Tuesday, October 22, 2013

More bookstores around New England

So many bookstores ...

As promised, here are suggestions from readers and others for good bookstores to visit, this time in Massachusetts and Connecticut. There’s quite a range among these independents—some are cozy and specialized while others are bigger and well-established among book collectors and fans. Quite often, they have cafés, or are next door to one.

Take a gander, and if you’re nearby, make it a point to stop in. Independent bookstores need your support. Too often, in following up someone’s tip, I find a bookstore already out of business. Most of the following shops have websites, to help you find what you’re seeking.

In Massachusetts:

Acton’s Willow Books & Café at 279 Great Road (Route 2A) is a terrific bookstore at a small strip mall. There’s a good-size collection of books and a café with sandwiches and several different coffee roasts. Great place to meet a friend or take a child.

The granddaddy of Worcester area indies, Tatnuck Bookseller, lives and breathes now at the Westborough Shopping Center, Route 9 and Lyman Street. Check www.tatnuck.com for details, as this is a big, lively store and café, with much activity. The store has added free wi-fi, a plus for writers and other computer fiends.

To explore a used books mecca, try The Book Bear at 80 West Main St. in West Brookfield (Route 9, just west of town center). This store has about 5,000 kids’ books and 100,000 more for adults; used, rare and out-of-print books are bought, traded and sold. The store is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. There’s no café, but Dunkin’ Donuts is next door. Call (508) 867-8705 for more information.

The Shire Book Shop, at 305 Union St., Franklin, is open from 10 to 5 Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 5 on Sunday. Since it’s located in a turn-of-the-century mill building, store owners try to keep its atmosphere as old timey as possible. There are reading areas where one may enjoy a cup of complimentary tea while browsing the store’s 100,000-plus group of collectible and used books. The store also offers book repair service.
While you’re in town, check out Franklin Public Library (1778), considered the nation’s oldest. It houses a collection of Ben Franklin’s own books.

I’ve always “meant” to stop at the Montague Bookmill, 440 Greenfield Road, Montague, which boasts of itself: “Books you don’t need, in a place you can’t find.” (Gotta love that.) Montague is another mill store—this one a sawmill—located in a crafty location; check out the arts center, music and movies, and the Lady Killigrew Café. It’s a beautiful drive any time of year, but check the website for directions, as it is a bit hard to find otherwise (next time, I will trust the GPS).

Bookstore fan Richard Wright (www.richard-wright.blogspot.com) contacted me to say he writes about his favorite independent bookstores around New England at his blog—a good place to check before traveling. He’s also the author of “A Vacationer’s Guide to Rural New England Bookstores.” In its January issue, Yankee magazine invited Wright to list his favorite five bookstores, which he wouldn’t do without the proviso that he be allowed to include 10 runners-up.

Lorraine Ostrokolowicz wrote in about the Booklovers’ Gourmet in Webster, owned by Deb Horan. Nearly 20 years old, says Ostrokolowicz, “it’s much more than a bookstore.” Judith Ferrara and John Gaumond of Worcester also recommended the shop, calling it “a true-blue arts and community-oriented bookstore—with great coffees too!” Check www.er3.com/book for details. Its book group meets at 6:30 Wednesday (July 31) to discuss “The Good Sisters” by Joyce Maynard. There is a lot going on, relating to books and living. Hours are listed at www.bookloversgourmet.com.

In Connecticut:

Amy Brenner-Fricke, a former associate at the T&G—also an avid reader—sent in a roundup of some Connecticut favorites, since she hails from that state.

“If you’re looking for quirky, definitely The Book Barn in Niantic. It’s … hard to describe,” says Amy. The set-up is amazing—500,000 books in three locations. “The main location is a sprawling area of barns and sheds and lean-tos, all of which have books stashed in them,” she said. “The various sheds and barns are called The Main Barn (history, military, anthropology, children's books, politics, firefighting, espionage, erotica, true crime, art, etc.); The Annex (fiction); Hades (vampires, paranormal romances, chick lit, and the beginning of the alphabetic section of mysteries and thrillers); The Haunted Bookshop (mysteries and thrillers); The Last Page (agriculture, animal sciences, biology and genetics, canoeing/kayaking, ecology and conservationism, firearms, gardening, geology, nature, natural history/sciences, outdoors, sports, weather and climate, zoology); and Ellis Island (otherwise known as the ‘Book Immigration’ spot, where the newest arrivals live until they are sorted and stocked in their appropriate building).” With 13 cats wandering around, and a goat, the place qualifies as folksy. By the way, complimentary beverages and snacks are available. And remember: there are two more locations down the street. (www.bookbarnniantic.com)

Amy also lists these places, defined as “less quirky and perhaps more traditional”:

* Bank Square Books in downtown Mystic, with new books, literary journals and an author luncheon series;
* Monte Cristo Bookshop in the downtown waterfront district of New London, which opened in December after conducting a social media funding campaign. Here’s an interesting note: James O’Neill funded the building in 1910—he was the father of playwright Eugene O’Neill. He also portrayed the “Count” over 6,000 times in theaters around the world. Cool connection.
* RJ Julia Booksellers, 768 Boston Post Road in Madison, has a very active series of author visits throughout the year and adjoins an independent café full of sinfully rich goodies.
* Breakwater Books, 81 Whitfield St., Guilford, offers bestsellers as well as old favorites. Its website lists staff picks.

“Read It and Reap” is published the last Sunday of each month in the Worcester, Mass. Telegram & Gazette. Write me at ann.frantz@gmail.com with ideas, comments or questions.