As told by Marshall J. Smith (1931-2022)
founder of Paperback Booksmith in 1961.
“Brookline Booksmith originally opened in 1961 as Paperback Booksmith with the slogan “Dedicated to the fine art of browsing.” The store was one of the first bookstores on the East Coast to recognize that “serious” paperback books—a publishing phenomenon of the late 1950s—opened up the world of great literature to a mass audience. Prior to that, paperbacks mostly featured westerns and nurse stories and “serious” literature was only available in hardcover. Paperback Booksmith sold a diverse range of books—from great literature to naughty books, from books by and about the radical left to books by and about the radical right. The Booksmith was one of the first stores to display the books by category, rather than by publisher, and to organize its books alphabetically by author, encouraging customers to enjoy browsing on their own and at their leisure. Since its beginnings as Paperback Booksmith, Brookline Booksmith has continued to evolve, serving the people of Brookline and Boston…