#WillTravelForBooks, Part 1: Northeast U.S. Edition

First things first – HI! YES, this blog still exists! I haven’t written a post in ten months – and somehow managed to accidentally delete that one #nailedit – because I kept putting it on the back burner, starting drafts, saying “oh I’ll come back when I finish editing these photos” or “oh, I’ll catch up on the weekend” or any number of excuses. And then, once this COVID-19 business began, I spent quite a few weeks mulling over whether it was even reasonable to be posting on my travel blog during a global pandemic when we’re all stuck at home. I still don’t know the answer to that, but what I do know is that I have a bunch of drafts in my draft folder that I should put out into the world. Our next cross-country move begins in a few short weeks (which is…a whole ‘nother story for a whole ‘nother day) and I feel like I should get the words out of my brain and out of my drafts folder before I get further and further behind.

So, all that said, one of the great loves in my life is books and reading and going to bookstores and…reading and books. Seriously. I identified with Belle as a child (and as an adult…who are we kidding) and more than anything wanted the huge library in the Beast’s castle. I have blocked out times on trips solely to go to bookstores. We rented an apartment in Connecticut partially because it was across the street from a lovely bookstore. And, in this time of staying-at-home, I’ve had time to read PLENTY and whittle down my eternal To-Be-Read pile from six million to five-and-a-half million books. I kid, I kid. But that number probably isn’t too far off…

While we’re staying at home, unfortunately, many of the independent bookstores across the U.S. are struggling. I cannot imagine a world without independent bookstores, and so I implore you to support local, independent bookstores whenever you can. I’ve done my best to include info on how you can support all these bookstores during their time of need, and I encourage you to check out your local bookstore’s website and/or social media feed to see how you can support them as well.

Ready to come on a bookish adventure with me? Let’s dive in…

I am fully aware that this doesn’t even BEGIN to scratch the surface of great, local, independent bookstores in the United States. Heck, it doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of bookstores I’VE been to in the United States. It’s definitely biased towards places I’ve lived and visited often, mostly because those are the “local” shops to me. If you have a beloved local bookstore, leave me a comment! I’d love to check it out!

In the first edition of #WillTravelForBooks, let’s adventure to New England and Buffalo, NY, for some of my beloved old haunts, an unexpected bookshop breakfast, and a few cats.

Bank Square Books (Mystic, CT) & Savoy Bookshop & Cafe (Westerly, RI)
https://www.banksquarebooks.com/ | @bsb_savoy
How to support them during COVID-19: Shop online, donate on the site, or call for curbside pickup if you’re local!

My sweet girl in the bookstore, 2017

Remember that time I said we rented an apartment that happened to be close to a bookstore? It was Bank Square Books, across the street and down half a block from our apartment in downtown Mystic, CT. I cannot tell you how many mornings I wandered over to Bank Square Books, coffee in hand, mindlessly wandering the shelves. Back in 2017 after we adopted our dog, I noticed a sign on the front door with the single most beautiful sentence in the English language: “this bookstore is (very) dog friendly!” Honestly. There has never been a more beautiful sentence in the world. We moved out of Mystic in the summer of 2017, so our dog only got to enjoy a few trips to the bookstore, but an already beloved bookstore becoming a beloved stop on our daily walk is a DEFINITE perk.

This ladder, though (heart eyes emoji)

Their sister shop, Savoy, opened in the spring of 2016 in nearby Westerly, RI. In addition to its bookstore, Savoy has a small cafe with delicious coffee, tea, and pastries. You mean I only have to go to ONE place for all my favorite things? The best part of Savoy, though (besides the books and the coffee, of course), is the ladder that requires SERIOUS restraint from me to not swing down the rows singing Beauty and the Beast songs. Among the other restaurants, bars, and coffee shops along High St and Canal St in Westerly, Savoy is the perfect place to stop after a sunny morning at the beaches. And the perfect place to dream about having my own library ladder to swing on. Someday…

Book Barn Niantic, CT
How to support them during COVID-19: the great news is that they are re-opening on May 20th!

Picture this: you’re driving through small-town coastal Connecticut, and you see a barn-looking building with a sign that says “Book Barn Used Books” by the side of the road. It looks like your average barn from the outside. You turn into the small parking lot, which is always full, park your car, and wander in. The first thing you see is a sign that says “Selling Books?” and to your left there’s a set of stairs and a wooden post pointing in all the different directions to all the different parts of the Book Barn. But this is no ordinary barn, nor an ordinary bookshop. This is barn, sheds, outdoors, gardens, haunted, and the single most magical place you can be. Go inside the main building and grab a guide. It will help you spot all the bookstore cats that roam around the property.

Oh yes. Cats.

Here at the Book Barn, you’ll find anything you could imagine, all for incredibly cheap. I once got a copy of “The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats” for $2, complete with someone else’s notes about “Easter, 1916” scribbled in the margins. That’s one of the most beautiful things about used books, in my opinion: seeing what someone else thought was important enough to write down; seeing how some other random unknown person interprets one of your favorite poems. I used to adamantly refuse to write in my books – being an English major fully changed that for me – and I absolutely LOVE when I come across someone else’s notes in my books. But I digress. The Book Barn is wholly magical, also dog-friendly (!), full of hidden gems, and has coffee when the world isn’t mid-pandemic. In addition to the five buildings of the Main Barn, there’s also another building a short walk away just past East Coast Taco (a perfect post-bookstore lunch) and the Downtown location right in downtown Niantic (this one’s not dog friendly). Be sure to stop and say hi to the inexplicably fat goat before you leave.

Trident Booksellers & Cafe Boston, MA
https://www.tridentbookscafe.com/ | @tridentbooks
How to support them during COVID-19: Cafe open for delivery & pick-up if you’re a Boston local, books can be ordered online, or buy a gift card for future use!

Is there anything more “Major City” than a photo of a bike locked to a fence?
Huevos rancheros & fried plantains

Back in 2016, my best friend and I went to Boston for a concert. We were feeling a little rough the next morning, and wanted someplace for breakfast that was a little quieter but still had a full menu. Enter Yelp, and enter Trident Booksellers & Cafe. Located on Newbury St. right near the Green Line, this bookshop and cafe is one of the cutest places I’ve ever eaten breakfast. Even before I moved to California, I’ve been a sucker for huevos rancheros, and MAN were theirs perfect. They have a full menu, with a wide range of options, and a stellar “Thai Chai” bubble tea. The cafe is on the second floor – the perfect excuse to wander through the shelves on your way in and out. My Instagram post of this breakfast (#justmillennialthings) essentially stated “Breakfast at a bookshop? This must be heaven” and I still stand by that belief.

Rust Belt Books Buffalo, NY
their Facebook page | @rustbeltbooks
How to support them during COVID-19: call or email the store! They don’t have a ton of online presence so it seems personally getting in touch with them is the best way to, well, get in touch.

I cannot write about bookstores without writing about my old Buffalo-English-major-book-nerd shop, Rust Belt Books. Back in my college days of attending poetry readings, literary events, and of course just book browsing, Rust Belt was always the go-to. I moved out of Buffalo in 2013, and since then Rust Belt Books has relocated from the Allentown location I knew and loved to a storefront on Grant St. in the West Side of Buffalo, another vibrant neighborhood in my beloved City of Good Neighbors.

Rust Belt Books was always one of those places that just felt like home to me. There were always treasures in the shelves, and I never left empty-handed. One of my most treasured Buffalo memories is wandering the Allentown Art Festival with friends and finishing out an early summer day with a stop into Rust Belt. Among the ceiling-high shelves, tables, and stacks upon stacks of books, I spotted a half-torn spine. I made my way over to the shelf to find an 1887 two-volume edition of Les Misérables, one of my favorite classics (and also my favorite musical, for what it’s worth). You know I immediately snagged those babies. They remain one of my prized possessions and have a prominent place in one of my many shelves (seen here with this gorgeous tealight holder I also purchased that day at the Allentown Art Festival). All this to say: used bookstores are amazing, and I miss Rust Belt Books dearly. I can’t wait to go visit them in their “new” (to me, at least) location.

So, there you have it: five bookstores in the U.S. Northeast that offer a range of experiences. Stay tuned for a West Coast edition soon! Until then – what’s your favorite bookstore?

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