166 Riddle Road, Greenwich, NY
Out in the middle of Washington County in upstate New York, you’ll find a barn full of books sitting in the woods down a narrow dirt road, and while it may take you a while you find it, the experience alone is worth the drive. The countryside is beautiful, the shelves are spilling over with books, and if you bring enough cash and have enough idle hours on hand, you’re going to enjoy yourself.
The books are all used and there’s a wide array of styles, subjects, and quality, from well-worn classics to near-pristine paperbacks to vintage antique titles that will look just as gorgeous on your shelves as you’re imagining. The barn is a bit musty and dusty, but in a fun, adventurous way. You’re going to get lost in these stacks. There's so much to look through. There is a large history and “current” events section to the right of the main door, where I found a great copy of David McCullough’s 1776. There's also plenty of regional history titles, for New York, New England, the Hudson Valley, and beyond, plus historical sections broken down by place and period.
As I walked through I saw an older poetry section comprised of early-twentieth century titles. There are some side rooms and deeper aisles with books covering trivia, coins, medicine, arctic tales, nature and bees, true crime, and antique collections of Bronte, Melville, Milton, and the like. Beyond that are big tables and shelves full of more recent fiction offerings, mostly paperbacks and lots in good shape, plus some large mystery and crime sections too. I spent a lot of time here. I also saw a "Loony Bin" where the more you bought the cheaper the books became. Look for that!
Swinging around toward the other end of the barn I found more history titles, books about the holidays and Christmas, art, architecture, etiquette, Victoriana, prohibition, old radio and TV, language books, seemingly a small section for everything, though a lot of titles leaned older, some much much older. This can cut both ways. You might not find the most recent bestseller, but you might find a classic or out of print title no other shop has on hand.
Toward the front again there was another large swath of history books, a children’s section which also skewed much older, biography books, presidential titles, memoirs and theology. I really could have gone all day, and there were enough other people browsing in the barn that it made being way out in the middle of nowhere feel cozy and comfortable. You might need to build a trip to Owl Pen Books into a larger book hunting trek, because it’s pretty far out, but if you do manage to swing by, you won’t regret it. Have fun browsing!
Atmosphere — The shop is in a barn that feels both expansive and cozy at the same time, with rows and aisles of old books, plus a big pot-belly stove.
Quality — The books lean older but there are still a number of bestsellers and fairly modern titles (I found an excellent paperback edition of David McCullough’s 1776) and most in good shape, though there are certain some high and lower quality vintage titles and musty old tomes of classic clothbound books.
Quantity — Lots and lots of books. You’re going to have a full afternoon on your hands here.
Diversity — It felt like it was mostly fiction and history titles, though there were plenty of nonfiction sections (some a bit dated), and small children’s selection too.
Affordability — Being all/mostly used, the prices were fair for what you’re getting.
Amenities — There were a couple older chairs, but it’s a big ol’ barn emanating that old book smell, so there aren’t many other amenities.
Location — It’s about ten minutes or so outside the small town of Greenwich, NY, which is about half an hour east of Saratoga Springs, NY. It’s a little out there, down a dirt country road wide enough for one vehicle. There are signs, thankfully, and the barn itself is behind a lovely white house out in the woods.
Customer Service — The woman I spoke with seemed friendly and approved of my selections, talking about them a bit. She spoke with all the patrons as they came and went, so if you have questions about the stacks I’m sure she’ll be happy to help.
Overall — This was a very cool experience. I mean, how often are you able to wander through a big barn full of books out in the countryside? There’s plenty to look through here and lots of excellent titles worth bringing home on the cheap. It’s worth the drive, especially considering how close it is to another fun shop in Cambridge and a couple more in Saratoga.