Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Best Little Bookshop in New England

Spending time in Connecticut with my family over the holidays reminded me of one of my most favorite places in the world - a used bookstore called The Book Barn in the wonderful little beach town of Niantic, CT.

Discovered by my mom serendipitously a few years ago, I try to visit The Book Barn every time I travel to CT.  It's sort of become "one of the things the family does when Anna comes to visit".  Included also in this list is hiking up Case Mountain near our house, clipping my parents' dog Phoenix's nails, and going to Dunkin Donuts.  I'm sure you can tell we are a fun-loving folk.
Everyone, meet Phoenix.
Excuse me while I get excited about the Book Barn
There are many wonderful things about The Book Barn.  The most noticeable upon first encounter is the sheer size of the store.  In fact, this place has so many books, it's actually divided into three different locations.  The largest location is a huge barn-ish building with so many nooks and crannies filled with used books that they spill outside into more nooks and crannies created by outdoor shelving and various sheds. 

Families can literally lose one another in this place.  Seriously.  The second time I visited, I spent thirty minutes searching for my dad.  He turned up sitting on a couch in the military history section.  I was beginning to think I'd never see him again.

The place is so big and labyrinthian, it requires ample signage.

Another wonderful fact about the Book Barn is it has snacks.  Now, don't be a fool like I was the first few times I came.  It really wasn't until last summer that I truly took advantage of the snackage.  The key is in realizing the food is laid out by the check out counter in the main building.  They usually have water and coffee, but more importantly Cheez-its and doughnut gems, usually of the powdered sugar variety. 

Old-timey book press.

 Yet another reason to visit is they have cats.  And everyone loves a good bookstore cat.

Last time I visited, August 2012, I picked up four books:
  1. Howard Hughes: His Life and Madness by Donald Barlett and James Steele
  2. Yeager by Chuck Yeager and Leo Janos
  3. The Mercury 13 by Martha Ackmann
  4. This New Ocean by William Burrows

So far I've only read The Mercury 13, a VERY enjoyable account of the 13 American women who trained to be NASA astronauts in the 1960s, but due to politics and sexism did not make it to space.  You know how it is - for every one book you buy, you've got five others at home you have to read first.  But I just can't help myself :) 

As a post-script, if you're ever in Niantic, also be sure to visit the nearby park in Waterford: Harkness Memorial State Park.  Ignore the mansion on the property and make for the beach - it's a beauty.  Fun to walk down and if you time the tides right, there will be plenty of tide pools to explore - my personal favorite beach activity. 

Harkness beach at sunset in the summer. 


  1. I can get lost for hours in a place like that.

  2. Looks like the type of place my wife and I could literally spend an entire day! Unfortunately kiddos make that old habit a little more difficult...