Five Fantastic Book Barns (and Book Cats!) of the Northeast

Posted by Brian Morell

Bookstores are always magical, teeming with stories and knowledge, but they can be even more wondrous depending on the location.

One of my favorite types is a “book barn,” which is exactly what it sounds like. These bookstores are housed in old barns and are pretty common in the northeastern United States (though there are some scattered across the rest of the country). Beyond the quirk of being in a barn, these bookstores also boast interesting and unique collections.

They're often a bit out of the way and tend to have a lot of cats (so be careful when you are parking)! Come along with me to the book barns that I loved visiting or want to visit soon.

The Book BarnThe Book Barn is definitely the most well known and easily accessible (not to mention clearly named) book barn I’ve come across. Located in Niantic, CT, The Book Barn is actually three different stores located within a couple of miles of each other (the original location is a barn).

Getting there is easy; it’s on a main road right along the Connecticut coast. Each store was well organized and easily browseable. In addition to the three stores, The Main Barn has smaller outposts throughout the property, including The Annex, Hades, The Haunted Bookshop, and The Last Page, so make sure you wander around for a bit.

Plus, CATS! These book barn cats are so popular that they even have their own FAQ and guide for anyone who wants insight into the thirteen (!) cats that call The Book Barn home.

Baldwin’s Book BarnBaldwin’s Book Barn of West Chester, PA, is probably the most beautiful of the barns I’ve come across. It was so much fun exploring this five-story barn, which was built in the 1820s. It's not too far from the highway, so getting here was relatively easy. The collection was organized well, and I found a few books to buy while perusing.

Some of the collection was older compared to the selection in other book barns, but old books are my favorite books to browse through, so no complaints. And more cats! I saw at least four, so keep an eye out for them if you visit.

Whitlock Farm BooksellersEven though Whitlock Farm Booksellers was close to a highway, it was a little tricky getting there. I got slightly turned around thanks to my GPS, which started to guide me down a road that I quickly realized was not a road at all!

Thankfully, I was able to get back and found Whitlock Farm Booksellers of Bethany, CT. Once you get close to it, it’s very easy to see (since it is a BIG RED BARN), so don't be like me and go down the creepy road with the DO NOT TRESPASS signs plastered all around. This book barn was housed in two separate buildings that were neatly organized.

They had a nice collection of old postcards and their selection of books was good as well. No cats as far as I could tell, but there were horses in a nearby pasture.

Book Barn of the Finger LakesLocated in Dryden, NY, the Book Barn of the Finger Lakes was much smaller than the other barns I had been to, but it was still fun to look through this store. It was a little hard to navigate since there were piles of books everywhere, but from what I saw, there was an interesting collection of books.

There were also some cool things like bound volumes of old newspapers (remember those?) the Book Barn of the Finger Lakes is just off a main road, but depending on which way you’re coming, it’s a sharp turn, so don’t be going too fast as you approach it. Cat count here is 1; when I pulled up, I saw a lone cat wandering around outside.

Rodger’s Book BarnRodger’s Book Barn was the most remote of the book barns I've been to. The journey there was a ton of twisty backroads (and I had to get out of my car a few times to remove fallen tree limbs from the gravelly road. Be careful!)

Surprisingly, when I arrived, the place was crowded. It’s not a big store, but Rodger’s Book Barn has a great fiction collection and I found several things to buy. They also had a Keurig available (caffeine!) and an inviting children’s area. Sadly, I did not see any cats, but the remote location made me feel like a bear could wander out in front of me at any moment, which was pretty thrilling.

BONUS BARNS: I’ve been meaning to get to these, but haven’t yet, so maybe you’ll get a chance to explore them before I do. Take pictures! Pet cats!

Do you know of a book barn that I haven’t mentioned? Please let us know in the comments and maybe I’ll get there someday!

Brian Morell is an awesome librarian from New York City. He writes about his travels and life at That Long Yellow Line and about music for The Ruckus. Follow him on Twitter @goodinthestacks.