New England, By The Book, Reading

New England, By The Book – Portsmouth Book and Bar, Portsmouth, NH

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Last fall I had the opportunity to (individually) catch up with two of my favorite ladies from Maine. Portsmouth, New Hampshire is roughly ‘half-way’ between us these days, and therefore we chose that as a meeting point. We spent hours poring over the months or years since we’d last been in the same space, and in both cases it was (as I prefer to feel most of my friendships are) as if we’d just sat down together the day before.

On the first outing, my fellow literary-obsessed friend Leslie and I also ventured into a couple of Portsmouth’s used book stores to check their offerings. In the first shop I came across a book I had just finished a few weeks before, The Bells, by Richard Harvell and one other book I had heard of but not yet read, The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain. Leslie purchased the former and I the latter.

After indulging in lunch at nearby RiRu, a converted bank turned eatery, Leslie and i were sitting outside on a bench, and I looked up information on any other book stores in the area and am thankful that I did.

Just down the street from where we sat lay an (for me) untapped venue – Portsmouth Book and Bar. Located in the former Custom House and Post Office, built in 1860, and home of several other businesses over the years, the Book and Bar is a worthwhile stop if you happen to venture to Portsmouth and have some time to kill.

Granted, the selection may not look as substantial as other places I’ve visited, but don’t be fooled by that. The neatly spaced and stacked shelving holds a world of treasures at very reasonable prices. Their fiction section (my immediate go-to) is extensive, and their non-fiction and children’s equally impressive.

Aside from the books accorded for sale, the venue boasts an enticing menu of sandwiches and small plate offerings, a decent selection of beer and wine, and of course coffee, tea, and soft drinks for those who choose to not imbibe. I have yet to eat or drink at this location, but the smiles on the faces of the patrons each time I have visited lead me to believe the food and beverages, like the book selection, do not disappoint.

The book store also offers live music to patrons, as well as comfy couches and cafe tables  on which to alight and enjoy the eclectic mix of musical styles performed regularly.

Located in the historic downtown district of a beautiful sea-side city, this is a locale I plan to visit again and again. Most recently I left the store with newly owned books by George Gissing, Orhan Pamuk, and Edmund White. There were other editions of interest that caught my eye – and hopefully they’ll be there for future perusal.

Portsmouth Book and Bar can be found at:

40 Pleasant St
Portsmouth, NH 03801
603.427.9197

OPEN 7 DAYS
SUN – THU : 10a–10p
FRI – SAT : 10a–midnight

http://www.bookandbar.com/index.html

Happy reading!

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New England, By The Book, Reading

New England, By The Book – The Montague Bookmill, Montague MA

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Books You Don’t Need, In A Place You Can’t Find is the tagline on the website for this gem of a bookstore.

But they were wrong, on both counts.

The Montague Bookmill claims residence in an 1842 Grist Mill in the little town of Montague, Mass. Bordering the Sawmill River, the Bookmill invites visitors to wile away a long afternoon perusing the shelves and stacks (don’t be fooled, it’s very organized) of books for sale – and then the multitude of other items for sale.

The property boasts not only their general and scholarly interest books, but a vinyl and cd shop, an artists collective, and a rustic restaurant all within steps of each other.

The Bookmill also invites musical artists to entertain, with reasonably priced seats, yet they entice audience hopefuls to arrive early for seats in their armchairs and couches for the best and most comfortable view of the musician playing.

Two summers ago I decided to make the two hour trek to Montague, which is west of me as the crow flies, to see what was in store for me. I was not disappointed. I left with, amongst others, a wonderful novel by a ‘forgotten’ author – The Stones Of Summer, by Dow Mossman (who might feature in a ‘Faded Pages’ blog post in the near future, even if this book was his only commercial output). It’s a delightful read, big and sprawling, taking place over decades, and a wonderful way to pass a summer week, or month, depending upon the pace you take with reading it.

In that respect, the book is much like the store from which I procured it. It’s a sizable property with much to offer. I spent a few peaceful hours strolling through the books, picking through the vinyl, and sampling a lunch offering from their cafe menu as I sat beside a window overlooking a sun-dappled stream below that carries water twenty-two miles from Lake Wyola to the Connecticut River as it carried me away to daydreams.

Worth an hour, an afternoon, or even an entire day, The Montague Bookmill is a hidden gem just beyond the mid part of the Commonwealth heading West to the New York state border. If you find yourself out that way, by happenstance, look the store up and spend some time there – you won’t be disappointed.

The store’s information is below. Happy reading!

MONTAGUE BOOKMILL
Susan Shilliday
440 Greenfield Road, Montague, MA
(mail) Post Office Box 954, Montague, MA 01351
Phone: (413) 367-9206
Email: susan@montaguebookmill.com
web: www.montaguebookmill.com
Hours: 7 days, 10-6, and later seasonally

 

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New England, By The Book

New England, By The Book: The Lord Randall Bookshop in Marshfield, MA

 

One of my favorite ways to pass time is to visit a used book store. I’m an avid reader, always in search of a literary gem at a great price. While I’d love to keep the existence of many of them to myself to mine their offerings time and again to add to my own collection; I’ve decided to share my experiences in my New England (and sometimes beyond) book buying travels with others in an ongoing series of blog posts.

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I (unfortunately) do not have any photos of this first shop I’m listing, nor can I find one online, but will be sure to correct that in the future for additional posts. I’ve put a google maps location ‘photo’ above this first post in lieu of an actual photo.

This past Saturday I visited one of my favorite stores, The Lord Randall Bookshop at 22 Main Street, Marshfield, MA.

I originally discovered this small but highly rewarding shop while perusing the Massachusetts and Rhode Island Antiquarian Booksellers list (formerly MARIAB, now redirected to SNEAB (Southern New England Antiquarian Booksellers) at http://www.sneab.com.

Nestled into the walls between a centuries old home and the attached garage, this ‘barn’ space retains its pre-twentieth century charm and wooden planked walls and floor. Sparse rugs, certainly as care-worn as some of the book spines standing watch over them, lay on the floor gathering the dust that the book jackets are meant to repel. Stretching down from the ceiling a few cobwebs (with nary a spider in sight upon them), while they might initially be a bit off-putting to some, only enhance the charming atmosphere, occasionally waving in the air which itself is steeped in the scent of both modern and ancient book bindings.

The shelves of the shop are stocked ceiling to floor with both fiction and non-fiction offerings sure to capture the interest of any reader. Boating, travel, history, New England Lore, true crime, and architecture are just a few of the subjects to choose from.

The children’s section, along the wall to the left when you enter the shop, while you might not be likely to find a Potter or a Percy Jackson waiting for a new owner to dive into their pages, invites children to step back in time with The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and many other early- to mid-twentieth century tales.

The novels to be found in the shop are divided into two sections; fiction and literature (there is a difference). The literature section boasts offerings by James, Tolstoy,Thoreau, Wharton and the like; while the fiction shelves play host to Grisham, Ludlum, Le Carre, and many other ‘mass appeal’ authors of the past twenty to thirty years.

Pricing is fair, as I emerged from my most recent visit to the shop with two classics (King Solomon’s Mines and The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow, in the Readers Digest ‘Worlds Best Reading’ series bindings), for $7.50 each, plus tax. Prices range from a few dollars less to hundreds more for rare and antiquarian books, which the shop carries in plentiful supply.

While you might not initially find anyone behind the desk in the shop when you enter, owner Gail and her trusty canine companion (a sweet dog who patrols the shop occasionally to sniff at your legs and check up on your progress, but was reluctant to give up his name) will eventually descend the few wooden steps from the attached residence and patiently sit behind her desk waiting for you to bring your finds to her for checkout. She will then hand-write your receipt, present you with your change, and wish you enjoyment from your newfound treasures before you depart.

There’s nothing flashy or extravagant about the Lord Randall, from the pale-green painted exterior to the gray, ashen floors and walls of the interior, but the worlds to be discovered with the books inside more than makes up for any flaws you might find in the decor.

Well worth the forty-five minute drive for me, this book shop is one I will likely visit again and again over the years. If you live too far away to make the trip, the shop has an online presence via the ABE Books website, and does offer shipping.

The listing from SNEAB is as follows:

LORD RANDALL BOOKSHOP
Gail Wills
22 Main Street (Route 3A & 139), Marshfield, MA 02050
Phone: (781) 837-1400
Email: lrbooks@aol.com
web: http://www.abebooks.com/home/lrdrndll
Hours: Wed + Fri 12-5; Thu + Sat 11-5; Closed at 4 in Winter (Nov-Mar)
General shop with Local History, Children’s, Art and Architecture, Literature, Travel

Happy Reading!

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