Literary gems in downtown Kingston

Three local bookstores that will leave your arms full and your pockets empty

Novel Idea, a cozy bookstore in the heart of downtown Kingston.
Novel Idea, a cozy bookstore in the heart of downtown Kingston.

In the coming winter months, few things are more cozy and warm than a cup of coffee and a good bookstore.

While the recent Kingston WritersFest brought dozens of renowned Canadian writers to Kingston, it also brought an influx of people to the city’s oldest and busiest bookstores.

Here’s a list of three bookselling gems in the heart of Kingston, located just a few blocks from each another.

Novel Idea (156 Princess St.)

With a pun for a name and a navy blue exterior, Novel Idea looks like it jumped out of a romantic comedy starring Meg Ryan.

The staff members at Novel Idea always greet customers with a smile, guide them to the right shelf if a book can’t be found and offer to order a book into the store for a customer if it’s not available.

The store has two comfy reading chairs tucked into a corners, one by a rack piled with literary magazines, and the other at the end of the fiction shelf. It’s far too easy to spend an afternoon curled up in one of these chairs, wrapped up in a good book and the store’s quiet atmosphere.

Along with an extensive collection of regularly restocked fiction and nonfiction titles, Novel Idea boasts hard-to-find titles by local authors in an effort to support the Kingston literary community.

Wayfarer Books Bought & Sold (85 Princess St.)

Located just beside the Sleepless Goat café, Wayfarer Books is the ideal spot for a slow afternoon of exploring with cappuccino in hand. Unlike Novel Idea, Wayfarer is a secondhand bookstore specialized in vintage editions, cheaper paperbacks and used titles.

Walter Cipin, the owner and proprietor of the store, is often seen wandering up and down the aisles himself, straightening spines and looking for a rare edition for a customer.

Wayfarer Books has titles stacked to the ceiling, with a set of creaky steps that takes visitors to the topmost shelves of the store. Handwritten signs jut out from the stacks, with labels such as “Western Philosophy” or “Paperbacks”. 

Although the bookstore has few of the latest bestsellers, it’s the perfect place for students looking for cheap editions of classic novels, or simply for booklovers who love a good bargain.

(Inside Wayfarer Books Bought & Sold)

Berry & Peterson Booksellers (348 King St. East)

On a street lined with busy restaurants and located closer to the waterfront, it’s easy to miss this cozy used bookstore. Berry & Peterson offers a warm atmosphere, along with a much-needed respite from the cold in the winter months.

Berry & Peterson is characterized by the table of used books on sale just outside the door in the warmer seasons — all of them on sale for a dollar or two. This box of goodies often lures a customer indoors, where the selection is just as impressive.

The store’s collection of classical fiction is extensive, with several editions of each novel. Several boxes of additional copies are at the foot of each shelf, where books are often stacked precariously high. As you travel further into the store, the aisles become narrower and the towers of books become higher.

A penciled-in price is on the front page of every book. Unless they’re special vintage editions, very few books in the store are more than 10 dollars, which makes buying books easier on a student budget.

(Inside Berry & Peterson Booksellers)

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