The 10 Best Independent Book Stores in Vermont

Christopher Crosby

Bibliophiles are a lucky sort in Vermont. The Green Mountain State is home to an enviable number of small, independent bookstores worth a visit even if you’re not looking for the latest bestseller. Come for the author meet-and-greets, or simply test-drive a few pages of that paperback classic in a comfy couch at the shops’ side-on cafés. Curious? Here’s 10 of our favorite Vermont book stores.

1. Vermont Book Shop


The Vermont Book Shop
Courtesy of the Vermont Book Shop
The owners here say Vermont Book Shop was a favorite of poet Robert Frost—yes, four-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Robert Frost—and though they’ve been loath to change, the shop has undergone some changes since his day. From the outside, the brick store front with its striped awning looks like a Hallmark card classic. Inside, though—and especially on the shop’s online store—the owners have made nods to modernity, keeping close tabs on national trends, offering audiobooks, and giving discounts for large online purchases. Look at the weekly schedule for talks with authors and other events.

2. Crow Bookshop


Crow Bookshop
© Church Street Marketplace/Flickr
Classic, classy, warm and inviting—Crow Bookshop is the kind of store you just want to walk in, even if you’ve no intention of buying a book (though we can’t image such a scenario). This downtown Burlington store has old world charm even though it’s only been open since 1995. Inside, the shelves are lined with new and used books (the owner occasionally trades for used books) you can read in over-sized leather couches or—as sometimes seen—crouched upon the floor. Not interested in reading but cognizant that the bookish vibe is totally in? There’s pint glasses and tote bags emblazoned with crows.

3. Speaking Volumes Books

Bookstore, Shop

The pre-internet days of analog reign at this central Burlington used bookstore, where customers appear to be as interested in American bed & breakfast cookbooks as stereo repairs. That at least is the conceit behind Speaking Volumes Books, a used book shop with titles on as many topics as one could want, vinyl and art for sale, as well as the occasional live band performance. If the predictability of books at your average independent bookstore doesn’t excite you, consider the hunt for old titles, crumbling encyclopedias, and treatises on everything from folk medicine to bears.

4. Phoenix Books


Phoenix Books Rutland opening courtesy Same Sun of Vermont

Success—or at least multiple stores—need not be the arbiter of independence, as this regional bookstore shows. Phoenix, with multiple locations around Vermont, boasts the combination of new titles and community involvement (everything from tarot readings to literacy drives) expected from a local purveyor of the written word. With staff recommendations, e-books, works from local authors, and a periodic discussions with writers, Phoenix is well worth a stop.

Phoenix Books Essex, 2 Carmichael St., Essex, VT, USA, + 1 802 872 7111

Phoenix Books Burlington, 191 Bank St., Burlington, VT, USA, + 1 802 448 3350

Phoenix Books Rutland, 2 Center St., Rutland, VT, USA, + 1 802 855 8078

Phoenix Books Misty Valley, 58 Common St., Chester, VT, USA, + 1 802 875 3400

Phoenix Books, Rutland | Courtesy of Phoenix Books

5. Bartleby’s Books


Blink halfway between Bennington and Brattleboro and you’re bound to miss Wilmington, a tiny town worth the stop for its spectacular fall foliage and this small bookstore. For almost 30 years Bartleby’s (also the name of a well-known publisher) has operated here, stocking best sellers and indie titles alike. There’s also swag for the book-proud (we like the tote that reads “Library and chill”) plus a good selection of works from regional authors and books about Vermont.

6. Bear Pond Books


Bear Pond Books
© Cody and Maureen/Flickr
The Vermont Book Shop of Montpelier (sadly, sans the Robert Frost endorsement), Bear Pond Books has the distinction of having been in operation for more than four decades, a feat that’s seen floods, vandalism, and the rise of the behemoth known as Amazon. Were the elegant storefront and cozy interior not reason enough to shop, Bear Pond has distinguished—or at least made itself distinct—from the crowd with its owner’s penchant for activism, removing records of titles purchased by customers in defiance of the Patriot Act. With genre-specific book clubs, educational series, and online discounts, here’s to another 40 year or more of Bear Pond.

7. Bridgeside Books

Cozy and quaint, the well-curated selection at Bridgeside Books has something for everyone, be it a new cookbook or historical fiction. With plush armchairs, bright walls, and floral displays, you’ll want to spend hours absorbed in their world even as you drift into the author’s creation.

Bridgeside Books, 29 Stowe St., Waterbury, VT, USA, + 1 802 244 1441

8. Flying Pig Bookstore


Picked by the Wall Street Journalas a bookstore that anchors its community, Flying Pig has been in the book business for two decades, propelled by an enthusiastic owner who happens to be an award-winning author. The shop is known for its children’s books, but with more than 30,000 titles on its shelves there’s something for everyone. The shop also hosts community events and boasts a touch of the weird: colorful pigs with wings are strung up from a tree outside the shop.

9. Next Chapter Bookstore


Like a good novel, the pun behind this store’s name runs deeper. When flooding ruined the owner’s daycare business, she looked for her next opportunity. Cue the retirement of the owner of Barre Books, and disaster turned into serendipity. On firmer ground, Next Chapter now features thousands of titles, talks by local authors, and a story session for kids every Sunday.

10. Northshire Bookstore


“We believe that there will be bookstores long into the future and we will be one of them.” So reads a statement on Northshire’s website, and after 40 years and numerous evolutions, who’d second guess them? In a town known for its shopping outlets and fly rods, Northshire has carved a name for itself as one of the state’s finest bookstores, selling thousands of titles and music from a historic home. The store has moved across the street and expanded to include a café, any many of the employees have been with the store for decades. So popular and well known is the store that when residents across the border in Saratoga, New York wanted an independent book seller, they called Northshire.

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