Book Barn – East Lyme, Connecticut - Atlas Obscura

Spread out in 4 locations along Rt. 156 through Niantic is a refuge for 500,000 books encompassing all subjects. A reader’s paradise, this bookstore is a Connecticut mecca to buy, sell, and read books.

Beginning in 1988 with three bookshelves and a tag sale couch, the Main Barn at 41 West Main Street has grown to an enormous scale, comprising of five buildings, gardens, a playground, “graveyards,” table games, and even goats.  

At the entrance of the compound is located “Ellis Island,” a shed where can be found new arrivals on their way through the organization process. Next you will find “Hades,” a makeshift structure, home of romance and thrillers, but not organized much more than that. At the back of the property can be found “The Haunted,” a two-story building filled with thrillers and mystery novels, flanked by two “graveyards” composed of Halloween decorations that had to be removed to make way for more books.  

Passing through the gardens and alongside a full-scale playground can be found “The Annex,” a converted garage that has become the home for poetry, essays, paperbacks, and fiction. The last outbuilding at the site is the “Last Page,” where you’ll find nonfiction books.  Then there’s the Main Barn, which itself is a labyrinth of books and more nonfiction subjects.

Be sure to grab a cup of coffee here, fill one of the available wagons with books, and find a quaint place to sit back, relax, and sample some of the cornucopia that is the Book Barn. There are at least five cats that live here both inside and outside. They can be found curled up on hidden couches, rubbing against your leg while you browse, or sitting on the counter to greet you as you come in.

Know Before You Go

Be sure to bring some old books along when you go. You put them on the table, and they are quickly and thoroughly evaluated one at a time, by one of several keen-eyed experts, who assigns each one a value. It's actually pretty fun, because it's not always clear what his criteria are, and the values can be unexpected sometimes. Some, he sets aside unimpressed, offering pennies, some with a satisfied nod, are assigned slightly larger amounts, and once in a while, a raised eyebrow or a pleased smile, with values to match. The reckoning complete, you're given a slip of paper showing the total.

The Book Barn is open 11 a. m. to 6 p. m. The Book Barn website identifies which subjects are located where. At the Main Barn, be sure to consult the map at the entrance and grab a wagon to avoid carrying armfuls of books. It is easy to spend more time here than originally anticipated.

Condensed versions of the main location can be found at the Midtown Shop, at 291 Main Street, the Downtown Shop, at 269 Main Street, and the Store 4, at 55 West Main Street. Its two sister locations, Book Barn 4 3/4 and Book Barn 4 7/8, are located right next to the Book Barn 4.  Be sure to visit the Book Barn website to check which subjects are located where, if you're seeking something in particular.  

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