REGION — Back in 2020—no, even before that, as the book-shopping world changed and people were absorbed by their screens—the demise of the local bookstore was considered a done …
REGION — Back in 2020—no, even before that, as the book-shopping world changed and people were absorbed by their screens—the demise of the local bookstore was considered a done thing.
Anybody remember those small used-book dealers from Port Jervis to Narrowsburg, Milford to Honesdale? The scattering of new-book stores (hello, Mostly Books!) in the region?
First, big box stores started consuming real estate like potato chips and took customers from the small stores in the process. Amazon arrived and offered cheap reads for anyone with a computer to buy them; the big boxes started vanishing nationwide. Smartphones provided easy access to social media and other nonbook distractions.
“So few remained,” said Mark Shulgasser, who ran a bookstore in Callicoon years ago.
Don’t we know how that story ended?
No, no we don’t.
Small bookstores have started to come back. Even here.
Not quite dead
A search for local independent bookstores—selling either used or new books—turned up several shops, many of which opened in the last few years.
And that’s not counting the ones that sell books as well as other items.
Writer and artist Emily Helck owns and operates the Lost Bookshop in Delhi, NY, close to SUNY Delhi.
She sells a variety of new books “for getting lost and finding your way,” as the shop’s tagline says.
For Helck, independent bookstores fill a niche that a large bookstore or online seller can’t match.
“Independent bookstores are places of real-life connection in a world that increasingly feels disconnected,” she said. “Book lovers often strike up conversations with people they might never talk to otherwise, because of the shared experience of a story and being in a place devoted to stories.”
Shulgasser has opened a new store in Jeffersonville, NY, called BookMark. It's next to Tavern on Main.
It’s “the tiniest bookstore I’ve ever had,” he said, “so I’m very selective. I almost think of it as a book gallery, rather than a store.”
He’s chosen some of the stock from his personal collection—“used, collectible and occasionally rare,” he said—which has been amassed over a lifetime.
“I’ll keep my astrological files there,” he wrote recently on his River Reporter blog From the Blue Zenith. “[S]helves on Bloomsbury, Stein, Henry James, 19th-century American lit (Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, Emerson), modern lit, art and architecture, entertainment and film, music and opera, poetry, gardening, cooking and home, history, places, philosophy, psychology, sex, mysticism, religion… science and technology, sci-fi, sports and outdoors, belles lettres and children’s books.”
Helck’s books appeal to visitors and residents alike: novels from science fiction to historical and modern tales, local history and lore, plenty of natural history, a bright and cheerful kids’ section and fun titles such as Amber Share’s “Subpar Parks,” based on actual one-star reviews of national parks. (The Grand Canyon is reduced to “A hole. A very, very large hole.”)
“We’re focused on the books that help people through life,” she said, “whether they want a fun escape or need to wrestle with big questions.”
Recommendations come from the community as well—and the Lost Bookshop carries a supply of local authors.
Many local used-book stores rely on donated books, and those are plentiful—witness requests on local
orums for places that will take donations.
Read it Again, in Monticello, NY, sprawls over a large space and sells pre-loved books on every topic imaginable and in languages ranging from French to Spanish to Hebrew, with a smattering of Esperanto, if someone hasn’t bought them yet. There are audiobooks and videos/DVDs too.
Indie bookshop Known Grove on Main Street in Honesdale, PA, sells “new & used books, rare & vintage books, classics & hidden gems,” its website promises. You’ll also find “bookstore cats, cozy reading nooks, magic and wonder.”
There’s Litt Home & Book in Callicoon, NY, emblematic of the books-plus model. Not only does it sell home items, toys and quirky odds and ends—but there are books aplenty.
And don’t forget your local libraries—many have ongoing book sales, and the proceeds support the libraries.
“Cheryl Strayed, the author of the memoir ‘Wild,’ said that reading a book is the closest a person can come to inhabiting another’s consciousness,” said Helck. “Which makes books important tools for developing empathy, for understanding the many other kinds of experiences that living things have.”
Change is afoot. “The status of the book as a physical object, with its particular properties and positions, is rapidly eroding,” Shulgasser said.
“Reading a book is becoming something of an antiquary delight, a steampunk-type experience. Owning the book, possessing the object, keeping it, displaying it, transporting it, are all now invested with different meanings.”
Reading is a commitment to concentration for an extended period of time, he said. It’s “completely different from the interactivity and restless freedom that the internet habituates.”
Books are permanent, solid. Websites are easily changed. “Digitization,” he pointed out, “has multiplied the resources of censorship and historical rewriting.”
Whereas, short of burning, books stay with us, a reminder.
“One might almost say that the Book has always been associated with some concept of Truth,” Shulgasser said.
Perhaps that’s why banning books has been with us as long as the printing press existed.
But as long as bookstores and books exist, the world feels somewhat more solid under our feet.
A good bookshop: ‘a genteel black hole that knows how to read’
REGION — Terry Pratchett, as always, said it best.
Find something good to read—or to share with others—at one of these bookstores.
Do you know others? We’ll add them online. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Route 52, in the Tavern on Main building, Jeffersonville
The Hound Books
3 Union St., Roscoe
Online bookstore based in Port Jervis, NY
Litt Home & Book
43 Lower Main St., Callicoon
120 Main St., Delhi
One Grand Books
The shop has been a fixture on Narrowsburg's Main Street since 2015, and opened a new store in Livingston Manor in 2021.
67 Main St., Livingston Manor
60 Main St., Narrowsburg
Dr. Duggan Community Center
3460 Rte. 55, White Lake
845/583-7191 (Call for hours)
Facebook: Past Perfect Bookstore
Read it Again
63 North St., Monticello
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