Thursday, July 7, 2011

In search of... books!

As you might guess, I am a book obsessed person. Once I started making my own money, I started frequenting bookstores. I've spent ten years of my life working in bookstores. Actually, if you count all of the museums I have worked at, it's closer to thirteen.

I am reading six books at the moment. Yes, six. My ten year old & I are reading aloud Ribsy by Beverly Cleary. I am listening to the audio book version of Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron as I drive to and from work. I have a free copy of Eighty Years and More by Elizabeth Cady Stanton open on my nook (e-reader). Plus, I am in the middle of three print books: Lucretia Mott's Heresy: Abolition and Women's Rights in Nineteenth-Century America by Carol Faulkner, Baker Towers: A Novel by Jennifer Haigh & Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West by Dorothy Wickenden. Oh, & I waiting for my book club selection to arrive at the Greenwich Free Library. I had to request it through inter-library loan. Once that comes, I'll have to set aside a couple of other books & devote the majority of my attention to Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other by Sherry Turkle. I have to have it read by July 17th!

So, you see, I also frequent the library as well. & not just the Greenwich Free Library which I can see right now from my office window. I have been to many of the local libraries. I just dropped off two books at Crandall Public Library in Glens Falls today after work. Three days overdue, I owe a whopping $0.50. I never complain about library fees. I pay them gladly. On Monday, after the 4th of July parade in nearby Argyle, Mom and I spent less than $5.00 at the annual used book sale at the Argyle Free Library on Sheridan Street. I got some great children's books to read with my daughter & a thick biography of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan.


Owl Pen Books 1970

But, I have to admit, my favorite place to get books in the area is an amazing bookstore called the Owl Pen. It's one of those you-can't-get-there-from-here kind of places. Even if you follow the handmade signs correctly and turn on Riddle Road without a wrong turn or three, you begin to wonder if you are on the right road, going in the correct direction. The green canopy of deciduous trees shades the dirt road. I always turn off the CD, roll down the window and slow the car to a walk. Partly, I slow down because the road is narrow, but mostly, it's because I think I'm lost. But I'm not. I've never been lost driving there. It's just a feeling that I could be.



Then you finally come upon the beautiful white farm house and the red barn of Owl Pen Books. In 1944, Barbara Probst bought the dilapidated farm for $1,000 in war bonds. She started the bookstore in 1960 with 1,200 books bought for $25. According to an article in the Fall 1970* edition of Adirondack Life there were 40,000 books for sale ten years later. In today's world of Amazon.com, the Owl Pen is still a place you need to visit personally. Stroll around the grounds. Weave in and out of the bookshelves. Smell the paper, ink and glue. Touch the binding and open a book. It is an amazing sensation. You will probably find a book you didn't know you were searching for.

There is another reason I love the Owl Pen. Occasionally Hank Howard, one of the current owners, brings me a gift. Well, not me, really, more like the Town of Greenwich. These gifts are random bits of the past, ephemera. Photographs, calendars, menus, bylaws and constitutions of local clubs. I have an envelope full of pieces of Greenwich history. Here are a few such pieces...





The Owl Pen is located at 166 Riddle Rd Greenwich, NY 12834.
Their phone number is 518/692-7039.
but you should visit if at all possible.

*Mellon, Robert. "If You Can Find the Owl Pen You Can Probably Find That Book You've Been Looking For." Adirondack Life 1.4 (1970): 48-51.

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