Store: Northshire Bookstore
Location: Manchester Center, VT
Bookseller: Sarah W
Recommendation: Brewster by Mark Slouka
What can be said about Northshire Bookstore that hasn’t been said before?
When it comes to Vermont independents, Northshire is the brightest star in the constellation. Or at least the biggest star.
It’s sprawling yet intimate. It seems to contain any book you could wish to buy, but is completely accessible.
This wasn’t my first visit to Northshire. I was introduced to the store years ago when a friend was living in nearby Bennington and have stopped by just for fun every once in a while.
And Northshire is of course the home of Booktopia, Vermont, the wonderful bookish weekend I try to attend every April.
But having visited 13 other stores over the past couple of months, I saw the store with new eyes.
First, the store is truly large. Mary, the store’s event coordinator, told me that Vermont has the third most independent bookstore per capita in the country and Northshire is without a doubt the largest in the state, with several floors and multiple rooms, a great café and spacious dining room.
With all those books and all that space, it would be easy for Northshire to feel more like a box store than an independent. But this is avoided with lots of nooks and crannies, giving the store a maze like feel at times.
(Can you imagine an actual maze made of books? I’d be so busy reading that I’d never find my way out!)
Northshire has every category you could possibly imagine. Fiction, fantasy, mystery, spirituality, transportation. Yes, I said transportation.
The store also has a nice used section, something I had never explored very much until this visit.
As I’ve written before, I’m not really into children’s books but Northshire has a wonderful kid’s floor. One of the rooms is nice and open, with comfy chairs and big windows. I always want to curl up with copies of Where the Wild Things Are and Curious George.
A lot of bookstores carry more than books, like stationary, notecards and other gift items. Northshire takes it one step further with fashion accessories, puzzles, literary t-shirts (I fell in love with the In Cold Blood shirt complete with blood spatters, but I resisted).
In fact, I there’s a children’s clothing store upstairs.
But while sometimes these other doodads take away from the store, at Northshire it just adds to the shopping pleasure.
And I suppose it’s practical too. Readers could be lost in the books for hours. The other stuff gives their non-reading companions something to look at.
After wandering around the store (and briefly losing my mother only to find her knee-deep in novels) I approached one of the registers to ask for a recommendation.
There were two booksellers and Mary, the event coordinator, at the counter. All three seemed interested in my project, but one of the booksellers also appeared a little suspicious. She asked who I was working for, a question I hadn’t encountered before.
I suppose it makes sense that I might be working for someone, trying to sell something. It would be a good marketing opportunity for an author, publisher or other literary professional.
But I assured them all that I was doing it just for fun.
Sarah W, the non-suspicious bookseller, walked around the front of the store with me pointing out her favorite books. But without a doubt she thought I should by the first book she picked up, Brewster by Mark Slouka. She raved about the novel and couldn’t recommend it enough.
I was about to purchase Brewster, but first Mary wanted to make a recommendation too. I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t write down the novel she suggested, especially since she said she usually reads non-fiction and the book had moved her has very few novels ever had.
The only reason I picked Sarah’s recommendation was simply because it came first. Both she and Mary were passionate about their choices and made me really want to read the book they recommended.
Northshire is certainly a special bookstore, full of booklovers on both sides of the counter. We’re lucky that our small state has such a wonderful place to browse, buy and connect.