Store: Rivendell Books
Location: Berlin, VT
Recommendation: T-Rex Trying by Hugh Murphy
It seems that Rivendell Books and its sister store Bear Pond Books hold a bit of a monopoly on independent book stores in the capital region.
There is a Rivendell in Montpelier, a Bear Pond in the same town and then there’s this Rivendell located in the Berlin “Mall” just a few miles away.
I put mall in quotes because the Berlin Mall is a strange little mall.
It’s long and narrow and, even though there’s a large Walmart on one end and a JC Penney on the other, there’s really not much in between.
It was one of the only malls within an hour’s drive when I was growing up and I remember being very impressed by the Orange Julius.
There’s no Orange Julius now. But there is a Simply Subs, whose colors and restaurant design make it look almost like a Subway.
So much so that I would worry about a lawsuit if I owned it.
I don’t think there was a bookstore there back then, but now there’s Rivendell Books.
When I wrote about Phoenix Books in Essex back in August I said it was “refreshing” to see an independent located in an outlet mall.
In theory, the same should be true of an independent in a retail mall, even if it’s a strange little retail mall.
But I found this Rivendell sadly disappointing.
The space had an odd temporary feel, like one of those Halloween or Christmas stores that pop up for a few months each year.
Most of the books were on shelves along the outer walls with a few tables and bookshelves scattered on the floor.
There was a sale table, an okay kids section and a 15 percent off best sellers area.
There was also an inflatable moose head on one of the walls, apropos of nothing in particular that I could see other than that the store was in Vermont.
The fiction section was small and included mostly well-known authors.
The Vermont section was also small, but there were several graphic novel shelves and the store seemed to have a lot of Christian fiction.
It didn’t take long to look around.
Still discouraged by the suggestion from the previous store and given the limited fiction section and that the only novel in the scant “staff picks” shelf was a teen romance, I didn’t hold out much hope of good recommendation but headed to the register anyway.
The store wasn’t exactly busy, but there was a line at the counter.
I got the impression that people don’t browse at Rivendell. The store feels utilitarian and customers seemed to just go directly to the register to ask rather than look around themselves.
The woman in front of me was still complaining about a special order she placed and there were a couple of people in back of me when the bookseller, Derek, got to me, so I gave him the condensed version of my travels and asked for his recommendation.
My mistake was using the word “fiction” instead of novel. I was trying to stress fiction so I didn’t get another God / adoption book.
I didn’t but I also didn’t get what I was looking for.
Technically T-Rex Trying — a book that “depicts the stubby-armed tyrant in a range of hilarious yet pathos-inducing activities that we humans take for granted” — is fiction.
I guess I just wanted something with chapters. And fewer cartoons.
But for the second time that day I bought I book I didn’t really want because the bookseller either didn’t understand or have the time to care about my request and I didn’t feel like I could push it.
All in all, my trip to Barre and Berlin was a bust, probably the least successful and fun of the entire adventure.
The stores were fine, but not as wonderful as most of the other book shops I’ve visited. And the booksellers seemed distracted and disinterested.
Luckily, I’ve since been to some wonderful stores (including one I visited yesterday that may just be my very favorite yet. But you’ll have to wait to see which store it is.) and my future posts will be back to their usual gushing.
Oh, don’t tell anyone about the picture below. There was a sign saying you can’t take photos in the mall, but we snuck one anyway!