Thanks to Alex Samets for guest blogging about her favorite indie bookstore: The Flying Pig in Shelburne, Vermont. You can support The Flying Pig by shopping their online store: www.flyingpigbooks.com. You can learn more about Black Lawrence Press’s plan to support indie bookstores here.
The Flying Pig
It’s possible that the only thing I love more than books is bookstores. Libraries are great, too, of course, but there’s something particular to walking into a place full of books that could, theoretically, be mine. Bookstores are for book lovers what galleries are to art-lovers: a place where the object of desire is revered, is honored, and, most importantly, can be coveted and then brought home.
So, being a bookstore lover as much as (or more than) I am a book lover, it’s nearly impossible to pick a favorite bookstore. Sure, I love Powell’s more than almost any place on earth, but who doesn’t? Living in New York there are endless choices for intimate booksellers with arcane selections, all of which I love. But there is one bookstore that I’ve held dear for longer than all others, and that’s the Flying Pig Bookstore, now in Shelburne, Vermont.
Before the Flying Pig moved to Shelburne, it was one town away, in Charlotte. This is what you need to know about Charlotte: in the “town” of Charlotte there is one general store that is literally a general store and should evoke in you an image of the wild west, a post office (but it’s relatively new), a library (that’s new, too), and a volunteer fire and rescue station. And, a little way up the road, an elementary school. The town shares a high school with the rest of the county and borrows police from Shelburne, ever since the one sheriff passed away. It’s a small town, and I grew up there.
By that I mean I grew up within the town lines of Charlotte, but not anywhere near the Red Brick Store or the post office or the library. I grew up on a dirt road in an old farmhouse with a sheep barn in the backyard that my mom turned into a painting studio and from which we could see only one neighbor’s house, far away on the horizon.
Even so, Charlotte is a town full of artists and intellectuals living alongside berry and cow farmers, and it’s not entirely impossible to imagine that a little bookstore opening up on Ferry Road (oh, yes, Charlotte is also home to a ferry that will take you across Lake Champlain to Essex, New York) might do alright. I mean, people read, intellectuals and farmers, both. But when the Flying Pig hung up its purple OPEN flag and opened the doors to a tiny building that had formerly been a deli, it was, to be honest, hard to believe it would last long. And that was in the Nineties.
Here we are, a million years later, and the Flying Pig has moved to a bigger location in bustling Shelburne Village, carries more than 40,000 titles, and continues to be awesome in all the ways that made it a place people journeyed to out in Charlotte: it has an unbelievably extensive and beautiful collection of children’s books; knowledgeable owners and staff who a) remember my name, even though I’m all grown up, b) remember the books I like, even though I don’t visit often, and c) seem to have read literally every book they carry, though that isn’t possibly true.
I remember being in high school and driving (fairly far out of my way) to the Flying Pig after school just to look at books, just to touch them, just to talk to the owners about what had recently come in. And now, when I visit my family in Charlotte, I take my partner to visit the Flying Pig, and I have conversations with the owners where they greet me by name and ask me what I am doing, and I tell them I am getting an MFA, and they ask me what I am working on, and I say a book that might turn out to be a young adult novel, and they run to the YA section and pull down The Book Thief and tell me that this is the book that’s going to help me decide that my novel should, in fact, be written for young people. And then I buy The Book Thief, so I guess we all win.
Alex Samets lives in New York City. She will one day be very famous, either because she will write best-selling novels or because she will marry a rock star. Remember her name.