Two hours from New York City there is a town of 500 people with five bookstores. That means there’s one bookstore per 100 people. The town is called Hobart.
As Atlas Obscura reports, the story of Hobart begins with Diana and Bill Adams, a lawyer and physician, respectively, from Manhattan. They passed through Hobart on a trip through the Catskills when they came across a cornershop up for rent. They went in and asked the owner about it and rented the space on the spot. Thus began Hobart’s journey as a book village.
Wm. H. Adams Antiquarian Books. | Image Via Atlas Obscura
The Adams’ store, Wm. H. Adams Antiquarian Books, stocks antique books, as Bill developed a fascination with Greek texts. The other bookstores that populate the town have specialties as well. Blenheim Hill Books, owned by couple Barbara Balliet and Cheryl Clarke, has a wide selection of feminists and African-American studies books, for example. Balliet, a professor of Women’s Studies at Rutgers University, and Clarke, a poet and author, collected a stockpile of books by the time they were ready to retire, many of which now reside in Blenheim Hill Books. As does a little dog.
Barbara Balliet, Cheryl Clarke, and the cute dog in Blenheim Hill Books. | Image Via Atlas Obscura
Though it’s a mystery how a small town of less than 500 people can sustain five independent bookstores, it seems to be working out for them. One Hobart bookstore owner, Don Dales, hypothesizes that the bookstores don’t actually survive on competition, but coexistence. They bounce between the bookstores, filling up their bags. It doesn’t hurt that each bookstore has its own specialty also.
The idea of the book village has been around since 1961, when the first was founded in Hay-on-Wye, Wales by Richard Booth. Since, book villages have sprung up across the world, including in South Korea, New Zealand, and Malaysia. I hope you have the necessary funds to buy homes in all of these places. I also hope all this attention on Hobart does not now ruin it. Maybe the answer is to start our own book village. Who’s down?
Feature Image Via Atlas Obscura