Vermont Bookstore Adventure Wrap Up in honor of Independent Bookstore Day!

Saturday is Independent Bookstore Day. While there may be no better way to celebrate the day than spending it at Booktopia and Northshire Bookstore, I’m a bit sad to not be able to attend a some of the festivities at the great indie bookstores across Vermont.

And speaking of Vermont bookstores, I figure some of you might be wondering what ever happened to my Vermont Bookstore Adventure.

I’m happy to say that I did indeed visit every independent bookstore in the state. In fact, I visited the last bookstore on the list almost a year ago, on May 7, 2014.

It actually felt a little anticlimactic because by then I had fallen behind on the blogging.

Every week I’d say, “I should finish up those bookstore blogs” and then not do it. Eventually so much time passed that it felt silly. Sort of like that email you let sit in our inbox for so long that you end up deleting it instead of responding.

(To tell the truth, the blogging probably dried up because I got a kind of nasty response from a store to one of my last posts. I’m oversensitive. I take it personally when another car honks at my on the interstate, so a pissy comment is on my blog enough to scar me.)

But with Independent Bookstore Day looming, I thought I’d try to wrap it all up. My apologies to the stores below that didn’t get a dedicated post, but I can at least offer a few thoughts on each of the visits.

Date: 9/21/14

Store: Booked Solid
Location: Bradford, VT
Bookseller: Jasmyn
Recommendation: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

I almost didn’t stop at Booked Solid. I was in town for another reason and thought they only sold used books. (You might remember that I decided to visit only new bookstores because it was a smaller project and I really prefer new books to old one.)

But since I was there, I stopped by and there was some new stock so I’m glad I did.

If you clicked on the name of the store above, you’ll see that it links to a store called Star Cat Books. Booked Solid was sold right around the time I visited and, happily, it remained a bookstore instead of a Starbucks or law office. I haven’t visited Star Cat yet, but hope to do so soon!

Date: 10/19/14

Store: Phoenix Books
Location: Burlington, VT
Bookseller: ???
Recommendation: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Phoenix Books has two stores in the Lake Champlain region and has recently announced they are opening another location in Rutland. (Did I mention that Book King closed a while back? Sadly, so did Woodknot Bookshop in Newport and Shiretown Books in Woodstock.)

I really like the Burlington Phoenix. It feels like a quiet little book haven in one of the only truly urban areas the state. The inventory is great and the staff very helpful. I’ve returned whenever I’m in Burlington and continue to be impressed.

Store: Crow Bookshop
Location: Burlington, VT
Bookseller: Lisa
Recommendation: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Crow Bookshop is just down the block from Phoenix (Hey, I just noticed that they both have bird names!) but is a very different store.

Crow sells new and used books and definitely has more of a used book feel. In a good way! It had an extensive inventory, a great Vermont author section and is probably the most Vermont-y bookshop I visited. Or at least the most Burlinton-y. (If you haven’t been to Burlington, trust me. The city has a distinct culture and Crow has tapped into it.)

Date: 10/26/14

Store: Everyone’s Books
Location: Brattleboro, VT
Bookseller: Clea
Recommendation: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

For a couple of years now, I’ve attended in Brattleboro Literary Festival in October but somehow missed stopping in Everyone’s Books. (They sell at the festival so I have purchased from them even if I hadn’t gone in.)

There is a lot of stuff in the store… tons of fiction and nonfiction sections, calendars, chairs in random places. It felt like a store that should have a novel written about it. The Vermont version of Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Cemetery of Forgotten Books perhaps?

The website says that Everyone’s Books specializes in “books about social change, the environment, and multicultural children’s books” but I didn’t know that when I was in the store. It was just a fun, packed bookshop!

Store: Mystery on Main Street
Location: Brattleboro, VT
Bookseller: David
Recommendation: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Mystery on Main Street is, as the name suggests, a mystery bookstore located on Main Street. It is the only genre-specific bookstore I found in the state and I liked it a lot.

I don’t read a ton of mysteries but there was something refreshing about going into a store that only sells one genre. It was a welcoming space and less overwhelming than some of the larger stores with a wide inventory. I think if I lived in Brattleboro I’d read a lot more mysteries just to visit this shop more often.

Date: 11/16/14

Store: Tempest Book Shop
Location: Waitsfield
Bookseller: ???
Recommendation: Perfume by Patrick Süskind

Tempest is the only bookstore I visited that not only has books, but will change your watch batteries and rent you a DVD. What I love about those extra services is that it makes the bookstore even more a part of the community. People who seldom will go in for a movie and, who knows, they might come out with a book!

I’m sad to say that I didn’t write down the name of the bookseller at Tempest. I did include that he has a PhD in Psychiatry and I think he was the owner. And I remember that he made at least a dozen book recommendations and talked about them so well that I wanted to read them all.

Store: Bridgeside Books
Location: Waterbury
Bookseller: Hiata
Recommendation: Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker

Don’t tell Northshire, but I think Bridgeside is my favorite bookstore in Vermont.

It’s not a large store, but it makes you feel like you have stumbled into someone’s private and well-curated library. Hiata, the owner, was super nice (that’s a quote directly from my notes) and I could have spent all day. If I were not going to be in Manchester on Saturday, I would be at Bridgeside!

Date: 5/7/14

Store: Bear Pond Books
Location:  Stowe, VT
Bookseller: ???
Recommendation: Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

I don’t know if the Stowe Bear Pond Books is connected to the Montpelier Bear Pond Books or not. I suppose it doesn’t really matter but it seems strange to have two unrelated, identically named independent bookstores within less than 30 miles.

This Bear Pond is in an interesting shared space call the “old depot.” It’s a long, narrow store with a funky sale room in the back. Along with a good selection of books, they have a great variety of greeting cards including one line that features books and book quotes. It’s not a surprise that I bought a fair number of those cards!

I wish I had written down the name of the bookseller at Bear Pond because I remember her being very nice. Since I don’t have her name, I’ll just say that all the staff at Bear Pond was nice!

Store: Rivendell Books
Location: Montpelier, VT
Bookseller: Ziya
Recommendation: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

Last year, Vermont’s capital had two independent bookstores right across the street from each other. But in March, Rivendell Books merged with its “sister bookstore” Bear Pond and now there is only one.

Rivendell was a nice store, with both new and used selections. I was a bit confused by the pricing (I don’t remember exactly why but seem to recall color codes and signs explaining them) but found lots I wanted to read.

One of the notes I took at Rivendell was “The Wicca section is right across from Christianity.” Then I drew a smiley face.

Store: Bear Pond Books
Location: Montpelier, VT
Bookseller: Justin
Recommendation: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

I saved Bear Pond Books for last on purpose because I had heard raves about the store from readers and authors alike. So much so that it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Or maybe I was just bookstored out (is there such a thing?!) by the time I reached the end of the list.

Don’t get me wrong. Bear Pond is a lovely store. It’s large with charmingly creaky floors and a lot of great programming. (Just check out the events listings on their website.) I’d like to go back to the store someday because I think I’d enjoy it a lot more if I wasn’t busy eyeing the finish line.

So that’s my quick and dirty finish to the Vermont Bookstore Adventure. One thing I realized during the almost year I spent going from bookstore to bookstore is that we are lucky to have so many wonderful stores in Vermont.

I’ll let you know when I get the nerve to move on to New Hampshire.

Have a happy Independent Bookstore Day!

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