Independent Bookstore Offers Good Bargains, Rare Finds and Plenty of History

On the Road Bookshop has been an institution since 1976.

Whether it’s the names inscribed in a pre-Civil War Bible, the handwritten throughts amid the words of a famous poet, or the value of a $3 literary classic, On the Road Bookshop in Canton offers reading experiences that just can’t be found in a chain book store or via an e-reader.

The Route 44 bookstore goes back to 1976 and Susan Grzyb is the fifth owner. The store specializes in used, rare and out of print books on myriad topics such as history, children’s art, literature and architecture.

Not surprisingly Grzyb loves stories but not just the ones on the printed pages. In addition to those books that contain a wealth of personal information, she meets people who come in the store looking for a variety of titles, from classic works of literature to the missing pieces in a genealogy hunt to hobbies like railroading.

Some come in looking for decorations, and she even once sold books to adorn the tables at a wedding at the Harvard Club of New York City.

“I enjoy meeting people,” Grzyb said. “Everybody has a story.”

Grzyb stays away from what she calls “trend” titles that are generally popular for a short time. Sometimes, however, she can benefit from surges in popularity and recently sold several copies of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s "Team of Rivals," from which the movie "Lincoln" was made.

“It’s a classic and a good read,” she said.

There are also plenty of other special interest sections, numerous literary classics for the student and avid reader as well as contemporary authors like David Sedaris. The store’s name came from a previous owner, and while Patch didn’t find a copy of the Jack Kerouac classic, there were plenty of other works by Kerouac and his contemporaries in a special “Beat” literature section.

Part of the book business involves time on the road. Grzyb makes house calls when people have larger book collections for her consideration. She said telling people who feel they may have valuable books but don’t is the hardest part of the job. But she also feels people should always check.

It can also lead to some great discoveries.

“You never know what you are going to find,” she said.

While she keeps a couple of days for travel, Grzyb said she will open nearly every day in December for the holiday.

There are few independent bookstores in the immediate vicinity and fewer used ones, but Grzyb feels it’s an indication of businesses in general and not of bookstores.

She also feels that the growing digital market does not mean the end of the book in the classic sense. There’s just too much to hold, feel and share.

“People still want to read paper books,” she said.

On the Road Bookshop


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