Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Not So Easy Choices for Best Used Bookstores

The editor of Yankee Magazine asked me to select my five favorite used bookstores for their Best 5 in New England feature. It seemed easy, as I have lots of favorite used bookstores, so surely I can pick the best five?

Best 5 Used Bookstores
Oops! Imagine trying to pick your “best” grandchild? What seemed easy became a bit of a chore when I had to get down to selecting five used bookshops. Mel Allen, the editor of Yankee Magazine, gave me some grace to select an additional 10 runners-up, which helped a little. My selections appear in the January-February issue of Yankee Magazine, and the runners-up appear in the online version.

The shops I selected were:

- The Montague Bookmill – Montague MA

- Shire Book Shop – Franklin MA

- Pleasant Street Books – Woodstock VT

- Drake Farm Books – Northampton NH

- The Book Barn – Niantic CT

I feel very comfortable with these choices and the 10 honorable mentions too. They are certainly worthy candidates for someone looking for a great used book shop in New England. It’s just that there are many others equally worthy of being a Top 5 choice. In my book, A Vacationer’s Guide to Rural New England Bookstores, I write about 31 used books shops that are among my favorites.

January-February 2013 issue
Here are the 10 runners-up from Yankee Magazine:

- Big Chicken Barn – Ellsworth ME

- Carlson Turner Books – Portland ME

- Bar Harbor Book Shop – Hulls Cove ME

- Henniker Book Farm – Henniker NH

- Whitlock Farm Booksellers – Bethany CT

- The Traveler Book Cellar – Union CT

- Vintage Books – Hopkinton MA

- Book Bear – West Brookfield MA

- Myopic Books (Paper Nautilus Books) – Providence RI

- The Book Shed – Benson VT

You can visit my website, GuideToNewEnglandBookstores.com, to read the remainder of my favorite used bookstores. You can also link to Amazon to buy my Guide.


  1. Check out www.toadbooks.com for the Toadstool Bookstores in the Monadnock Region of New Hampshire. The Peterborough,NH location is our favorite!

    1. I agree about the Toadstool Bookstores. In my book, A Vacationer's Guide to Rural New England Bookstores, I list the Peterborough store as one of my favorites in New Hampshire. The article in Yankee was exclusive to used books shops, and even though Toadstool shops have strong used book sections, I listed them in my full-service Independent shop list.

  2. Dear Mr Wright - Thanks for the list. I have been to some of these stores and I am anxious to check out the others.

    However, I should tell you that Myopic Books has changed their name to Paper Nautilus (http://www.papernautilusbooks.com/).

    Thanks again!

  3. You're right! I had recently updated my website, http://www.GuideToNewEnglandBookstores.com to reflect the change of name. The web is a lot faster than publishing!

  4. Unfortunately the Shire Book Shop seems to have fallen on hard times. While they continue to have an enormous selection in a truly pleasant and funky space, most of what's on the shelves is old and not very appealing. In talking with the owner, the shop has been hit hard by the financial crisis and ensuing recession, and just doesn't have the capital to buy the stock required to maintain a fresh inventory. Perhaps others have a different take, but while I will continue to visit, I wouldn't put it anywhere near a top five list today. A case study in how precious is our wonderful New England used book store tradition, and how difficult to maintain...

  5. To Anonymous: The key word is "pleasant." When shopping for a used book, it's important that it be among folks that are pleasant, with a pleasant location, and a pleasant approach to book selling. With a hot cup of tea in hand, a wander down those long aisles is most pleasant. Still a top Five bookstore in my opinion. RFW