Last week I made a pilgrimage to The Book Barn in Niantic, CT.
The Book Barn is magical. The main site is comprised of several barns and sheds packed with hundreds and hundreds of used books. It is a book browser’s paradise. It’s such a wonderful indulgence: I can be outside in the sun, in their lovely gardens, and still be surrounded by books.
None of the new arrivals are in alphabetical order, which I kind of love. It makes the browsing more interesting. The genre sheds are in alphabetical order, so if you’re looking for a specific book you can find it. (The fiction shed, incidentally, smells amazing. My mom found my saying this totally weird. But it smells like books and old wood, and it just speaks to my soul. Breathe deep, fellow book lovers.) I went without a plan, solely for the purpose of browsing. It’s a perfect way to spend a few hours.
And I was really good; I only bought four books. I had to remind myself that I didn’t need to buy everything right away. There will always be books. Especially used books. I love used books. I particularly love finding an inscribed used book (no luck this trip). Every novel contains a story, but every novel is also its own story. It’s lived in someone else’s home or dormroom. It’s been held by other hands, maybe even stained by other tears.
I love book people. While I was in the fiction section, I overheard a guy talking to his girlfriend about Faulkner. He told her to read Light in August because ‘it’s easy.’ And she said, ‘It’s easy, or it’s easy for Faulkner?’ I interrupted saying, ‘I love everything about this conversation.’ When he said something about ‘Absalom’ and how he couldn’t seem to find a clean copy he liked, I said, ‘Are you looking for a copy of Absalom! Absalom!? I found a copy out front with the new arrivals; I can show you.’ He looked a me and said, ‘Oh! Do you work here?’ ‘No, I just saw it and it caught my eye.’
This is partly because I love Faulkner. But this is also because I have spent years of my life as a librarian and bookseller. Even on my days off, I’m helping people find the books they need. Once a bookseller, always a bookseller.
I spent my bookselling year as an employee at the wonderful Newtonville Books. Literary Hub recently featured an interview with the owner. I love Newtonville Books. It’s so much more than a bookstore, it’s really a community of book people: booksellers, readers, book buyers, authors, editors, reviewers, general book enthusiasts. It was difficult to leave. Being a bookseller or librarian comes with its frustrations (namely, people), but it is also somewhat of a luxury to spend my days among books.
This spring/summer I hope to cross a few more off my bookstore bucket list. I welcome any and all suggestions!