I have always been a lover of the written word and the places where they are distributed. As a child, I would travel across England’s West Midlands with my father to our favorite second-hand bookstores. It is run by two elderly gentlemen from their old country house. We would park across the road by the churchyard and run down unmarked paths into a wonderful world. From the moment you step into the house, you are surrounded by books. You walk down a hallway full of books, which forks into rooms full of books. Eventually you reach the back door and descend stone steps into a wide courtyard surrounded by interconnected outbuildings. Where the chickens and pigs once stood are now filled with bookshelves and room after room, floor after floor, old books, new books, all the books you can imagine. I just took a road trip for the bookstore, and now that I’m old enough to do it with my kids, like my dad used to do to me.
So, on a rainy day in November, I found myself driving four and a half hours from my home in Maine to Manchester, Vermont and North County bookstores. Traveling with my daughter, her best friend, supposedly best friend’s mother, we arrived on a Friday night and while the girls swam we read the books we had brought and dreamed about the books we would buy in the morning.
We arrived shortly after the store opened on a Saturday morning.
My daughter is very pleased to have found a new book by Jory John and Pete Oswald; sour grapes.Even more delighted to find a plush to go with her favorite collection.As a long-time collector of Thanksgiving books for kids, I was delighted to find the widest selection I’ve ever seen and managed to limit myself to purchases thanksgiving turkey Written by Eve Bunting and Diane DeGroat.I found two more books on the shelf Milky Way Hot Dog I’ve been wanting to see the first book ever since it was a Christmas hit last December. The non-fiction section has a selection of our favorite National Geographic titles, as well as a large selection of beautifully illustrated collections from independent publishers. So many children’s books about mushrooms, it makes me happy.
Once our girls have spent long enough in the joy of this wonderland, we adults have time to peruse the many rooms below. Taking turns stretching our legs and getting lost among the piles of books, we seated the girls on comfortable couches in the dystopian fiction section, from where we could orient ourselves in our own wonderland.
I cannot stress enough the nooks and crannies. If you walk on the edge of each bookshelf, it feels like you can walk for miles. In some places you can see from room to room, in others you feel isolated in a small cabin. A labyrinth of space yet with so much room to stretch the body and the imagination. I feel like I lack enough magical words to describe this place.
While my friends explore, I snuggle up on the couch and read to the girls from a book of their choice. After reading, they play together while I grab whatever is closest to me, sit on the comfy couch and add to my own purchases. I watched the other kids and adults milling around the store and everyone looked the same, everyone was happy to be there.
No staff bothered us with unsolicited help, which my introverted self was very grateful for, but every single member of staff we interacted with seemed more than happy to be there and filled with the magic of the books. The young girl who would eventually check me out was as happy with every book she scanned as if she was buying something herself.
I found a book I was worried I couldn’t find because I was looking for a specific edition and it had recently been republished; troubled love Elena Ferrante. From where I was on the couch, I found a book I didn’t know existed but then flipped through and found myself needing to order a second; for the wolf By Hannah Wheaton. I’ve found several Christmas themed books that I’ll be enjoying on the coming chilly December nights.
I also found plenty of non-book products that I wanted to take home, but I wrapped up my love of things in a box of Christmas cookies, and a few Christmas treats to keep for the kids. Christmas cookies are a treat. Every year I find boxes here and there as this British tradition from my childhood finds its way into American stores. But I have very specific needs, so I couldn’t be happier with what I found in Vermont.
In the end we did some shopping and went to the cafe. You don’t have to go out for lunch, pastry or coffee. There is a small cafe in a small corner on the other side of the building with good food. But then a quick hop up a small staircase, which opens to a spacious lounge area complete with a library of board games. While we had tea and read new books, the girls played board games and made friends with the other kids who came in. With tables for two lining the interior walls, I could easily imagine myself spending a day writing feverishly and drinking too much good coffee. Along the exterior walls are sofas, perched stools and tables large enough for groups of 12 to sit together. Watching a bunch of 20-somethings chatting over books and laptops, it’s nice to be there, all soaked up in this wonderful atmosphere, it’s awesome. We had delicious macaroni and cheese with warm tea and the girls had fruit cups which were refreshing and refreshing.
We spent a few hours there before getting to know the bookstore and its place in the community. They have a Vinyl Collectors Club with a wide range of in-house events and a YouTube channel where you can find recordings of most of the events. There is a monthly magazine subscription service organized by an in-house bookseller. There is a carefully curated and extensive selection of rare and autographed books.
Keep up my beating heart, there is a Book Angel program. A 26-year tradition ensures that children in the community receive a new book as a gift over the holidays—they might otherwise not have a book or one available. You can choose to donate books or donate money. The store has partnered with local schools to identify children in need, and during the holiday season, you can choose from the Book Angel Tree to donate.Through the same school partnership and donation model, they also bring authors to local schools through Event Angels
Reluctant to leave, we briefly browsed the extensive second-hand book section en route, snapped a few photos of the artwork and sculptures outside, and left Main Street. After a few extra stops in the area, we sat by the pool in the late afternoon to read while the girls played with their new friends.
I have to think about this carefully because I have a lot of books that I love, but I believe I may have found my favorite bookstore, and I certainly found a family of book lovers who are as lovely and loving as I want to be, if I grow up.The line comes from rebecca I’ve been thinking about this since we left Vermont, except last night I went to the North County Bookstore. You should too.