Which President Succeeded His Successor? – Boston by the Books

“Tell me what you read and I’ll tell you who you are” is true enough, but I’d know you better if you told me what you reread.  François Mauriac



Boston by the books meant a visit to four bookstores and two stationary shops this past weekend. We didn’t have much time, and I’ve learned something when I travel: I’m a word nerd and when I visit a place, these are top of the list, in addition to food of course.  More on that later.

We stayed in Cambridge so I visited the MIT Press Bookstore, a pricey, text book store with all the latest editions and titles for students. You’ll find good stuff  for the non-student who loves linguistics or physics or computer science, or any technology.

Across the street at the MIT COOP or Cooperative (same COOP of Harvard fame), you’ll find the typical campus clothing, cool toys, science kits, and gifts as well as popular books by genre with table displays for all types of nerds, technology in particular. There are several cooperatives, the original started at Harvard and now there are a couple at MIT.  The Kendall Square MIT COOP (352 Main Street) across the street from the MIT Press is the larger of the two.


MIT Press

My teen’s purchases from MIT Press, EXPENSIVE but happy they’re not about vampires. The Age of Em explores the future with robots which use brain emulations ( “Ems”) and the author is a research associate at Oxford’s Research Institute for the Future of Humanity.



Books from the trip – Most from MIT Press and COOP except for Edward Gorey which I found at Black Ink, Wodehouse in a Library Sale in Kent, CT



The Cabinet of Philosophical Curiosities by Sorensen set me back $24.95 and it’s the type of book on a side table at the MIT Press. On the back are riddles. Here’s one.

I build up Castles.

I tear down mountains.

I make some men blind.

I help others to see.

What am I?

(Answer at end)

The author’s jacket bio stated, “Roy Sorensen never told you that he’s the son of Ted Sorensen, President Kennedy’s speech writer and confidant.  For it is not true, Roy Sorensen is a professor of philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis.”  This was enough to get me off the fence: to buy or not to buy. The curiosities range from a few sentences to a few pages.  I’ll share one more, and hope you’ll agree I invested wisely, and the title may even creep onto my gift list for particularly nerdy and techy friends and family.

How to Succeed Your Successor

Grover Cleveland was inaugurated as 22nd and 24th US president, succeeding Benjamin Harrison, who was the 23rd president. Who was the other president who succeeded his successor?

Hint:  You do not need any historical hints.  😉

(Answer at end)


And, if you’re short on time and long on science or humor, check out the stories by Ted Chiang and B. J. Novak. The first is a computer scientist and writer of science fiction, winner of four Hugo and four Nebula awards! last count, and the second is the author of The Office and a collection of knee-slapping comic writing.  It starts off with The Rematch, the second meeting of the rabbit and the hare. Oh my.




Rodney’s Bookstore on Mass Ave in Central Square was a used, out of print, and rare store, and we showed up close to closing time, the third store in our Book Journey. My teen checked out old postcards and picked up two current young adult titles for cheap. Rodney was the owner’s dog and his image has been captured in print screen on a T-shirt framed above the register. Only one other patron sat in the teen aisle and she checked out before we did. Cashiers have lives, I know.  We left because it was 9 PM.

We did not despair however, because around the corner, Pandemonium Books & Games stays open late on weekends. Several tables were set up in the center of the store amid stacks of fantasy and science fiction, dungeon and dragon dice, and board games.  About eight gamers sat around tables, setting out their deck, and talking about their Magic cards. The place had a faint smell of locker room, but my teen was enthralled with the fantasy and sic-fi display.  I perused familiar names and new ones, pointed out the number of dragons and Cthulhu on covers.


Black INk

Black Ink in Beacon Hill


If you tire of bookstores or if your husband has had enough, there’s always something else.  We crossed Longfellow Bridge into Beacon Hill to check out two paper stores for a change of pace. He opted to visit Starbucks just up the way. On 101 Charles Street, a short stretch from the bridge, is the kind of store word nerds and book addicts love; the reviews are fantastic and so is its tagline:  Blank Ink, Unexpected Necessities.  Ah.

So I found an Edward Gorey book, bean pod bottle cleaners, a new word game, a kitty tea tin. There are rubber stamps and inks, paper creations, Japanese erasers, writing implements, original cards, and a window full of adorable plush buddies and cool glass jars.


Unexpected necessities from Black Ink

On the same side of Charles Street is Rugg Road Paper Co which sells more cards, papers, and personalized stationary.


We happened upon Figs for lunch and the place was close to full. Most were eating “free-form” pizzas from a wood fired oven, but we opted for something lighter.  The Figs salad was perfect for a hot summer afternoon.

FIGS Todd English, 42 Charles Street, Beacon Hill

Figs signature salad with delectable balsamic, goat cheese, and black cherries

MAC & Cheese – a side dish but filling! I needed a to-go.  Béchamel cheese, peas, and bacon!

Rabias Seafood & Oyster Bar, 73 Salem Street, Boston, MA  (North End)

Lobster Risotto with Mushroom & Truffle – Fast service, incredible food, but CRAZY loud (don’t sit near the kitchen)

Oysters and anything seafood, deelish

Bova’s Bakery, 134 Salem Street, Boston, MA  (North End) eclair, shortcake in a cup, red velvet whoopee


Whether you have an hour or a day or a week, it’s easy to get around Cambridge and Boston, easier still to find that book you’ve been searching for, and easiest of all to find your way to the gelato shop on a hot summer evening.



MIT Press Book Store, 292 Main Street, Cambridge, MA  (textbooks, MIT press pubs, serious readers)

The COOP at MIT , 352 Main Street, Cambridge, MA  (gifts, campus clothing, genre books with tech focus)

Rodney’s Bookstore, 698 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA  (used, out of print, rare)

Pandemonium Book & Games, 4 Pleasant Street, Cambridge, MA  (Sci-fi, fantasy, games)


BOSTON Paper Stores in Beacon Hill

Black Ink – Unexpected Necessities, 101 Charles Street, Boston, MA  (stamps, paper fun, odds & ends)

Rugg Road Paper Company, 105 Charles Street, Boston, MA (cards, stationary)



Le Meridien, 20 Sidney Street, Cambridge MA  (Book online for fraction of price)


***  ANSWERS to riddles

1 – sand   (we thought “time” or  “sun” might also work)

2 –  Benjamin Harrison is the only other president to succeed his successor. (think on it, read the book for full explanation 😉 )


Jul 25, 2016


About the Author

Mylinh Shattan is a writer who has lived on three continents, served in the Army, worked in corporate America, and taught in college. She loves adventures, in the world and in the mind. Literature is relevant and learning is a lifelong pursuit, so you might as well have a bit of fun along the way.

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