Monday, January 30, 2012

Finding Bargains During One-Day Bookstore Tour to Connecticut Coast

My most recent One-Day Bookstore Tour took me to four of my favorite places along the Connecticut coastline. Starting with Harbor Books in Old Saybrook and ending at Bank Square Books in Mystic was only a drive of about 27 miles. Along the way I visited the Book Barn in Niantic and Book Trader Etc., in Groton. The Old Saybrook to Mystic (or Westerly RI) stretch is an historic and inviting tourist destination enjoyed by many, especially during the summer. The beaches, the parks, the country inns and historic sites, such as the Mystic seaport, are all strong attractions. Years ago, when I lived in Mystic, it seemed to me that the area was underrated as a destination and somewhat still is in my mind.

But, for me, the destination bookshops offer a great day trip for someone vacationing in the area. You can find a great collection of used books at three of the four stops, and while the Bank Square Books in Mystic is not a strong used book shop, it makes up for it with the emphasis on local authors and books about the sea, sailing and nautical interests. It also has a strong children’s section.

In Old Saybrook, Harbor Books is small but mighty. It has an eclectic mix of titles and I always manage to find something that I consider a bargain; either because it’s ridiculously low priced, or it’s an underpriced find. When I find something, such as an autographed book, it feels like a successful treasure hunt. It always intrigues me that the store owner has a constantly changing collection of books about Katherine Hepburn.

Up the road in Niantic, the Book Barn is actually three separate locations, each with its own unique look and feel. But, you can rest assured that I bought books in all three locations. They are all within a minute’s drive of each other; I suppose the really hearty could walk, but how could I carry all those books? The main barn had some great military genre books; the Midtown location had some great biographies; and the Downtown location had a recent arrival of movie star biographies that I couldn’t resist. Plus, this was their annual 30 percent sale, so the low prices were even better.

Continuing eastward, I arrived in Groton, home of the submarine manufacturer, General Dynamics-Electric Boat. The Book Trader, Etc., is a small store, sharing a plaza with Dunkin Donuts. In fact, they swapped locations when the doughnut shop wanted to add a drive-through. But, the book shop continues its decades-long tradition with its 3x5 card file for buyers who make a purchase and get a credit against their next purchase when they return the previous purchase. It’s wild. I never get involved with that sort of thing because I shop in dozens of shops all over the place. But, for the locals, this is a great feature.

The final stop of the day was at Bank Square Books in Mystic. It’s right downtown close to the drawbridge. The on-going streetscape work continues, but it’s my view that by next summer it will be something worth seeing and experiencing. I have seen such improvements in other cities and towns and it goes a long way toward making the “hard-scape” of a downtown more agreeable. We’ll see. But, as to the book shopping, you will find lots of local author and local interest books here. It’s really great to see a full-service independent bookshop right in the middle of the action. I never miss stopping in. I also never fail to drive by the old sea Captain’s house on Pearl Street that I rented years ago. It’s still impressive today.

Four book shops along the coastline and a backseat piled high with books. Another great One-Day Bookstore Tour.