannie Lou Hamer,” on June 15, also at the Sandwich Public Library.


Below the Brine Bookshop in Harwich Port on Cape CodCourtesy of Below the Brine Bookshop

The trail can be a neat construct for travelers looking to explore the Cape, with knowledgeable store staff sometimes serving as unofficial concierges, Hines said.

“Bookstores are a great way to learn and engage with different towns around the Cape. Each store is really connected to their own community. Anytime you can walk into a store, you’re going to meet people from that community,” she said. “We get asked all the time where to eat lunch, how to get to the beach, what to do with kids on the day off. Visiting different stores will be a great way to learn [about] a community.”

The trail has helped stores as well as readers. “It brought us together,” said Hines. “We all learned at least one or two stores that we didn’t know about. To me, that’s the exciting part. It created this community.”

What to read? A few bookseller favorites with local flavor

If you plan to stock up on summer books, Titcomb has a few suggestions — both from and about Massachusetts.

“Hotel Nantucket,’' by Nantucket’s beach-read queen Elin Hilderbrand, releases June 14, while another island author, Nancy Thayer’s Nantucket-set “Summer Love” is out now. “That Summer” by Jennifer Weiner is set on Cape Cod.


Martha’s Vineyard resident Geraldine Brooks’s latest, “Horse,” hits shelves June 14. (”Her writing is just brilliant,” says Titcomb.)

For true-crime fans, Cape Cod-set “Helltown,” by Marshfield bestselling author Casey Sherman, is gripping. (Before the book was released, Team Downey — the production company run by Robert Downey Jr. and his wife, Susan — acquired the series rights.)

Two books were mentioned by both Hines and Titcomb:

Middle graders will love Cape Cod author Lauren Wolk’s “My Own Lightning,” the sequel to her 2017 Newbery Honor Book and 2016 New England Book Award winner, “Wolf Hollow.”

And “The Shores of Bohemia: A Cape Cod Story, 1910-1960, by John Taylor Williams, billed as “An intimate portrait of a legendary generation of artists, writers, activists, and dreamers who created a utopia on the shores of Cape Cod during the first half of the twentieth century.”

Find details at https://capeandislandsbookstoretrail.com/.

Lauren Daley can be reached at ldaley33@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @laurendaley1.

Lauren Daley can be reached at ldaley33@gmail.com. Follow her on Twiiter @laurendaley1.