Store: Bennington Bookshop
Location: Bennington, VT
Recommendation: The Annotated Archy and Mehitabel by Don Marquis
Bennington is one of those Vermont towns, the kind that seems to be dotted around the state… collegiate, leaning toward crunchy with an artsy downtown strewn with little restaurants and wide-spread public art projects.
In Bennington the public art takes of the form of decorated catamounts on every corner. (The entire state has a thing for catamounts. I don’t know why.)
The Bennington Bookshop is located in this downtown area, although it did not sport a catamount on my visit.
More than any other on the tour, this store has the feeling of a library. Not the space itself. It looks like a store. But it has the hushed aisles and overhead lights that hum slightly making you feel as though you are in the stacks of your local library.
The new releases greet you when you enter, which is the norm with any retail business, I suppose. You have to keep things fresh and current or people won’t come back.
But there were a few more surprising sections in the Bennington Bookshop. There’s an “etcetera” area featuring true crime, ghost stories, anthologies. Any subject not large enough to warrant it’s very own bookcase.
I just love that they called it “etcetera” though.
And they had the most extensive collection of audio books that I’ve come across.
I can’t seem to get into audio books — I’m more visual when it comes to literature, I guess – but it’s nice that they have a lot of offer those who do enjoy listening to a novel.
The store also has a big large print section.
Now that I think about it perhaps it’s part of Bennington Bookshop’s mission to serve readers who can’t see very well which is pretty admirable.
I arrived just after an older couple who were trying to encourage the owner to stock a book written by a friend.
I admit to a little eavesdropping where I learned about the store’s book buying process. The sales-couple told the store they could buy the book directly from them at a lower costs, but they politely insisted on checking with the company they buy from first.
Once the couple was satisfied, got a lunch recommendation and left, I approached the counter. The man I talked to was the owner, Richard, (His wife is the buyer but she wasn’t there) and he led me right to the staff recommendations shelf, where he handed me The Annotated Archy and Mehitabel by Don Marquis. He said it was his favorite book.
It’s rare that a bookseller has a very favorite book. When I ask many of them say there are too many to choose from or recommend their most recent favorite.
This is how Goodreads describes the book Richard suggested: “These free-verse poems, which first appeared in Marquis’s New York newspaper columns, revolve around the escapades of Archy, the philosophical cockroach who was once a poet, and Mehitabel, a streetwise alley cat who was once Cleopatra.”
I haven’t read free-verse poetry since college (if I even did then) and I was (and remain) a bit apprehensive about it, but Richard was so obviously enamored of the book (he spent several minutes locating just the right poem so I could get a taste of the book before buying it) that I couldn’t say no.
This project is partly about broadening my reading horizons, right?
Another first I encountered at the Bennington Bookshop is that the owner asked if I wanted to buy it. The store, not the book he recommended.
I know it has to be a struggle running any small business in a time when everything is accessible on line and in an instant, but I hope he was joking. Bennington is a neat town and it deserves a neat bookstore like Bennington Bookshop!