Saving the rural New England bookstore is more than a pastime for Richard F. Wright; it’s a passion that drives him to visit, patronize, and write about local independent bookshops. Here are his picks for the best used bookstores in New England.
The Montague Bookmill
This shop fulfills the true definition of “destination” bookstore. After 25 years, visitors still commit to traveling to western Massachusetts to browse among the Bookmill’s 30,000 used and rare volumes. Its cafe and art shops make it a pleasure to bring the family along, too.
440 Greenfield Road, Montague, MA. 413-367-9206; montaguebookmill.com
Shire Book Shop
After 30 years, the owners still offer to brew you a cup of tea, making your stroll among the 100,000 used and out-of-print books in this former mill building even more of a pleasure. Each purchased book is carefully protected with an archival dust jacket.
305 Union St., Franklin, MA. 508-528-5665; shirebookshop.com
Pleasant Street Books
In a nicely restored barn, close to the middle of Woodstock, Pleasant Street has been a used- and rare-book collector’s dream for more than 25 years. Volumes are stacked floor to ceiling, but the ladder and stools make your search comfortable and convenient.
48 Pleasant St., Woodstock, VT. 802-457-4050; facebook.com/PleasantStreetBooks
The Book Barn
This southeastern Connecticut shop has grown over the past 23 years and now spreads across three locations, which is understandable, given that the barn alone couldn’t handle the 500,000 volumes on hand. Bring a book to sell and find your next treasure among the fiction, nonfiction, children’s, and rare volumes on offer.
41 West Main St., Niantic, CT. 860-739-5715; bookbarnniantic.com
Big Chicken Barn
The 150,000 used books at the Big Chicken Barn aren’t all priced at $3 each, but enough are that you can fill your basket to overflowing without resorting to a credit card. The shop has been operating for 26 years; the indoor plumbing has been operating for three years, so progress continues.
1768 Bucksport Road, Ellsworth, ME. 207-667-7308; facebook.com/pages/Big-Chicken-Barn-Books-Antiques
Carlson Turner Books
A true antiquarian bookshop and bindery, Carlson & Turner houses 40,000 volumes, ranging from the scholarly to more-general categories such as nautical, railroading, history, and travel.
241 Congress St., Portland, ME. 207-773-4200; carlsonturnerbooks.com
Bar Harbor Book Shop
Actually in Hulls Cove, down the road from Bar Harbor, this store used to be known as Mystery Cove Bookshop. A strong fiction collection is balanced by good history, biography, literature, classics, and local-interest collections.
1 Dewey St., Hulls Cove, ME. 207-288-4665; barharborbookshop.com
Whitlock Farm Booksellers
For more than 60 years, Whitlock’s Book Barn has provided rare and out-of-print works for the scholarly buyer. Its second building, however, offers used books for as little as $5, which makes this a destination shop for all book lovers.
20 Sperry Road, Bethany, CT. 203-393-1240; whitlocksbookbarn.com
The Traveler Book Cellar
The basement of a restaurant is an unusual place for a bookshop, but the well-labeled aisles, a helpful wall chart mapping the shelving plan, and the ridiculously low prices for thousands of used volumes all make The Traveler a great source of bargains. Upstairs the folks there give away books with the meals, so that’s an added bonus.
1257 Buckley Highway, Union, CT. 860-684-4920
The corny bear statue outside shouldn’t discourage you from browsing the impressive 90,000-volume collection here. For more than three decades, these wide aisles and well-labeled sections have been a book collector’s best friend.
80 West Main St., West Brookfield, MA. 508-867-8705; thebookbear.com
The Book Shed
On the shores of Lake Champlain, this spot is as rural as things get in New England. The Book Shed has thrived in this town of fewer than a thousand residents by attracting used-book buyers to the 15,000 hand-picked volumes of owner Joseph Trenn.
733 Lake Road, Benson, VT. 802-345-3081, 802-537-2010; thebookshed.com
Henniker Book Farm
The current owners are keeping a 48-year tradition alive at the Henniker Book Farm, which is just five minutes from New England College. Its 30,000 used and rare volumes range from general to scholarly interest, with strong sections on history, biography, and science.
34 Old West Hopkinton Road, Henniker, NH. 603-428-8888; hennikerbookfarm.com
Myopic Books (now Paper Nautilus Books)
This collection of 25,000 used books is clearly influenced by its proximity to many colleges, with emphasis on history, philosophy, science, architecture, and literature. The staff is knowledgeable and can help you find that rare volume you need.
5 South Angell St., Providence, RI. 401-521-5533; myopicbooks.com
If you enjoyed our list of the best used bookstores in New England, check out one of our other bookstore experts’ recommendations:
Best Independent Bookstores in New England