Hobart Book Village, a Bibliophile’s Dream in Upstate NY
By Nava Atlas | On June 18, 2021 | Updated June 25, 2021 | Comments (3)
Have you ever heard of a book town or book village? Chances are you haven’t, if you live the U.S.; there are only three of them in all of North America. One of the most charming and accessible book towns is Hobart Book Village in upstate New York. (At right, a stack of books at LionEyes Books, which specializes in art books.)
It just so happens that Hobart, NY (Delaware County), one of North America’s rare book towns, is just a couple of hours from where I live in upstate New York. This book village was started in 2005 by local entrepreneur Don Dales; and while there has been a turnover in shops, the book village concept has been going strong in this hamlet for an impressive number of years.
The book town as a concept has caught on around the world, especially in Europe. It’s pretty much what it sounds like — a gathering of bookshops concentrated in the center of a small town or village.
Alex Johnson, the author of Book Towns elaborates:
“A book town is simply a small town, usually rural and scenic, full of bookshops and book-related industries. The movement started with Richard Booth in Hay-on-Wye in Wales in the 1960s, picked up speed in the 1980s and is continuing to thrive in the new millennium.
From the start, the driving force has been to encourage sustainable tourism and help regenerate communities … One important reason that almost all book towns are in bucolic locations is that they require cheap property to enable book businesses to open their doors. Many have been subsidized by local authorities to help them get off the ground. While many cities have numerous bookshops, book towns concentrate the outlets in a small area to create a critical mass.”
Web: Hobart Book Village
Main Street, Rt. 10, Hobart, NY 13788
Summer hours (starting June 1 through Columbus Day): Daily, 11-5. All other times of the year the village is mostly open on weekends; consult the website (above) for more details, or go directly to hours and directions.
Hobart Book Village’s website describes itself as having six bookshops, but I count eight (plus the Children’s Community Library). Whether six or seven or eight, there’s plenty to keep book lovers busy for several enjoyable and relaxing hours.
Hobart is tucked away in the beautiful Catskill mountains region of NY State, so make sure to consult Trip Advisor for more to do in the region as well as places to stay and eat.
- All the bookstores are within close walking distance of one another, so you park once and you’re done.
- Each of the bookstores has something distinctive to offer, so that they don’t overlap too much. That makes each shop a different experience.
- All of the booksellers are super friendly and welcoming, happy to engage with fellow bibliophiles.
- There’s a mix of new and old books, and you’re likely to find some great bargains among the latter.
- You can visit two art galleries located amidst the bookstores. The Mural Gallery is one of them, though it’s only open on Saturdays from 12-4. An art gallery is part of one of the largest shops, Liberty Rock Books.
- Two huge sales: From the website — “Two huge semi-annual sales are held on the weekends of Memorial Day and Thanksgiving Day. These sales draw hundreds of collectors, book lovers, vacationers and local residents since it is a great way to stock personal libraries for the summer, fall and winter or kickstart Holiday shopping.”
- A dearth of food; no coffee: There was no food or coffee place open in town during the hours I was there. I drove about a half mile to a gas station to get coffee and a snack. There’s just one place in the midst of the bookstores called The Dinner Plate, but it’s not vegan-friendly for someone like myself. It only opens at 4:00 on certain days. Bull and Garland is the town’s popular Inn and English-style eatery, but also has limited days/hours and is perhaps even less vegan friendly than the aforementioned. I suggest bring a picnic or stopping at a nearby town for food before hitting the bookstores. The adjacent town is Stamford, which has a few eateries. There are other options further afield as well.
- There’s no public transportation to Hobart; it’s only reachable by car.
Festival of Women Writers
Hobart is also known for its annual Festival of Women Writers and its winter workshops. Get all the information here.
The bookshops and more (as of summer 2021)
Adams Antiquarian Books (602 Main Street) features three floors of organized and attractively displayed books, giving it the feel of so much more than just one bookshop. This treasure trove was the first bookshop opened in Hobart Book Village. From the brochure: “Featuring fine books, art, and tea offered in a bright, cordial atmosphere that makes both the collector and the browser feel welcome. Featuring 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th century: Fiction, Biographies, Art, Music, Theatre, Dance, Etiquette, Graphic Arts, Poetry, Greek and Latin Texts, Theology, Science, Natural History; American, World; and Local History.”
Blenheim Hill Books is in a temporary location (645 Main Street) due to repairs. Their usual location is 698 Main Street. From the brochure: “Blenheim Hill Books appeals to readers with thousands of new and gently used books in categories ranging from contemporary and classic fiction to gardening, nature, and biography … Poetry and history are well represented. We have recently expanded our children’s section to include young adult fiction and graphic novels. New picture books share space with collectible illustrated children’s books.”
Children’s Community Library (The Book Nook) and Vintage Bottega (645 Main Street): In its current (2021) temporary location, Blenheim Hill Books shares a space with a tiny but charming children’s library. Also in this space is the aforementioned vintage clothing store.
Creative Corner Books (607 Main Street): I was delighted to encounter a couple of my recent vegan cookbooks from my “other life” in this delightful bookshop featuring floor to ceiling cookbooks and craft books! From the brochure: “At Creative Corner Books, cooks and crafters will find inspiration in a bright, cozy setting. We boast an eclectic collection of cookbooks — new, used, and vintage … Our varied inventory of craft, hobby, and DIY books will get your creative juices flowing, whether your interests lie in needlecrafts, quilting, paper crafts, bookbinding, gardening, jewelry, woodworking, mosaics, or dozens of other projects.”
Liberty Rock Books (678 Main Street) is the largest (5,000 sq. feet) of the Hobart bookstores with vast inventory in many categories, mostly used and vintage. The space, whose inviting seating area you see in the first photo above, includes an art gallery, and houses an additional bookstore, Hobart Book Emporium, shown in the second photo. The Emporium is a collective of four booksellers in one attractive, beautifully curated space. From the brochure: “We continue as broad generalists with specialty collections as they become available. Our used and scarce books … include a large selection of children’s books from the 19th and 20th centuries … Plan on staying a good while when you visit us.”
LionEyes Books (722 Main Street), the newest of the current roster of shops, specializes in art books. A lovely, compact shop, the art-lover will be in book heaven. From the brochure: “Art, art, and more art is what you’ll find at LionEyes Books, where sharing affordable finds with you is my passion! When you browns the shelves you’ll come upon well-known, lesser-known, and ‘why-arent-they-known?’ artists who thrill me to my core. The inventory is priced according to my attachment to the art/artist/text … for me the excitement is always in the hunt!”
More Good Books is also located at 645 Main Street, housing the temporary location of Blenheim Hill Books, The Children’s Community Library, and Vintage Bottega. I didn’t realize that this was a separate shop, so I failed to get a photo … I’ll just have to go back! From the brochure: “A new shop focusing on Railroads, Ships & Boats, Automobiles, Games and Sports, Hobbies, Pets and more! Located within a multi-vendor space at the historic Hobart Inn, this bookshop speaks to all ages who relish adventure, fun … and the love of animals.”
New York Books & Ephemera (615 Main Street), one of the newer shops, is adjacent to (and connected with) Creative Corner Books. It features books, maps, and gifts with a New York State theme. From the brochure, “Topics include New York architecture, arts and culture, biographies and memoirs of remarkable NY citizens, NY State and local history, folklore, nature, travel, and more … In the same location, visit the Made in New York shop, offering locally produced food products and gifts hand made by NY artisans.”