A bookish day

So yesterday SOC, She Knits, Hobgoblin and I headed out to the Berkshires to spend some time doing bookish things. It won’t surprise you at all to hear that it was a wonderful day. After lunch in Canaan, Connecticut (at a diner where the people are so nice they remember you even if you visit only a couple times a year), we headed out to The Bookloft, an independent bookstore in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, where Ruth Reichl was giving a talk and signing copies of her new cookbook. I’ve never read her, but Hobgoblin praises her writing highly, and I’ve heard interviews with her on the radio that left me impressed. In person, she was a charming speaker — funny and warm.

In the question and answer session, she fielded a lot of questions about the recent closing of Gourmet magazine, where she has been Editor in Chief for the last ten years. She was obviously sad about the closing, and I was shocked to hear that she found out about it at the same time everybody else did — on Monday morning of last week. I would have thought she had earned some advanced notice.

After Hobgoblin got his copy of the cookbook signed, we all headed across the border into New York to find The Book Barn, a used bookshop in Hillsdale. This is a place Hobgoblin and I used to visit fairly often, back when we lived a bit closer, and so it was wonderful to go back for the first time in a few years. Getting to the shop is fun in and of itself; you have to wind around on some back roads for a while, and then make your way over unpaved roads before you arrive at a cute little barn packed full with books.

We spent a good two hours or so browsing, talking over our finds, and agonizing about which books to take home before we finally dragged ourselves away. And where we dragged ourselves away to just happens to be another town with a great bookstore — Millerton, New York, where you will find Oblong Books. We hadn’t actually intended to go into the shop, but we needed directions to an ATM, and once we were inside, we had to look around a bit. It’s another wonderful store with a great selection of books by small presses and the kind of obscure books you don’t see at your average chain store.

After that, we were in need of a good dinner, which we found at a nearby Italian place, and after that it was time to head home — before we found another bookstore to spend more money in.

So what did I bring home? I found five books at the book barn, although I could easily have brought home three times that many, if I had allowed myself.

  • Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s novel Aurora Floyd. I read Lady Audley’s Secret not too long ago and really loved it, so I’m looking forward to this one. It’s an example of Victorian sensational fiction, a genre I’ve recently come to enjoy a great deal. I was particularly glad to find Aurora Floyd after reading about it over at the Novel Readings blog.
  • L.P. Hartley, The Go-Between. I know absolutely nothing about this novel except that I’ve seen it around on various blogs and websites. Here’s what Amazon says: “Summering with a fellow schoolboy on a great English estate, Leo, the hero of L. P. Hartley’s finest novel, encounters a world of unimagined luxury. But when his friend’s beautiful older sister enlists him as the unwitting messenger in her illicit love affair, the aftershocks will be felt for years … The Go-Between is a masterpiece—a richly layered, spellbinding story about past and present, naiveté and knowledge, and the mysteries of the human heart.” Okay, now I know something, and it sounds good.
  • Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge. After listening to and loving Strout’s Abide with Me, I’m eager to get to this Pulitzer Prize winner. I was surprised to find a copy for only $2.
  • David Foster Wallace’s Everything and More, A Compact History of Infinity. I’d be interested in reading a history of infinity just because that’s the sort of thing I like, but a history of infinity written by David Foster Wallace? Not to be missed.
  • Maureen Corrigan’s Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading. I love books about books and reading, when they are done well, and I’m curious to see what this one is like. It will be perfect comfort reading for some day when I need it.

Really the last thing I needed to do was spend the day browsing in bookshops, but what fun it was, and I wouldn’t have wanted to do anything else.

11 Comments

Filed under Books

11 responses to “A bookish day

  1. Oh, I am SO jealous! I love Canaan, and I absolutely love The Bookloft (Bob and I have friends who basically live in Great Barrington, and we used to go there at least once a year with them). I’ve been meaning to read the Hartley after reading Eustace and Hilda a couple of years ago. You’ll have to let me know what you think of it.

  2. adevotedreader

    It sounds like you had a lovely day.

    The Go-Between is a quite wrenching novel in the vein of Atonement and The Sea and the Corrigan book is great fun.

  3. What a wonderful day! And your book selections all look so good. I have read the Corrigan book and it is quite enjoyable. She’s no Anne Fadiman but is still perfect for a comfort read.

  4. Bookstores and dinner–oh how wonderful! I’m looking forward to the reviews.

  5. “…but we needed directions to an ATM…” Will I be treated poorly if I say that is a thinly veiled excuse? Glad you were able to find lots of good entertainment.

  6. You guys have such wonderful bookish adventures! It’s lovely just to read about them.

  7. Emily — I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve been in the Book Loft, even though I have a long history with Great Barrington, and I’m glad I finally got there. It’s a fun store. I didn’t realize Hartley was the one who wrote Eustace and Hilda.

    Adevotedreader — good to know about those two books! We really did have a great day.

    Stefanie — I had a feeling Corrigan might not be a top-notch writer about books, but still, I like that genre so much, I’ll probably enjoy it.

    Lilian — I look forward to getting to the books! (and also to the couple hundred I already have waiting for me at home ….)

    Bikkuri — yeah, good point. Why stop at the bookstore instead of, say, the gas station?

    Emily — I’m glad you enjoy reading about our adventures! They are fun to write about as well as to live through.

  8. What a great day–you’re so lucky to be so close to so many great bookshops–and close to other bloggers so you can share the experience of visiting them! I have all the books you mention (except the Foster Wallace) either on my TBR pile or on my wishlist. Great choices. Enjoy your new books!

  9. We had such a great time with you, and I found so many wonderful books! I’m looking forward to reading all the new books that you have recommended, as I’ve liked everything I’ve read that you’ve introduced me to so far!

    I heard bits of Ruth Reichl’s talk and I can see that she was not only interested in recipes, but about food culture, sustainability, etc. It seems the food magazine world has lost a tremendous resource, and I hope that Ruth will find a new way to contribute to the community now that Gourmet is gone.

  10. What a lovely day! And great book finds, Dorothy. I’m sure you’ll love Olive Kitteridge and I really enjoyed the Maureen Corrigan. Plus, I must read The Go-Between – must add it to my Christmas wish list!

  11. Danielle — yes, trips like this one certainly do make me appreciate the place I live and the friends who live here! I thought of you at the bookshop because there were quite a few Viragos. I should take your list with me as well as my own!

    Debby — I’ve heard interviews with Reichl on the radio, and she impressed me with her knowledge about the economics and politics of food and her interest in local food. I’m sure she will continue doing interesting things in some other venue. It will be interesting to see where she goes next. And we had a marvelous time too — looking forward to the next trip!

    Litlove — I’m glad to hear you enjoyed those two books. That makes me look forward to them even more :)

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