When the weather outside is frightful, indoor browsing is delightful in the inviting independent bookstores that are still alive and well in Connecticut's Fairfield County and Litchfield Hills.
Personal and comfortable shops like these are an endangered species in the wake of giant stores and on-line shopping, yet these very special spots continue to survive and thrive, providing the kind of experience book lovers crave. Browsers will find a warm welcome, staffs that know books and owners who are often around to chat and recommend. Best sellers are on view, but so are treasures selected by knowledgeable owners, titles that might have escaped notice in a superstore. While they are old-fashioned in many ways, these stores do keep up with the times and offer a full array of e-books.
A bookstore tour makes for a wonderful afternoon, plus a stack of reading pleasure to take home. Along with books, visitors will be discovering charming towns with other unique shops. Bring the kids along—they will make discoveries, too.
The Hickory Stick Book Shop in Washington Depot is exactly the kind of shop book lovers appreciate. A community fixture for over 60 years, the store has owners and staff with over 100 years (collectively) in the book business. They are ready to help answer questions, find a particular title or suggest something unexpected. Like many of these independent bookstores, the Hickory Stick promotes "indie next" choices culled from many independent booksellers, aimed at adults as well as children and reading groups.
In historic quarters on a street lined with intriguing shops, Kent's House of Books features quality literature and a vault filled with children's books. Befitting a town on the Appalachian Trail, they carry a good stock of maps; trail guides and books on the out-of-doors. Bank Street Book Nook in New Milford is another small gem; full of finds and with a train set to keep kids happy while parents shop.
The Barnett Book Store has had many reincarnations since it opened for business in Stamford in 1939. The attractive present location in the Noroton Heights section of Darien stocks all manner of interesting books, fiction and non-fiction, and excellent children's books, as well. Books on the Common in Ridgefield is another survivor. A fixture since 1984 in various locations, the store was reborn in 2009 in a 100-year old building right on the town's charming Main Street, maintaining the atmosphere and interesting stock that has kept customers loyal since the start. Elm Street Books in New Canaan is another example of the kind of store avid readers crave, small, personal and packed with treasures. The store features many readings and autograph sessions with authors.
One of the most unusual stores is Diane's Books in Greenwich. When Diane Garrett opened 1990, some said she was crazy, given the negative trends and competition. But Garrett proved them wrong with her concept, a "family bookstore " where she knows her customers and serves them from childhood to adulthood. All ages enjoy the informal atmosphere of the store where stacks of books are piled on shelves, tables and the floor and notes and signatures from authors cover the walls.
Old and rare
Western Connecticut also has treasure troves for those who love the finds hiding among stacks of used books, and collectors will find prizes among the region's rare book dealers. At the Tattered Pages Book Shop in Monroe in Fairfield County, two big floors are chock-a-block with used books, some 30,000 of them. A 1783 schoolhouse in Litchfield County is home to Lavender Path Antiques and Books in Harwinton, another large dealer with a stock of 20,000 used and out-of-print titles. Litchfield Hills offerings for collectors includes Barbara Farnsworth Booksellers in West Cornwall that offers more than 45,000 books with large selections in a wide variety of categories and Salisbury's Johnnycake Books that sells rare and collectible titles in appropriately vintage quarters a nineteenth century cottage.
For more information on area shops and free color guides to nearby attractions, lodging and dining in the Litchfield Hills and Fairfield County, contact the Western Connecticut Visitors Bureau, PO Box 968, Litchfield, CT 06759, (860) 567-4506, www.visitwesternct.com.
Bank Street Book Nook, 50 Bank Street, New Milford, 860-354-3865, www.bankstbooknook.com
Barbara Farnsworth Bookseller, 407 Route 128, West Cornwall, 860-672-6571, farnsworthbooks.com
Barrett Bookstore, 314 Heights Road, Darien, 203-655-2712, barrettbookstore.com
Books on the Common, 404 Main Street, Ridgefield, 203-431-9100, booksonthecommon.com
Diane's Books, 8 Grigg Street, #A, Greenwich, 203-869-1515, dianesbooks.com
Elm Street Books, 35 Elm Street, New Canaan, 203-966-4545, elmstreetbooks.com
Hickory Stick Bookshop, 2 Greenhill Road, Washington Depot, 860-868-0525, hickorystickbookshop.com
House of Books, 10 North Main Street, Kent, 860-927-4104, hobooks.com
Johnnycake Books, 12 Academy Street, Salisbury, 860-435-6677, johnnycakebooks.com
Lavender Path Antiques and Books, 50 South Street, Harwinton, 860-689-8081, http://www.lavenderpathantiques.com
Tattered Pages Book Shop, 150 Main Street, Monroe, 203-261-6755, www.tatteredpagesbookshop.com