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Monday, January 16, 2017

Not Your Usual Used Book Shop: The Book Barn

Ah, the pleasures of a good used book shop - discovering old favorites, new soon-to-be favorites, grabbing that best seller from three years ago for $3, leaving with a bag of yellowing paperbacks that Barnes and Noble doesn't carry. The creaking floors, jammed shelves, the air of lost treasure.
Last weekend I visited the grand daddy of all used book stores - especially if grand daddy was a bibliophile hippie with a Ph.D and a sense of humor. The Book Barn in Niantic, CT is a used book store on steroids, bitten by a radioactive spider, and sprinkled with fairy dust. Yankee Magazine named it one of the best used bookstores in New England.

Located in a little beach town, the Book Barn isn't just a book store. It's a sprawling complex plus three other buildings along Main Street (Rte. 156), together housing over 500,000 volumes. This reader's utopia began in 1988 as three book shelves and a couch in the basement of that main barn building and it hasn't stopped growing.

All of the stores are great places to spend an afternoon, but visiting the Main Book Barn is an event. Like every used book shop, the main barn and its several outbuildings (including an, er, outhouse) are chock full of books of every description. Looking for nonfiction of all types, paranormal, romance, mystery, cook books, biographies, children's, young adult? Art books? Hardcover? Paperback? Graphic novels?
They're here.
Cats? They've got em.
Coffee? Yep.
But as soon as you step on the property, you'll soon see why the Book Barn is different.
Want a Hobbit hole? Yes, the Book Barn has one.
A haunted Halloween annex with wall to wall horror and paranormal paperbacks? Oh, yeah.
One approaches the Book Barn on a path that leads past Ellis Island for the new arrivals.
Hades with its paperback mysteries (through G) and paranormal romances and Chick Lit.
True Crime complete with chalk outline.
What other used bookstore has its own graveyard-
and goats?
The organization is precise with the Book Barn's special brand of wit.

This former librarian was impressed by the exceptional organization of their collections and the snug, must-free main building. Not so impressed by the fact that a few of the books live in outbuildings and shelving, covered with a plastic tarp. But this does not deter any book buyers, even on the cold, rainy January day we visited.

If you go, remember there are four separate stores each with broad specialization, all within a few miles. The Book Barn is the big Kahuna and has the Hobbit hole and the goats.

The Midtown Store carries children's, crafts, romance, and westerns. It's my favorite due to its huge collection of mystery paperbacks, including classic mystery paperbacks for one dollar.

Store Four and Three Quarters specializes in law, linguistics, foreign languages, farming, geography, cartography, travel, Easton Press, leather bound books and so much more.

The Downtown location has everything from Astronomy through Wiccan Studies and everything in between - film, dance, theater, cars and motorcycles, humor, and a huge science fiction and fantasy collection, plus thousands of DVDs.
What's your favorite used book shop?


Jim Jackson said...

What a wonderful find, Shari. I used to browse used bookstores when I was building a library of old, leather-bound books, but now I rarely enter one because I am on a strict buy a book, give a book away structure so I don't have to buy another house just to store books.

Clamo88 said...

Makes me want to drive to CT just for the experience of the place. I love bookstores and hardware stores. It's hard to get me out of one once I get inside.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

A one-of-the-kind bookstore. I'm not sure it has an equal anywhere, but I'll be searching.

Grace Topping said...

Thanks, Shari, for your informative and amusing blog. I love used book stores. I enjoy discovering old favorites, long out of print.

Shari Randall said...

Hi Jim, Buy a Book, Give a Book is a good plan. But it's so hard to give them away!

Hi Claire, I know what you mean about bookstores and hardware stores...and drug stores...and stationery stores!

Hi Margaret, There must be one out near you somewhere! Let me know when you find it.

Shari Randall said...

Hi Grace, I love the air of discovery, too. When I was at the Book Barn I found an old Miss Silver paperback for a dollar. Can't wait to dive in.

Julie Tollefson said...

What a great store! I can just imagine the treasures one might find there.

Warren Bull said...


Gloria Alden said...

Wow! Shari I only wish I had the time and money to take off to visit it now. I love used book stores on every vacation I make a point of trying to visit them. This sounds like bookstore Heaven.

Unknown said...

"The Book Barn. A used book store on steroids, bitten by a radioactive spider, and sprinkled with fairy dust." That should be their tagline!!

I love everything about this post. Thanks for sharing!

KM Rockwood said...

What fun! Next time I get up to Cape Cod to visit relatives, I'll have to carve out time for a stop there.

Kait said...

Oh my! If you ever hear that I have been lost and not found, you know where to look for me. This place woujld be my nirvana. Who could resist. It has everything I have ever desired in life--and I bet there's chocolate there someplace. Love it. Shari, thank you!

Shari Randall said...

Hi Julie, Warren, Gloria, Marla, KM and Kait,
I'll just say - next time you're in CT we'll do a field trip to the Barn :)

Sharon Marchisello said...

What a cool bookstore. It's nice to see that there are some still around.