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.
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.
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.
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?