Let’s Fall in Love at Left Bank Books

The bookstore for romantics on Hannoveraner Hauptstrasse

by Adrienne Murr | 10/5/22 2:20 am

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Left Bank Books is a romantic bookstore. Named after the Bouquinists of Paris, the store embodies the beauty and adventure of second-hand book culture. Students may come to Left Bank Books for the impeccable selection of curated literature, but we stay for the quirky atmosphere and excellent customer service. From a floral tea set tucked between crocheted gloves and an antique copy of Babar’s Visit to Bird Island, to an old anthology of TS Eliot’s poetry, Left Bank Books is filled to the brim with hidden gems and conversation starters.

Left Bank Books opened in 2007 and has experienced several ownership changes since its inception. Rena Mosterin ’05 took over the business in the summer of 2020 when it was in danger of being closed due to COVID-19. The shop is currently supported by book donations from the community. In addition to curating the inventory and managing the store, Mosterin writes experimental poetry, hosts local poetry workshops, and teaches in the MALS program.

Sorting through books, Mosterin looks for unconventional voices and stories. It puts local authors and poets in the spotlight and devotes entire sections of the store to their work. Its holdings are divided into different sections – including Native American Studies, Philosophy and Political Theory, Shakespeare, the “Poets’ Corner” and various Dartmouth College yearbooks and publications.

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“In a new bookshop you get books that come through the same gatekeepers of the time,” Mosterin explained in relation to publishers. “These institutions have changed so much in the last hundred years. There are many different conversations on the shelves of this bookshop, different doormen – I imagine the books on the shelves arguing with each other.”

Dom Carrese ’19, a current Thayer student who works at Left Bank Books, described Mosterin’s selections as “eclectic” and “creatively excellent”.

“Our choices are much more diverse,” Carrese said. “You might find something you didn’t know you were interested in or weren’t looking for.”

Carrese describes Left Bank Books as an “alternative to waste management.” By preserving books that would otherwise have been discarded, Carrese said Left Bank Books is a sustainable consumption method for avid readers.

Carrese encourages the practice of second-hand shopping for more than just sustainability. He enjoys “the chance and the adventure” of surviving novels. Many of the books on the Left Bank are replete with notes and annotations – the whispers and reflections of previous readers.

For Mosterin, Left Bank Books is more than a commercial venture. She sees the store as a community space and retreat.

“All kinds of people write, and it’s important to have space for their voices,” Mosterin said. “In a second-hand bookshop, you may not feel like your literary tastes match that moment, and those people will find it easier to build a community in a store like this than it will be to build a community in Still North or the public library.” “

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Mosterin’s favorite part of the job is chatting with Dartmouth students. Carrese, who likes to recommend books and talk to students, shares this opinion.

“Compared to a more commercial establishment, there’s an opportunity for more casual conversation,” Carrese explained.

“This city needs small businesses run by people in the community who care about you and want to chat with you,” Mosterin explained. “If someone is having a bad day and wants a cup of tea, I’m happy to make them a cup of tea.” Mosterin gestured to the row of mismatched gilded teacups that adorned a shelf.

Left Bank Books attracts curious thinkers. As Mosterin described, “People who shop here want to embrace recommendations that are off the beaten track.” Mosterin’s carefully curated environment encourages curiosity. You could spend an entire afternoon perusing the store’s diverse selection of literary artifacts.

“One of my secret dreams is for someone to meet the person they will end up with here. I want this to be a bookstore where people fall in love,” Mosterin said.

Left Bank Books is certainly worthy of a friendly meet-up; its floral armchairs and paper doilies make for a cosy, homey environment.

Frances Pool-Crane ’23 said she appreciates Left Bank Books’ fair prices. As an English student, Crane tries to get all of her required reading from Left Bank Books. Earlier this year, she scored an $11 biography of Virginia Woolf for her senior thesis — a book she would never have bought in retail.

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“There’s no point in buying a reprint of an older book if I find it used,” Crane explained.

But Crane loves Left Bank Books for much more than its thrift.

“I feel like there is no pressure to spend money there. Of course I’d love to do that if I can, but I feel like you can definitely go and just look around and hang out, and it doesn’t feel like anyone is pressuring you to buy anything.” she said.

Similarly, Carrese sees Left Bank Books as a way out of a technology-driven culture geared toward “techno-fetishism” and “reality bias.” For him, Left Bank Books is an oasis outside the hostile confines of the engineering classroom.

“It’s very difficult to be in a tech environment where people aren’t thinking or reading books or appreciating creative practices,” he said. “It’s amazing to be part of a company that’s committed to a different value exchange model.”

Carrese sees Left Bank Books as an anti-capitalist community space focused on promoting book culture, rather than a commercial endeavor focused on maximizing profit. As he put it, the primary exchange of value at Left Bank Books is pleasure rather than money.

Unlike many of Main Street’s heavily commercial storefronts (I’m looking at you, J Crew), Left Bank Books embodies everything we love about Hanover: community, intellectuality, and impromptu tea time.

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