VT Bookstore Adventure #12 & 13 – Yankee Bookshop and Shiretown Books

Store: Yankee Bookshop
Location: Woodstock, VT
Bookseller: Rhoda
Recommendation: The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

Store: Shiretown Books
Location: Woodstock, VT
Bookseller: Heather
Recommendation: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye by Rachel Joyce

There are a few towns in Vermont that host more than one independent bookstore. The “queen city” of Burlington, Brattleboro in the south and our capital, Montpelier, all have multiple stores with others close by in surrounding towns.

But Woodstock isn’t the largest city or the state capital. It’s just a town, a tourist-oriented town but a small one.

And their two bookstores are located practically across the street from each other.

The Yankee Bookshop calls itself the oldest independent bookstore in the state. I don’t really have a way of verifying the statement and another store made the same claim to me just one day after my visit to Woodstock, but Yankee does put it right on their window and it is a well-established shop.

In fact, I learned there that one of my grandparent’s neighbors owned the store for years.

Yankee has all the hallmarks of a great bookstore. Lots of staff recommendations, a nice kid’s room, well-organized sections. It even had a small “customer favorites” shelf.

The classics area was particularly impressive not only in its size, but in the broad definition of a “classic.” It not only contained standards like Moby Dick, Catcher in the Rye and Pride and Prejudice, but newer books by Barbara Kingsolver and Stephen King.

My favorite part of the store, however, was the sale section. Maybe that’s in part because I am cheap and was able to get a hardcover copy of The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat (which I’ve wanted to read) for $5, but it’s also because they sold the sale books by the pound.

Now I’m not good at estimating things like weight or distance. I don’t have a talent for knowing if something is 30 feet or 30 yards away. I can’t tell if a bag of groceries weighs 4 pounds or 14 pounds. But I love the idea of buying books by the pound, like they are in the wholesale bins of the local food co-op.

The problem with this is that I had no idea how much I was spending since I can’t guess weight. It also gives the impression that bigger books are worth more, which isn’t the case.

But it was still fun and it would have been more fun if they had one of those produce scales hanging beside the shelves so you could weigh the books yourself before taking them to the register. (I might have spent more that way too!)

Rhoda was working the day we stopped by and, while she was super nice, she was a little hesitant when making a recommendation.

In fact, she gave me one book that she had read and then ended up changing her mind and switching it for a book that their customers had been raving about, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson.

I’m fine with the exchange and recognize that it is difficult to suggest a book for a stranger solely based on your own personal preference, but I wish she had a little more conviction in her first choice.

As I was checking out, we discussed why Woodstock is able to support two bookstores in such a close proximity. Rhoda said she thought it worked because the store across the street had a different inventory aesthetic and carried mostly used books.

After visiting Shiretown, I’m not sure I agree with her reasoning.

Yes, the store has many used books. The store proved me wrong when I said in a previous post that most used bookstores are messy and unsorted.

Shiretown’s used inventory is mingled with the new books, neatly labeled with a green “used” on the spine and completely categorized and alphabetized.

I’m not sure you’d notice the books are used right away. Shiretown certainly doesn’t feel like a used bookstore. It’s a used bookstore for readers with new book sensibilities!

I also found many books in both stores, and not just the best sellers or hot books of the moment, so I’m not sure what Rhoda meant by a different aesthetic.

The store is small but includes a sunny corner in the back with comfy chairs. There should be more comfy chairs in bookstores, I believe.

I liked the staff picks section of Shiretown because it included some older books, not just new releases.

There was also a special historical fiction section, which I don’t believe I’ve seen on any of my other trips. It seems pretty specific and I wondered how they made the distinction between regular and historical fiction. Can’t a book fall into both of those categories fairly easily?

Heather was behind the counter and she was another self professed nonfiction reader. But she did recommend The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye by Rachel Joyce, a recent selection by the local bookclub.

I honestly can’t remember if Heather said she had read the book herself or not, but I had heard a lot about the novel so I was happy to buy it.

Both of the bookstores in Woodstock are lovely. While I’m not sure I believe they are really all that different and have no theories of my own to offer instead, the town is to be commended for being able sustain two great independent booksellers.

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