Danny Mitola, Non-fiction and Multimedia Panelist
This past Saturday I went down to the coast with a couple fellow Long River Review friends: Christine and Kelly. When we arrived, we were welcomed by the squawking of seagulls in the distance and the subtle aroma of salt on the air. The familiar characteristics of the coastline had us talking for a moment about the beach, but that was not what we came for. No, we were on a different mission. We didn’t come for the feeling of soft grains of sand between our toes, or to lie in the sun for hours without a care in the world, or to refresh our skin with the ocean’s water… though all of this is sounding like what we should have done, in retrospect. But anyway, it wasn’t warm of enough for any of that! We came for a different, far more intellectual activity. We came to peruse a collection of used books.
I’d only been to the Book Barn in Niantic once before this weekend, but these trips did not, by any means, disappoint.There are four locations to the Book Barn, each within a mile of each other on the same stretch of road by the seaside, and each boasting different genres to explore. Unfortunately, Kelly, Christine, and I only had enough time to look around the “Main Barn,” which is the main location with the largest collections of books, including fiction, poetry, romance, mystery, biology, gardening, nature writing, natural history, and many more. Genres are housed in different little buildings around the property, each added throughout the life of the Book Barn to accommodate its growing collection.
My favorite is a building called the “Last Page,” as it houses literature involving gardening, farming, nature, and related topics—all quite useful information to me, given I live at Spring Valley, UConn’s student farm. I picked up a book from here titled Redesigning the American Lawn, A Search for Environmental Harmony. Anyone who has heard my rants about lawns and their environmental impact knows that this is definitely the book for me.
The Main Barn is like a fairyland of literature, with whimsical structures scattered around the property, some paying homage to famous works of the past. My favorite decoration is the Baggins’ residence, A.K.A. Hobbit Hole, nestled neatly in a hillside, with a little hobbit, presumably Bilbo, sitting outside.
There’s a large, ever-evolving collection of books to be found at the Book Barn—one any lover of literature would get lost in for hours on end. But books aren’t the only thing you might stumble across while you’re there. On our visit, we got to see some goats that they have there, named Fili and Teddy. Fili was preoccupied eating his hay, so we didn’t interact with him much, but Teddy loved being scratched.
The real hotshot of the evening, in my opinion, was an old cat named Evinrude, who we found napping on a couch. The pamphlet we had which gave us info on all the resident animals at the Book Barn said he loved to be pet, so I went ahead a chilled out with him for a while. He’s very aptly named, as his purr mimicked that of a boat motor. Even if you’re not into literature or reading all that much, I’d say the goats and cats are enough reason to visit!
My visit at the Book Barn was a blast, but a thought had me troubled while I was there. In the age of the internet and seemingly endless amounts of digital storage, where do books stand in our world, especially old or used books? At first, I thought maybe they had aged out and it was time for them to wither, but then I thought about the books you might find at a place like the Book Barn—the worn out, over-loved copies with scribbled drawings and notes in the margins about how “Grandma would love this quote” or some other musing. There’s a human quality to these books that I personally would never want to see disappear from this world, and I’m sure there are many others who feel the same. And come on, there’s nothing like snuggling next to a cat on a comfy couch with a book and a cup of tea.
So head on down to the Book Barn, or another used book store in your area. Not only will you be supporting the longevity of books, but also a local business, which is something I’ll always advocate for. I know Kelly, Christine, and I loved our visit and will return again to smell the salted air, hear the gulls, and read some old used books.