The Bookshop and The Beach: My Vacation to Maine

Harding Books on Route 1 in Wells, Maine

My family and I went on our annual summer vacation this year to Kennebunk Beach in Maine. This has been our favored destination for the past few years and I thought I would say a few words about my favorite bookshop in Maine and my recent finds there. Harding’s Rare and Used Books is located one town adjacent to Kennebunk, in Wells, Maine on Route 1.  The staff is kind, friendly and very knowledgeable.  I was told by the employees that they buy books every day and their owner, a very nice gentleman named Douglas, also buys books from auctions and dealers.

One realizes this is a serious bookshop when, upon opening the front door, one encounters two gigantic piles of their newest acquisitions.  It took me a while to sift through these piles, but my patience was greatly rewarded by finding a first edition of I, Claudius by Robert Graves. I also dug out a copy of Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor and William H. Gass’s Reading Rilke from these piles.


The rest of the store is like a maze with rooms of various shapes and sizes piled with books from floor to ceiling.  Harding’s has a wide variety of first editions as well as signed books and they also have  the largest selection of books about New England that I have ever encountered.  I found a first edition copy of Within the Harbor by Sara Ware Bassett, a New England author whose books are set in two Cape Cod villages that she created.  This is an interesting little find that makes visiting this store so much fun.

A view of part of the hard copy fiction books at Harding’s


I spent most of my time in the Latin and Ancient Greek, Poetry and Classic Fiction sections.  Among the classic fiction books, I found two titles to add to my ever growing collection of New York Review of Books classics and I also found five Virago Modern Classics to add to my shelves.

My haul from Harding’s

The Latin and Ancient Greek section had a nice selection of Loebs as well as ancient authors in translation.  My favorite find was a dual language edition of Oedipus by Sophocles with an introduction by Thornton Wilder.  The illustrations in this edition are also quite interesting.

I also found in the Ancient Civilization section a copy of Michael Grant’s book on Nero which is in mint condition; not only is it an excellent introduction to this enigmatic and misunderstood emperor (and my favorite), but it also contains some gorgeous color plates to go along with the text.

Among the poetry books I found a hard copy edition of the Collected Poems of W.H. Auden that was only $5.00.  I have to say that all of the books at Harding’s are very reasonably priced, including the first editions and signed books.

But I didn’t spend all of my time in the bookshop.  I also enjoyed the beach very much, worked on my tan and did a little swimming even though the water was quite chilly.  My daughter did some surfing (I only watched and took some pictures.)  My beach reads were Henry Green’s Party Going and Clarice Lispector’s Agua Viva—more thoughts on those to come.

Surfing at Kennebunk Beach

Finally, we had some truly fabulous meals in Kennebunk and Kennebunkport.  One of our favorites is David’s KPT in Dock Square whose selection of raw oysters is spectacular and decadent.  It is no surprise that the seafood dishes, in particular, are wonderful no matter the restaurant.  I will spare everyone pictures of my food as well as a picture of myself wearing one of those goofy lobster bibs.  The picture below is a view we had during Sunday Brunch.

Where have you spent your holidays this summer?  Have you found any interesting books or bookshops?


Filed under British Literature, Classics, History, New York Review of Books, Nonfiction, Opinion Posts, Poetry, Travel Writing

15 responses to “The Bookshop and The Beach: My Vacation to Maine

  1. Sounds like a wonderful vacation, Melissa. The second large book haul in recent months I seem to remember!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That newly acquired pile in the store would certainly take time to sift through. It looks a wonderful place.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That has to be the perfect holiday! And that bookshop looks like heaven – I would have told the family to go off and enjoy themselves while I spent all day sifting through it…. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a lovely place – thank you for sharing so many pictures. How yummy! I haven’t had my summer holiday yet but am going to Penzance in Cornwall later in the year: it has a super independent new-books bookstore and a couple of second-hand bookshops, as well as multiple charity shops. I had to be restrained last time but am making sure there’s more suitcase space this time …

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That’s my kind of bookshop for sure! I like your designation of Henry Green and Clarice Lispector as “beach reads”! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Looks an excellent bookshop. Spent my summer break in Portugal; only notable shop was in a ghastly J.K.Rowling place in Porto. Overpriced.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. That looks like a serious secondhand bookshop from your pictures. I wish we had more like that over here in England. I’ve always found bookshops add to a holiday…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow! I am going to dream of this for some time! Thanks for posting!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wonderful post. This bookshop is like heaven.
    I’ve never been to Maine but it’s a place I’d like to visit.

    I’m spending my holidays in Spain and Portugal, as you’ve seen with my Literary Escapade in Lisbon. Like you, I took pictures of bookstores and will post about it. What a pair of bookish nerds we make!


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