Since I just moved to the Berkshires last summer, I’m still figuring out where all my haunts will be. I’m pretty up on playgrounds and museums and such for preschool children – my most frequent need given my “job” – but I haven’t been entirely satisfied with the used-bookstore situation.* I am addicted to nonfiction books, in the past mainly theology and fishing, but for the last 5 years mostly books on ornamental horticulture.
I find the used bookstores to be more exciting because I never know what I’m going to find, and because I’m cheap. (Garden books are pricey. Say I see the latest by Tracy Disabato-Aust; I’m just not going to feel good about myself in the morning if I have to lay out $40 to get her.) Of course, most used book stores are pretty useless for my purposes. Half the stores must be excluded because they have almost nothing but trashy novels, or their stock looks like it’s been stored in a damp basement for 10 years. Maybe 20% or 30% have enough gardening books to allow a 30-minute browse.
So anyway, I think I have just found the best used bookstore in the area. It’s The Book Barn, at
It’s a bit far to go just for books, I suppose, but surely one can find an excuse to visit
Why do I like The Book Barn?
- The store has 100,000 books.
- Neatly arranged by topic. Naturally, it has a lot of books in a lot of topics (“124 categories,” according to their business card).
- More gardening books than any used store I’ve been in except for the largest few in
and NYC. Boston
- The owners skillfully buy their stock and can quickly find things.
- No crap. No old, festering useless tomes, no glut of ancient houseplant How-Tos or general books with titles like “Gardening” or “Gardening for Special People.” The hokiest stuff there was the old Time-Life Encyclopedia Of Gardening series, but those are actually fairly well done (albeit dated) books, and these copies were unusually complete and pristine.
- The strip-mall may be an architectural wasteland, but my books don’t smell like mildew, as they often do when bought out of marginally heated, sprawling farmhouses.
- Low prices. Most brick & mortar stores are still stuck on selling for half the cover price. That’s acceptable for a new remainder, and of course an antique can be worth a lot more than Gertrude Jekyll was selling it for, but in the days of Amazon I don’t know how they can expect to get that for the typical used book. At any rate, I bought five beautiful and interesting books, with $17 to $50 list prices, for $5.50 to $6.95. (One had a gift inscription, often the case with gardening books, but which doesn’t bother me or even register as a demerit from otherwise very good condition.)
For what it’s worth (OK, to the sane and skeptical reader presumably more than is my opinion) the store has won awards from Albany media sources in categories like “best used book store” and “best used bookstore (selection and price).” It’s open M-F 10-8, Sat 10-6, and Sun 11-5.
Does anyone have any other bookstore tips?
* There are indeed some pretty good bookstores around in