Barn of Books

Used books are cheap online, but those websites don't give you an experience like Berry Hill Book Shop in Deansboro can.


You’ll miss the turn if you’re not careful. Driving south on Route 12B through Clinton, past farmland and quaint country houses, through the hamlet of Deansboro and out into the country again, a little farther down the road, you’ll see a gray wooden sign. Berry Hill Book Shop. Trees hide the shop, until you turn into the narrow driveway. You park next to a bluish gray cottage that makes you think one of Beatrix Potter’s characters would like to live here.


Take just a few steps more and you’ll enter the barn through a cerulean door. In some long past time, this building held a herd of cows and a winters’ supply of hay in its sizeable loft. But for the past 50 years it’s been filled with books. The scent of aged paper and rough hewn boards meets your nose. You are surrounded by books on handmade wooden shelves lining the walls. The shop’s owner Douglas Swarthout greets you shyly. You set out to explore.


A box of 1930s-era movie star photos catches your eye, their glamorous faces smile smokily in your direction. Handwritten shelf tags announce topics in neatly categorized sections. You climb the stairs to the second floor, duck under a cross beam and ascend the next flight of stairs to the third level. You smile in the sunlight pouring in through the windows and flowing over the books’ spines. A wicker rocking chair invites you to settle in with a book of poetry and linger a while. The voices of long dead poets sing from the pages. You hear the floors creak under the feet of a fellow bibliophile on the floor below.


You choose an e.e. cummings children’s book about a Christmas tree and a collection of poems by W.B. Yeats, pay Douglas $3.50 and make your way home the scenic way over the hills.


If you like bookstores, you'll like this poem by Terry Rainey, also inspired by Berry Hill Books.

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