Day Tripping / Book barn takes book browsing to a new level
Editor’s Note: This is part of a summer-long series of day trips the staff of Hearst Connecticut Media will be taking and sharing their firsthand accounts of. To find trips from last year’s installment of the series, visit our website and type “Day Tripping” into the search bar.
NIANTIC — If you love to read, and like me, prefer to hold an actual book in your hand, you need to take a trip up Interstate 95 to the Niantic Book Barn.
Celebrating its 30th year, the used bookstore is now actually four stores, but you need to begin at the main building, the one that started it all.
It’s an easy trip north on I-95 to exit 72, and head for Rocky Neck State Park. Take a left at the traffic light an drive a little more than two miles up West Main Street. Now, don’t turn into the first Book Barn you see — that’s actually Store Four. You want the next Book Barn, which is where it all started.
As you get out of your car you quickly realize this is not your typical bookstore. At the entrance is the spot where you take a ticket if you are looking to sell some books. New books that have just arrived and have not yet been sorted will be in the shed to your right, dubbed “Ellis Island.”
Straight ahead you’ll find a display of classic “must haves” and shelves filled with mystery books. The mystery book selection continues in a small building called the Haunted Book Shop, with a garden of gravestones outside the door. Another small building, called “The Last Page,” is where you’ll find books on farming, gardening, hiking and fishing, among other outdoor endeavors.
There are also rocking chairs, some basketball hoops and a play area for kids. You can take a break from book browsing and play a game or chess or checkers. If you’ve brought your lunch, there are many different outdoor spots to stop and enjoy it. Or, you can just sit with a book and watch the antics of the goats. Did I mention there are goats?
Inside the main building is where you’ll find everything from addiction and recovery to the military to psychology and self-help on three floors. Reusable bags hang in bunches to use while browsing, and you will find books in every nook and cranny. You’ll also find chairs and sofas, and cats. Cats sleeping or cats meandering through the stacks.
Jan Merchant was there to pick up some gardening books. “I don’t have a green thumb,” she said, “but I’ve always been able to find what I need here.” She admitted, though, that a trip to the Book Barn means less time gardening. “I tend to lose track of the time when I’m here,” Merchant said.
If you go to the Book Barn
Open daily from 9 am. to 9 p.m.
41 West Main St.
269 Main St.
291 Main St.
55 West Main St.
The Book Barn buys books every day from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., weather permitting. They will not buy textbooks, encyclopedias, Reader’s Digest condensed, ex-library, Harlequin or Regency romances, damaged books.
Find out more information online at www.bookbarnniantic.com
If you’re having trouble finding what you’re looking for, there are staff members readily available and always willing to help.
When you’re done at the main Book Barn, head down West Main to Main Street for the downtown and midtown stores. Downtown is where you’ll find books on subjects like cooking and canoeing, graphic novels, conspiracy theories and music. It was at the downtown store that my book buying impulses got the best of me, and I walked out with some titles by David Sedaris and Amy Schumer.
Around the corner, behind the Arthur Murray Dance Studio, you’ll find store number 3, Midtown. Midtown runs the gamut from antiques to western.
Before you leave to head to Store Four, be sure to stop in at Past to Present, to peruse antiques, collectibles and the like. And if you didn’t bring your lunch, there are several different restaurants to get a bite to eat should you need some sustenance before continuing your book browsing and buying.
Store Four is the Book Barn branch you passed on your way in. You’ll find audiobooks and music CDs, books on politics and journalism and fiction. As I stood among the fiction shelves I had a moment of panic when I inexplicably couldn’t see to remember the names of any of my favorite authors. A few deep breaths and all was right and I was loading my arms with some Alice Hoffman.
You’ll find the prices are reasonable, with mass-market paperbacks sold for $1 each. Prices for trade paperbacks and hardcovers can be found in the upper right-hand corner of the first white page. I bought eight books, none was more than $4.
Also found at Store Four is some Book Barn swag, and I couldn’t resist a T-shirt made to mark the Book Barn anniversary that includes a black cat.
If you want to put any summer reading to immediate use, you can make a stop at Rocky Neck State Park before you hop back on the highway. With free admission for state residents, the park boasts a beach. a picnic area, trails and salt marsh viewing platforms.