Dinner and a Book

My behavior is nonetheless, deplorable. Unfortunately, I’m quite prone to such bouts of deplorability–take for instance, my fondness for reading books at the dinner table. – Brandon Sanderson, The Final Empire

For some time, I’ve been heading out just about once a week after I close the store to enjoy a nice dinner with a book – Dinner and a Book. It serves as some quiet time to enjoy the meal and whatever book I am currently reading. From a sit-down dinner to a picnic, or eating in my car, to take-out.

It all started as a form of self-care. My life has turned upside down and I needed to find a space in it for me. It gives me something to look forward to. I choose the restaurant based on my mood. Or sometimes on the book I’m reading at the time. England-based I go for either a good curry or fish & chip, right?

I love reading. I love good food. I love going out to dinner. And I don’t mind going by myself. It’s not a lonely venture. Can one actually be alone while reading a book?

Some have asked to join me to which I answer with of course but you will have to bring a book.

I must say, interesting the reactions I receive from a host or hostess. There was one local restaurant as soon as she saw I was carrying a book she exclaimed that she knew just where to seat me where I wouldn’t be distracted and have great lighting. Wow! She got it. One establishment when I asked for a bottled condiment, he slid it across the table where it hit my book. I gave him the ‘mother stare’. All in all, Middlebury offers great spaces to read and I’m figuring out the best tables with adequate lighting.

Life as a used bookstore owner is going fine. OCUB has been busy. Boxes of books are constantly coming in. Arranging and rearranging is ongoing to fit the books on the shelves. Shuffling shelves is continuous. Stacks of books are patiently waiting to have their jackets covered is ever-growing. I get the stack down only to add to it.

Beckett has gone off to his summer job but has promised to return in the fall. Gavin will be here for the summer. Also a Midd College student. Henry will be here again in a few weeks to pitch in as well as a pair of high school students. Yes, I’m looking forward to all the much needed help. It’ll be nice not having to do everything.

Reading at meals is considered rude in polite society, but if you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second-to-least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. – Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

Made it! Bring on Spring!

My father was often impatient during March, waiting for winter to end, the cold to ease, the sun to reappear. March was an unpredictable month, when it was never clear what might happen. Warm days raised hopes until ice and grey skies shut over the town again. – Tracy Chevalier, GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING

Another February is behind us and that’s fine with me. March brings more sun, less snow (finger’s crossed), warmer temps, and thoughts of spring right around the corner. All good things.

The I Hate February Sale was a lot of fun this year. Many customers came in inquiring if I still hated February. Of course, I do! Many a bag or box went out of the store and now I find myself filling holes on many shelves. Which is a bookseller’s dream, of course. You know, emptying out boxes and getting those books up on the shelves.

A number of U.S. history, including bios of U.S. presidents, have come into the store and are slowly making their way onto the shelves. Music, art, children’s books and well, everything in between. No rest for the wicked. Or for a used bookstore lady.

Earthquakes mean March.
The dragon will move,
and the earth will open like a wound.
There will be great rain or snow
so save some coal for your uncle.
The sun of this month cures all.
Therefore, old women say:
Let the sun of March shine on my daughter,
but let the sun of February shine on my daughter-in-law.
However, if you go to a party
dressed as the anti-Christ
you will be frozen to death by morning.


I HATE FEBRUARY! Sale…all books 1/2 off

The most serious charge that can be brought against New England is not Puritanism, but February. – Joseph Wood Krutch

February – the month of love..?!! No wonder the shortest one in the calendar. – Dinesh Kumar Biran

Even though February was the shortest month of the year, sometimes it seemed like the longest. – JD Robb

I used to try to decide which was the worst month of the year. In the winter I would choose February. I had it figured out that the reason God made February short a few days was because he knew that by the time people came to the end of it they would die if they had to stand one more blasted day. – Katherine Paterson, JACOB HAVE I LOVED

Okay, one more!

Terrible, dreepy, dark February weather I remember, and the worst, most frightened days of my life. – Sebastian Barry, THE SECRET SCRIPTURE

So, before anyone says anything at all just know that I truly do not like February. I have always felt it was the worse month in the whole year. Fortunately, it is the shortest, so it does have that going for it. And chocolate. Because one cannot get through the month without a pocket of mini chocolate bars.

And what do I do when faced with a negative? I turn it into a positive. So… the positive here is a Half-off Sale! Yes, all books are 50% off.

I attended a Vermont Antiquarian Booksellers Association meeting a number of years ago and asked the group a question regarding pricing for an upcoming sale I wanted to have. 10%? 20%? What about 15%? Well, Ben, owner of The Country Bookshop in Plainfield, piped up and said have a 50% sale and have some fun. Customers love a 50% sale and it’ll be fun for you. Well, it is easier on pricing. Just deduct half off the penciled price… SOLD! So that began my Half-off Sales that is offered several times during the year. Especially in February. Who needs fun in February? Me!

The sale begins Tuesday, February 14 and goes through the end of the month. Books are all 50%. And there will be chocolate.

February is the border between winter and spring. – Terri Guillemets, YEARS. Well, it’s got that going for it.

Sixteen Years as a Used Bookstore Owner

The bookstore was a parking lot for used graveyards. Thousands of graveyards were parked in rows like cars. Most of the books were out of print, and no one wanted to read them anymore and the people who had read the books had died or forgotten about them, but through the organic process of music the books had become virgins again. – Richard Brautigan, Trout Fishing in America

…a well-worn book also has its pleasures, the soft caress and give of the paper’s edges, the comfort, like an old shawl, of an oft-read story. – Lewis Buzbee, The Haunting of Charles Dicken

Here I am. Sitting in my overloaded bookstore. Loaded down with books. Boxes to empty, sort, clean, and price. Then shelve. Dust jackets to cover. But I need to take a break and contemplate the years. This experience. The experience of being a used bookstore owner.

I feel so lucky. Lucky to decide to purchase the store and bring new life to it. Lucky to open the door each day, turn on lights, sweep floors, polish windows, dust off books. Decorating windows, tops of bookcases, shuffling shelves around. Selecting background music. Creating an atmosphere of coziness. Somewhat organized. Somewhat not. Cluttered. But hopefully not too much.

We are much more likely to be drawn to a messy bookstore than a neat one because the mess signifies vitality. Clutter — orderly clutter, if possible — is what we expect. – Lewis Buzbee, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop

Owning a used bookstore is everything you think it would be. Should be. But it’s so much more. There is the realization that all the books actually belong to you. To you! You can claim each and every book if you want. But, of course, you don’t because how are you going to keep the store going? So, you have to be able to let go. And know that a sold book is going to a good home. To be reread. Or even sit prettily on a bookshelf.

It is clear that the books owned the shop rather than the other way about. Everywhere they had run wild and taken possession of their habitat, breeding and multiplying, and clearly lacking any strong hand to keep them down. – Agatha Christie, The Clocks

The first weekend owning the store, I cleaned the top floor: sweeping, tearing apart bookcases, freeing the sunbaked books. I wanted to make an impression on other Main Street businesses to let them know there was a new owner. This happened in the original location. The building was demolished a number of years ago for the work on the railroad tracks and tunnel. There is a small park and labyrinth in the location now.

I started using a child’s vintage paint easel boasting a literary quote to help draw people in. Placed on the large patio in front of the store. Over a span of time, I painted, rearranged, removed bookcases to create room and have a clean front and back entrance for air flow. I even went so far as to feng shui the store. Twice. The first experience called for ringing bells. I thought my bell was broken as not a sound was made. But the second time around, I started to hear it. The third time it was ringing quite clearly. Isn’t that interesting! And yea, there were ghosts there. Believe what you want.

One day pulling up to the Main Street building I noted people with clipboards in front of the store. Looked like a meeting of VTrans, and VT Railway representatives. I knew a few from various meetings I attended while working at the Addison County Chamber of Commerce. They gave me the word. The situation was dire, and maybe I should be looking at another location. I wanted to be established before the work began and I’m so glad I did. When I walked through my current location for the first time, I knew this was the perfect place to move the store to. It’s not Main Street but there is parking. No stairs. Huge windows. And a great MW community.

The Big Yellow Room before it became a used bookstore!

One must remember it is pretty much me in the store but throughout the years I have had short-term helpers: Wilder, Roy, Helen, Jennifer, Nellie, Carrie, Henry, Beckett, and, of course, Hannah. Their assistance has been enthusiastic and valued by me. I greatly appreciated their help and input. There’s a dedicated James Joyce section thanks to Helen. Remember when Jennifer organized cookbooks by their colored spines? Carrie, so instrumental in running the shop while I was having leg issues and then hip replacement. She held the store together.

The customers have been the best. So many have become friends. Stopping in to check on me. Bring me tokens, smiles, jokes, food to books. To just talk or to check on what’s new on shelves. Catching up on families. Books read. Books to read. Just being friends. Even buying books!

My style of running the used bookstore is based on what I would have liked to have found in NYC along Book Row. I read the book, Book Row: An Anecdotal and Pictorial History of the Antiquarian Book Trade by Marvin Mondlin and Roy Meador. Books were everything to the owners or managers of the spaces they held. Customers would walk into one of the shops and wonder what they’d find. That’s what I want here. I had a desire to stand out from other shops. Everyone’s online because they feel they have to. Would I be brave enough to go against the norm? Almost. I posted about three hundred or so books, but it was because I felt I had to. Not because I wanted to. Sure, I’ve had online sales but what’s the connection to the buyer? I could post a note to them. Include a Vermont postcard. Wrap the book in brown paper and tie it up with string or ribbon. Sometimes I added a small piece of embroidery and taped it to the wrapped book.

It was a very odd concept – that you could become friends with someone simply by examining their bookshelves – but nevertheless, Zoe believed it fervently. – Jenny Colgan, The Bookshop on the Shore.

I don’t know what the future will hold for me or the bookstore, but I anticipate many more years gracing the MarbleWorks community. And when the time is right another soul will venture to keep the store alive because books are here to stay. And will always be in style.

Thank you all for indulging me to live the life of a used bookstore lady. A life I had no idea I needed to be but here I am sixteen years later.

I took my time, running my fingers along the spines of books, stopping to pull a title from the shelf and inspect it. A sense of well-being flowed through me as I circled the ground floor. It was better than meditation or a new pair of shoes- or even chocolate. My life was a disaster, but there were still books. Lots and lots of books. A refuge. A solace. Each one offering the possibility of a new beginning. – Beth Pattillo, Jane Austen Ruined My Life

Life of a Used Bookstore – Sixteen Years!

I recently had to breakdown and purchased a new laptop. The one in the store abruptly bit the dust. Dragged one from home and, well, I might have had a hand in its demise… At least now I can announce that I’m back from my ‘fishing trip’.

I am currently celebrating sixteen years of owning OCUB. Hard to believe some days but then it seems like a short time ago that I shouted from the rooftops I’m buying a used bookstore.

To celebrate I’m doing what I have been doing for a many number of years. Celebrating with a 50% sale! And as I do every time, I offer a sale I pay tribute to the one who told me about his experience with sales. He offers a half-off sale. His thought is that everyone has fun when books are 50% off. And that someone is, Ben, from The Country Bookshop located way up in Plainsfield, VT. And over the years I found that advice very sound. Everyone enjoys the sale. That’s why Ben is so successful in the used bookstore world. He gives great advice. And has great sales.

The sale will go through to Saturday, December 3rd. Stop in and have some fun!

vellichor n. the strange wistfulness of used bookstores, which are somehow infused with the passage of time—filled with thousands of old books you’ll never have time to read, each of which is itself locked in its own era, bound and dated and papered over like an old room the author abandoned years ago, a hidden annex littered with thoughts left just as they were on the day they were captured. – John Koenig, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.

Going Fishing…Sept 6-9 2022

Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.  Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us. – Maya Angelou, WOULDN’T TAKE NOTHING FOR MY JOURNEY NOW

I think the best vacation is the one that relieves me of my own life for a while and then makes me long for it again. – Ann Patchett, THIS IS THE STORY OF A HAPPY MARRIAGE

Yes, I think it is time I step away and take a few days for me. Nothing special. Just some down time. I know, I own a used bookstore. What’s the stress with that? Well, actually there isn’t any. Things are going swimmingly. But, having a break every once in awhile is needed. Clear my head. A few days of no commitments.

Some think that owning a used bookstore allows time to sit back and read. Talk books with customers all day. Not really. Every day I’m in the store I work. There are always stacks of books to go through. Shelves to stock. Move books around. Sweep. Clean. Sort. Price. Boxes to go through. There is no end. It is continuous. Then I reach the point where I feel I’ve lost my creativity. I’m at that point.

I will be taking off September 6-9, returning to the store on Tuesday, September 13. Hannah will be in the store on Saturday, September 10 to cover for me. (Thanks, Hannah!)

My plans? Nothing much which works out to be just what I need. I’m feeling the need for spring cleaning in preparation for the upcoming winter. I’ve started hiking again so I’ll take some short hikes. The days of reading on the front porch are dwindling so I want to spend some time there too. I have a trip planned for the last few days which I’m looking forward to. And yes, that’ll be all about book shopping. Bags and boxes of used books. A great way to cap off the time away.

That’s why people take vacations. Not to relax or find excitement or see new places. To escape the death that exists in routine things. – Don DeLillo, WHITE NOISE

Happiness is a Used Bookstore

Happiness. That’s why [used] books smell like. Happiness. That’s why I always wanted to have a [used] bookshop. What better life than to trade in happiness? – Sarah MacLean, THE ROGUE NOT TAKEN

Couldn’t say it any better myself.

Secondhand books had so much life in them. They’d lived, sometimes in many homes, or maybe just one. They’d been on airplanes, traveled to sunny beaches, or crowded into a backpack and taken high up on a mountain where the air thinned. – Rebecca Raisin, THE LITTLE BOOKSHOP ON THE SEINE


We are much more likely to be drawn to a messy bookstore than a neat one because the mess signifies vitality. We are not drawn to a bookstore because of tasteful, Finnish shelves in gunmetal gray mesh, each one displaying three carefully chosen, color-coordinated covers. Clutter — orderly clutter, if possible — is what we expect. – Lewis Buzbee, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a History.

Many have told me there is no way I’d be able to fit in anymore bookcases. Ha! Indeed I have. Two are free-standing and one is fitted within a window and allows light in, views out. Several more bookcases will make their way in soon. Poor Political Science wants out of its box.

Short Stories
U.S. History

It takes real planning to organize this kind of chaos. – Mel Odom, The Destruction of the Books


A week went by and nothing. But eventually, as they always will, the rumors reached me. And everyone knows you can’t disprove a rumor. – Jay Asher, THIRTEEN REASONS WHY

Recently I found out a untrue rumor was out there. In reference to the above quote, it’s hard to disprove rumors so I’m not going to but through my actions and work ethic.

How do I feel about it? Quite beside myself.

I am very grateful for the friend who came to me to ask if what she heard was true. I really couldn’t hide my displeasure. Then I was faced with the dilemma of how to react to it. This is how: putting my head down and work within my shop to continue to make it the best I can. A comfy spot in town to look over a vast and varied selection of books that will fit into the space I call, Otter Creek Used Books. And I will leave it at that.

Thank you.

Middlebury Thrift Week – May 17-21, 2022

Celebrate seven stores in Middlebury VT that feature the concept of reuse.

In the MarbleWorks you’ll find Round Robin Upscale Resale, Junebug, and Otter Creek Used Books. College Street offers Middlebury Vintage and on Main Street is Buy Again Alley. All within walking distance of each other. A short drive south of Middlebury are Hope Charity Resale Shop on Boardman Street, and Neat Repeats on Route 7 south.

Each participating store will hand out punch cards. Visit 5 of the 7 stores to get your card punched and be eligible to win 1 of 3 baskets of gift certificates and other prizes.

If it can’t be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled or composted, then it should be restricted, redesigned or removed from production. – Pete Seeger