by William Bauman
Photography courtesy of Yudi Xie
The North End is an incomparable section of Boston. With its cobblestone streets, blocks of small family-owned businesses and authentic atmosphere of Italian culture, it is an area that feels authentic. Of course, there are many established, widely praised restaurants and bakeries, but there is one more location that should be visited when spending a day in the North End.
Founded in October 2015, I AM Books is America’s first bookstore to specialize in Italian literature. Upon entering the store, one finds themselves in a pleasant, welcoming space. It is small, yet charming and offers a vast collection of literature to peruse.
I AM Books’ collection of literature is very diverse and come from an array of genres. Whether it be fiction, cooking, travel or children’s stories, all of the literature is related to Italian culture. Browse the store for a minute and one will see a cookbook filled with Italian dessert recipes, a book documenting the history of Rome or simply a fiction novel written by an Italian author. In the back of the store, the children’s section contains picture books, Dr. Seuss books translated into Italian, educational books and stuffed animals.
“I thought the neighborhood of the North End needed a bookstore and I think the fact that it’s Italian related sits very well with the general feel of the neighborhood,” said store manager Nick Orichuia.
Seconds before talking to him, Orichuia had been at the Columbus Day Parade in Boston, a parade celebrating Italian heritage. Orichuia knows about the importance of people being culturally aware and wants to make sure the Italian culture of the North End lives on.
“Sometimes people will just walk in looking for a good fiction book or a good history book and we will have it,” says Orichuia. “International literature needs to be on everybody’s radar and in this case, it is Italian literature but it can really be anything.”
One might think that I AM Books might not be successful only pertaining to one niche, especially in an era when you can order any book you want on Amazon, but the idea of a bookstore having one specialty is exactly what is captivating to its customers.
“People that don’t know about Italian authors appreciate this store” said Sabrina, an employee at I AM Books.
The store further serves as a center for Italian culture by holding book signings, book discussions and Italian lessons for children at their store. Some of the upcoming events at the bookstore include a discussion with Boston College Professor Franco Mormando on his recent book, Bernini’s Life and Rome: The Latest Discoveries, Data, and Insights, a night of poetry with works from Italian poet Aldo Tambellini and live classical Italian Renaissance music from internationally acclaimed recording artists John Tyson and Miyuki Tsurutani featuring the recorder and harpsichord. I AM Books was even able to set up a signing with Tomie dePaola, beloved author of popular children’s tales such as Strega Nona, The Legend of the Poinsettia and 26 Fairmount Avenue.
The store also holds mandolin and Italian lessons for adults and even sells jars of sun-dried tomatoes, pots of honey and bottles of olive oil from Italy for those missing the motherland or just wanting to get a taste of Italian cuisine.
I AM Books works hard at keeping the rich Italian heritage and culture of the North End alive. So head on down to this wonderful little establishment, grab a pastry from Mike’s or Modern, a slice from Regina’s Pizzeria and bask in the Little Italy of Boston.