By Telly Halkias
“WWe just don’t have bookstores like this back home!”
Indeed, second-hand bibliophiles are unique creatures of nature onto themselves. Coming from all different demographics, be it economic, political, age, religion, gender, race, it makes no difference: these are people are passionate about two things: reading, and a bargain.
Once in their used-book sanctuary, this common love for all things bound and printed seems to engender in them a willingness to open up on all sorts of ideas and topics. Quite often, and most likely with total strangers, they find themselves enmeshed in the vibrant give-and-take of symposia as broad as the past national elections, to as narrow as the proper technique for raising African violets. In the midst of this world of ideas, though, a common lament is often heard: places like this are disappearing. The ability to take refuge, even for a few minutes, in the shelter of books which seem to loyally stand guard on a way of life now slowly fading, cannot be measured in any way, except appreciation.
We explain to them that as long as this love exists, we will keep the fires burning. Vermont is a treasure trove of such cozy corners. Bennington’s landmark second-floor store, Now And Then Books, has seen many changes over the last quarter century, but remains as vibrant and relevant today as ever.
Our reads can be from the most esoteric – “I wonder if you have something on the engineering of canals and waterways in Holland during the early 1900’s?” – to the fleeting: “I’m leaving tomorrow for ten days in the Caribbean, and I need some seriously trashy beach reading to match my margarita intake!” Moments later, both these customers, a tourist and a local, male and female, leave the store happily clutching their new-found friends, while together discussing the challenges of raising school-age children. The used bookstore? Common ground indeed.
Of course, one store alone can’t find, or stock, everything, nor can it provide limitless opportunities at browsing surprises. However, in staying relevant, the next generation of second-hand book dealers now conducts rare and out-of-print book searches, takes special orders, markets aggressively, and leverages technology to get their customers the best possible deals. Not to mention sending you along to other local attractions, shopping, or recommending a great restaurant… in Bennington, there is plenty of everything!
Finally, if you’re traveling onto other points in Vermont, we are more than happy to refer you to specific used bookstores which are VABA (Vermont Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association) members at your point of destination, or along your route of travel, that may also scratch that itch for further treasures, and warm new friendships.
Telemachus C. Halkias, “Telly,” is a member of the Vermont Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association, a Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce Board Director, and owner of Now And Then Books, which is on the 2nd Floor of 439 Main Street in Bennington. At 50,000 volumes, it is the area’s largest used bookstore.