Charles Petzold

To Hobart Book Village (and Beyond)

June 17, 2009
Roscoe, N.Y.

Deirdre and I are spending the summer at our little house in the Catskills, and it's mostly quite pleasant except for the stuff we take for granted in New York City, like plenty of bookstores and even a place (J&R) that still sells classical CDs. In Sullivan County, there's only one store that sells new books (Hamish & Henry, which has become the center of the Sullivan County literary establishment) and — as far as we know — only one store that sells used books (a literacy center in Monticello).

But just over the northern county line is Delaware County, and there the bookstore situation is quite different. In fact, there's a little village called Hobart, seemingly a normal quiet community of just 390 people (as of the 2000 census), but with a shocking public display of four used-book stores and a couple others nearby. They call it Hobart Book Village, and it's a wonderfully strange anachronism is this age of disappearing stores where you can actually touch the books and flip through the pages before you buy them.

Today, Deirdre and I went on a used-book buying spree to quench our book-buying deprived souls. Our first stop was Delhi, New York, a charming little village with a Wednesday morning Farmer's Market and Steinway Book Company. Very neat, very clean, certainly not crowded. (These are not necessarily good qualities for a used-book store.) The store seemed strong in American history, the Civil War, and had a surprising large science section, but overall there was little depth. I left with one purchase:

Hobart is about 17 miles from Delhi. Our first stop was 698 Main Street, which houses two of Hobart's four used-book stores. Enter the front door and veer to the left for Blenheim Hill Books, with a nice selection on European history with a surprising number of books on the Middle Ages, and in the science section, a peculiarly large number of books by James Jeans. I picked up:

In the same building is Liberty Rock Books, which has good collections of history, poetry, and literary criticism, a bunch of children's books, and hundreds of postcards of New York State arranged by town. This was one of those stores where the more you looked, the more interesting books you found. I came away with:

We had lunch at the only dining establish in Hobart (The Coffee Pot) and then went across the street to Wm. H. Adams Antiquarian Books, which is a real antiquarian book shop, which means that most of the stock was way out of my price range. I drooled a great deal over a beautiful leather-bound 12-volume set of the works of T. H. Huxley, but the $850 price tag meant that it remained behind.

Across the street is Hobart International Bookport, which sounds rather pretentious until you realize that it does have quite a few books in foreign languages with a particular emphasis on Italian. The regular fiction section was quite adequate as well. Purchases here were:

All five of these stores — one in Delhi and four in Hobart — have addresses on Main Street, which in the context of these villages is the same as Route 10. Off the beaten track — indeed, almost as hard to find as a trendy New York City night spot — is the famous Bibliobarn in South Kortright. This place is totally old school — sprawling, over-stuffed, a veritable orgy of books on two massive floors, presided over by the ex-Virginians and (one would surmise) lifetime hippies, H.L. and Linda Wilson. This is one of those stores you can visit again and again, and never really make a dent. Be sure to check out the second floor bathroom, where they shelf books that don't fit into any normal category.

My arms were filled when I left Bibliobarn. I purchased:

It was nearly time for dinner when we drove back to the house, the back of the car dragging on the pavement loaded down with actual books made of paper, ink, glue, and other good stuff.