Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur
jducoeur

The Infinite Maze of Books

Since I had this week kinda-sorta off, msmemory wanted at least one day together, just to wander and play. This being the first day I've been at least Better (still far from completely well, but at least the fever seems to have broken), we grabbed it to go do some book shopping. For our destination, she chose a bookstore I hadn't been to before: The Book Barn.

Mind, it's not exactly around the corner: it's in Niantic, CT, a good two hours away. But it proves to be a bookstore worth treating as a destination. It's -- well, frankly, it's a little obsessive. They buy and sell books. Lots of books. *Vast* numbers of books. Enough books that the original Book Barn wasn't big enough, so they added an annex. Which still wasn't enough, so they built the Haunted Bookshop (no relation to the one in Worcester) fifty yards away. Which still wasn't enough, so they built another annex. And added some impromptu sheds, some prefab, some constructed, just big enough to hold a bookcase or two each. And converted the outhouse into another few bookcases. (No, I'm kidding -- it holds the section for "Travel -- hiking and biking".) And eventually, bought a new shop a mile down the road, in downtown Niantic, and filled *that* with bookcases. All told, it's probably the biggest used bookstore I've ever been to, save *maybe* The Strand.

Suffice it to say, the main property is a delightful wander from building to building, each one containing a few sections. The Haunted now contains entirely mysteries (not *all* the mysteries, mind -- just a lot of them). History is in the basement of the original Book Barn, a maze packed so tightly with bookcases that they have arrows on the floors, showing how to find your way to the exit. Poetry has a little nook, in the middle of the section that is mostly Westerns, with foreign-language running across the top. In general, the organization is whimsical -- there's logic to it, but don't expect too much consistency -- and the signage moreso. One bookcase is labeled on every shelf: "Wedding... wedding... wedding... marriage... marriage... marriage... and (*sigh*) divorce." In the middle of the occult section is the shelf labeled "Doubters, debunkers, and other killjoys".

This is *not* a specialty bookstore: the proportions are fairly typical of a normal bookstore, so despite the monumental size of the place in general, the period history section is only a fraction the size of Mac and Moore's. OTOH, the science fiction section is pretty huge, with a good selection of books -- albeit primarily older ones, and a *lot* of duplicates. Indeed, the store is remarkably willing to tolerate duplicates, to the point where both Stephen King and Will and Ariel Durant get their own bookcases. The drek doesn't overwhelm the good books, but this store is aimed a bit more at readers than scholars.

Oh, and it has cats in proportion with the rest of the shop. The main store are has a *lot* of cats wandering around in it, at least five or six of them, and all of them were very friendly. The downtown store has only one, but that one is Frank, an enormous 24-lb Catzilla of a beast who climed up on msmemory's lap and refused to let her move for five minutes.

So overall, it makes a lovely destination for a day's wander -- we spent about 3.5 hours sauntering around the numerous buildings, with frequent cat breaks. (And yes, we bought about three full bags of books -- the prices are *very* low, so it's very difficult not to buy a lot there...)
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