Opening a new book is like stepping into a new world. With books covering every wall and the leaves of a treehouse sprouting out from the back corner of the store, opening the ornate doors of Hummingbird Books in Chestnut Hill delivers the same otherworldly experience.
Wendy Dodson, born and raised in Massachusetts, opened Hummingbird Books on April 30 in order to deliver a whimsical experience for every customer. She said her hope is that after leaving the store, everyone becomes as much of a booklover as herself.
“I really wanted to create a gathering place for our community where they could connect with other people who appreciate books,” Dodson said.
Dodson decided to open a bookstore in Massachusetts after she successfully purchased and operated the Valley Bookstore in Jackson, Wyo. in 2020. Running the Valley Bookstore was her most valuable professional achievement, Dodson said. She still operates Valley Bookstore in addition to Hummingbird Books
Since she was so passionate about running bookstores, Dodson wanted to bring this passion back to her home state, she said.
Dodson chose the name Hummingbird Books simply because she thinks of hummingbirds as magical creatures. Another element of whimsy she added to the bookstore is including a different palindrome at the top of every receipt, including “murder from a jar of red rum.”
Hummingbird Books carries both local and world-renowned authors. The books are broken into sections, including areas for hobby and craft books and classic fiction. The store also sells pins, stickers, tote bags, and jewelry.
Walking into the bookstore, there are multiple areas to sit with friends and family to talk or before or while browsing the section. Each sitting area is accompanied by a table with flowers on it, contributing to the chill and peaceful atmosphere.
“It’s a little more welcoming than other bookstores I’ve been to,” said Victoria Sanchez, a senior at Brandeis University who was visiting the store for the first time. “I think sometimes you walk in, and they smell old … there’s not always the good vibes.”
Another aspect of the bookstore Sanchez said that she enjoyed was its extensive book section for children, since she has two younger siblings, as well as having books for herself.
One of Dodson’s biggest goals for the bookstore was to create a space that cultivates the love of reading for children. Dodson achieved this by adding a tree installation called “The Great Oak Tree” for children to play in and little animal-shaped stools for them to sit on while they discover their next favorite book.
In addition to the children’s area, the store will have events catered to children as well. On May 2, Hummingbird Books had Josh Funk, a local children’s author, come into the store for a storytime event.
Hummingbird Books also plans to have multiple book clubs, including a fiction book club and a young adult book club, to continue its mission of fostering a love of reading.
The community has been very receptive to the events and the bookstore so far, according to Andrea Chiang, one of Dodson’s partners for the store.
Hummingbird Books is both female-owned and independent, and Dodson’s entire team is composed of women.
Dodson said her favorite part of owning Hummingbird Books so far has been being able to talk to the community about books and create a place where people can gather together over a shared love.
“We live in a world [where] we’re chained to our phones and are bombarded with messages all day … where we don’t actually focus on anything for very long,” Dodson said. “When [you] read a book—you put down your iPhone, you close your laptop—you go into a different world and learn about different ideas.”