Why am I here? What are we here to learn?
Those are the type of philosophical questions that infuse the ethos of Splendor Solis Books.
Opening a book store was a dream of Dianne Germain ’89 and her husband, Kevin, one they realized in January when they opened their bookstore in Western Massachusetts.
Splendor Solis Books focuses on new, used, and unusual books on spirituality, the occult, esoterica, and other titles with a metaphysical, philosophical, or alchemical bend. Germain said describing the bookstore is in itself a philosophical dilemma.
“It’s eclectic. Scholarly. Not too scholarly that you couldn’t just come in and find a good novel,” said Germain. “It’s just the idea of presenting different topics in such a way [that] you can get from a book on gothic architecture, or a deep, thick novel on the Civil War.”
The store’s namesake is an alchemical reference, and comes from the idea of becoming your best self, said Germain.
“It seemed to suit our ideas of what we like to present and offer, and who we are,” said Germain. “I think the cool thing about esoterica is that you’re coming at it with, ‘Why are we here? What are we doing? Who are we?’ That may reach into reading about insects, birds, many other possibilities.”
Owning a book store was like a character’s story arc for the Germains. When they were first married, they’d drive out to Northampton from Boston, and found themselves enamored by the idea of being surrounded by books and owning a bookstore. Little did they know that decades later, they’d open a book store in the town.
To get to this point, the two transitioned from more than a decade of work in the medical field; Dianne was a nurse. But the pandemic made them realize their full-time jobs weren’t viable for their souls, she said.
“It was the one thing we had to fall back on – our love of books and love of knowledge,” said Germain. “We also wanted to be together. Kevin said he didn’t marry his work colleagues, he married me, and said he wanted to be with me.”
Kevin had started selling books on eBay in 2010, and slowly they built up their library. As they ventured onto social media to make sales, they found an interactive and engaged community that liked purchasing and discussing books. In 2019, they set up as vendors at events, including the New England Open Market in Copley Square in Boston.
“It was amazing. People bought a lot of books,” said Germain. “It’s not just selling books. We’re selling ideas and having conversations.”
They finally reached their dream of owning a bookstore after purchasing more than 25,000 books from Gabriel Books, which had been in the space, but closed last year. The Germains added their library of 7,000 books to their new collection.
And while Germain is O.K. with underlined books, dog-eared corners is no-no.
“Don’t even talk to me about dog-earing. I don’t like it. If you ask me about underlining or writing in a book, Kevin and I have opposing views,” said Germain. “I have come to a fond appreciation for underlining and writing, as long as it is not overdone. You see someone’s thoughts on that paragraph. A little note taking, I’m O.K. with it.”
Germain said her love of the esoteric fits her Emerson experience. Going to Boston got her out of the small-town mindset, and helped her explore questions like who am I?
“I went to college and took a psychology class and poetry classes and met people who were interested in talking about [those topics]. It was a big growth thing,” she said. “At Emerson, we were all weirdos. We were the black sheep, the artists, the drama students. I think that was the added extra punch of just going to any college.”
As for why Germain is here? She said that’s a question she’s asked herself since she was a child.
“I’m working on it. I think our lives are always a work in progress.”