874 Route 43, Stephentown, NY
Tucked away in the rolling hills of eastern New York, just minutes from the Massachusetts border, you’ll find a little bastion of books with a healthy nod to Beat writers and peaceniks, not to mention plenty of piles to sort through. In between photos of Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady, a wandering shop cat, and various quotes lining the walls, you’ll find books stuck into every nook and cranny of this small but surprising bookshop.
The ground floor is packed with fiction, with a special section by the register for memoirs, literary biographies, and Beat writers, as well as a few DVDs and CDs (from which I plucked a 50 film collection of noir classics), not to mention bowls of candy and inspirational quotes on little cards for anyone who wishes for a little pick-me-up while browsing. The fiction wraps around the walls, among a surprising number of religious and philosophical texts. In a nook they have mystery and horror, and a few towering shelves for politics, children’s, and books by the LGBT community and authors of color, which is great to see as books by these communities aren’t so openly displayed in most shops.
Near the stairs leading to the section floor you’ll find art books, many leaning a little older, and upstairs there’s plenty of both old and new, with recent titles in the history and Hollywood memoir sections (from which I snagged a nonfiction title about noir films…see a pattern yet with my tastes?) and an excellent section of literary classics, from which I pulled an older but inexpensive paperback of Watership Down by Richard Adams. I’ve been looking for a cheap copy for ages and I’m surprised it took me so long, but here it was waiting for me all along. They had areas dedicated to the civil war, poetry, erotica, and journalism, with some antique books with quite colorful and well-kept covers.
The space is a bit cramped but cozy for sure and it’s easy to check your watch and see that nearly forty-five minutes had gone by from simply browsing a couple small rooms. There’s that much to explore and consider, making this out of the way shop well worth the drive.
Atmosphere — A small store that packs a punch, with books and bowls of candy waiting for you in every corner and drawer.
Quality — The books lean a little older, and there are a lot of Beat-era writers represented. If that’s your thing, this will be a gold mine.
Quantity — There’s a lot more books in here than you’ll expect, but there are still limitations. Poetry and some sections of nonfiction were a bit lighter but there’s a lot of fiction and plenty of other under-represented topics.
Diversity — Again, size limits this shop somewhat but there’s a lot of ground covered, with sections dedicated to authors of color, Beats, and zeitgeist titles you may not find elsewhere.
Affordability — As they’re all used, the prices are very affordable and you’ll be able to walk away with 4-6 books for under $20 easily.
Amenities — Candy, inspirational quotes, a cat, and gracious hosts, but it’s a tiny shop so don’t expect too many areas to lounge.
Location — It’s a little ways out there, maybe a thirty minute drive from Albany, NY, depending on where you’re starting from, but if your book browsing temperament is game this is certainly worth the trek.
Customer Service — The staff were delightful and happy to help, and offered candy the moment I walked in. There’s a bell to ring if they’re in the back.
Overall — This shop is small but caters to the booklover who doesn’t mind towering piles and jam-packed shelves. The shop has a specialty for older Beat poets and has a surprising selection to choose from. Worth the drive.