Books and their bibliophiles


Don’t you just love a bookstore? The rustling sound of turning pages as a customer browses through a book on photography, giggles from a young couple as they read funny greeting cards together, squeals of excitement when kids discover the children’s section. Yet, according to (, by the time you’re done reading this sentence, Amazon will have made another $1.7 million on book sales, while hundreds of independent bookstores struggle. And according to WordsRated (, in 2020, 71.2 percent of the industry’s revenue came from online book sales. Luckily, many Vineyard residents intentionally choose to shop in person and locally, including in our beloved bookstores. 

Edgartown Books is owned by Jeffrey and Joyce Sudikoff, and managed by Mathew Tombers. Tombers also writes a column for The MV Times titled “Around the Bookstore.” 

“Owners of bookstores feel the same concern about staying open as other small businesses do,” Tombers said. “I worked in a restaurant for a while, and saw firsthand how a place can be really hot one year, and close the next. We’re very lucky here. People want to support small businesses.” 

Tombers began working at Edgartown Books during the summers. “I started helping out in 2016 and then again in 2018. I was living in the Hudson Valley, seeing if I could retire. I was bored,” he laughed. “So I asked Jeffrey and Joyce if they needed more help. My position grew into manager, and I moved here full-time. I wake every day grateful to be here.” 

Tombers and year-round residents aren’t the only folks grateful for Edgartown Books. “We have a number of summer people who come in every year. A few have shared that we’re the first stop they make after unpacking,” Tombers shared. 

On Main Street in Vineyard Haven, Bunch of Grapes Bookstore is another successful Island bookstore, complete with resident cat Bookmark, who can often be found sunning himself in the bay window. “Bunch of Grapes has been around for 50 years. I’m the fourth owner,” Molly Coogan said. Molly and her husband Brendan Coogan purchased the bookstore from Dawn Braasch in 2022: “I love being the owner of a bookstore on an Island where there is genuine support for small businesses. During the pandemic, we did a GoFundMe, and the outpouring of donations and encouraging words from the community are what kept us going. Now we’re back, and people come in week after week.” 

Not surprisingly, both Tombers and Coogan are ardent readers, and have been since childhood. Those early beloved books had a strong impact on them, and have not been forgotten. “I loved Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby books,” Coogan said. “For picture books I loved, and still love, ‘Amos & Boris,’ by William Steig. The story is so sweet and meaningful. These books are timeless, and I continue to sell them.” 

Tombers remembers reading books like the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift. “I also liked history and Greek mythology,” he said. “Now my reading is all over the place, from F. Scott Fizgerald to mysteries, to rom-coms, to literature.” 

Coogan shared that currently she gravitates toward literary fiction and narrative nonfiction that read like a great novel. “I love history told through a surprising portal,” she said. Coogan is also a big fan of literary fiction writer Percival Everett, whose new novel, “James,” which is a reimagining of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. “I will hand-sell his books until he stops writing.” 

Coogan and Tombers don’t just sell the books they love or the books that are “popular.” “What’s fun about bookselling is that I get to provide books by authors who aren’t necessarily in Barnes & Noble — and watch them sort of take off,” Coogand said. 

Independent bookstores often carry books by authors who aren’t in the mainstream (yet). And both Coogan and Tombers seem to have an intuitive sense about what their customers like to read. For example, “Empress of the Nile,” by Lynne Olson, might not be the world’s biggest seller, but Tombers had a feeling about it. “A book about a female archeologist felt like it should be here,” Tombers said. “And sure enough, someone came in and asked, ‘Do you happen to have ‘Empress of the Nile’? My mother is dying to read it.’”

As the adage goes, know thy audience, and Tombers and Coogan know their audience very well. Can big-box or online booksellers say the same? The work of the many amazingly talented writers living on our shores always sells well. “Many folks who come over in the summer are interested in learning more about the history of the Island, and reading books by people who actually live here. We currently carry over 200 titles by Island writers,” Tombers said.

“I’m very happy for many of our local authors, as I have to keep restocking their books,” Coogan shared. “Authors like Amor Towles, Geraldine Brooks, whose book ‘Horse’ just came out in paperback, and Joan Nathan, who has a new cookbook. It’s great to have to keep restocking their work.” 

Both Bunch of Grapes Bookstore and Edgartown Books also have a strong presence in the community. You’ll find Bunch of Grapes at the Chilmark Author Series this season, and as the bookseller for the inaugural Martha’s Vineyard Black Book Festival at the Island Conference Center on August 10. And of course, there will be several writerly shindigs happening in-house as well. 

“In the summer we’ll have a lot of events in the store, and visiting authors who are involved in media, fiction, academia, and history,” Coogan said. On May 20, Bunch of Grapes book club members will be discussing the book “The Berry Pickers,” by Amanda Peters. On May 21, author and Chilmark resident Loren Ghiglione and Dan Tham will talk about their book, “Genus Americanus: Hitting the Road in Search of America’s Identity.” In June, Gina Moffa will talk about her book, “Moving On Doesn’t Mean Letting Go: A Modern Guide to Navigating Loss.” And plenty more authors will be in as the summer progresses.

Along with book signing and visiting authors events, Edgartown Books partners with other Island organizations, and has a presence at various Island events. “We partner with Islanders Write, which is really fun,” Tombers said. “We’re also partnering with the Carnegie, hosting a diverse array of author talks and book signings.” 

The Edgartown Books at the Carnegie series will kick off with an event featuring Perry Garfinkel, journalist, editor, and bestselling author. Garfinkel, a former full-time Vineyarder and a former editor at The MV Times, returns with his latest book, “Becoming Gandhi: My Experiment Living the Mahatma’s 6 Moral Truths in Immoral Times.” In June, Island author Tom Dresser will be in-house along with his two upcoming books: “Black Ownership on Martha’s Vineyard: A History” and “A Culinary History of Martha’s Vineyard.” 

Despite big-box and online bookstores, our Island bookstores seem to be chugging along nicely. And there may be a glimmer of hope for other independent bookstores as well. (Fingers crossed.) According to the New York Times and Inc. (, neighborhood-based, narrow-focus stores (like women’s and children’s books) seem to be cropping up. And although small bookstores are still facing a number of challenges, broader trends indicate bigger is not always better. 

Bunch of Grapes Bookstore is located at 23 Main St. in Vineyard Haven. To learn more, pay them a visit. And give Bookmark a little love while you’re there. You can also check out its website at Want to learn more about Edgartown Books? Head over to 44 Main St. in Edgartown, grab a coffee from Behind the Bookstore cafe, and wander. You can also check out its website at