Tome, Sweet, Tome: Bear Pond Books, Montpelier | Culture | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice
Pin It
Favorite

Tome, Sweet, Tome: Bear Pond Books, Montpelier 

click to enlarge JEREMY FORTIN
  • Jeremy Fortin

You can tell a lot about a bookstore by which fiction “faces out.” At Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, Vermont writers Lee Durkee, Robert Jones and Archer Mayor get as much exposure as Stephen King and John Grisham. Scanning floor-to-ceiling stacks serviced by an old sliding wooden ladder, it’s clear local literati are masterminding the displays — “Mosher” gets his own hand-lettered label right next to “Morrison.”

It’s the same story outside on the remainder racks. For less than five bucks you can pick up a hard copy of Howard Norman’s early-retired Museum Guard or Louise Glück’s not-so-new Vita Nova. Or go for something a little more continental: poems by W.B. Yeats, Shakespeare or Italian bard Eugenio Montale — the bilingual edition. No other bookstore in Vermont boasts such a classy collection of cut-rate books.

You could say the 28-year-old bookstore is an accurate reflection of the reading population that surrounds it — which, if you include part-timers, appears to include more award-winning writers per capita than anywhere else in the country. Central Vermont is crawling with educated, active individuals who are more likely to spring for half-price Proust than the latest coffeetable book.

But that wouldn’t be giving enough credit to independent owners Michael Katzenberg and his wife Linda Prescott for getting the funky formula just right. Bear Pond caters to the intellectually curious without being pretentious. Its long, narrow, crowded interior and cheerful directionals suck you in, whether you’re buying a bin Laden biography, a Vermont Life calendar or a couple of postcards. The place feels less like a retail outlet than a low-key library where no one is going to tell you to shush.

In fact, Bear Pond sounds like a great bookstore, from the interesting conversations that crop up among customers to the groanings of its well-worn wood floor. Although it can cause embarrassment during readings, the latter offers creaky comfort as you explore semi-private book nooks organized by similarity of subject. You find politics and history in one section. Another is devoted to gardening, science and field guides.

“We have a significant poetry section, and that is definitely recognized,” Katzenberg says of a section that surrounds the shopper with poetry on three sides.

Also noteworthy is an expanded collection of books inspired by the war in Afghanistan that includes edifying tomes on Islam and the Middle East. “It’s a study area,” offers staffer Fran Cerulli, who moonlights as a freelance literary columnist and book critic for the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus. Like all the people who work at Bear Pond, she reads what she recommends — or at least has read about it. Yellowing book reviews are taped up around the store. A section of staff-selected titles à la Waterfront Video is next to the cash register.

So is a handmade poster promoting an upcoming book signing with Mary Azarian, the Caldecott Award-winning illustrator who lives in nearby Marshfield. Bear Pond hosts dozens of such literary events, almost exclusively with local authors. What sets the store apart, according to Vermont poet David Budbill, is “an involvement and commitment to the writer in the neighborhood over a long period of time… Sure, I like reading in Santa Cruz, but I’m a stranger there,” he says. “Reading at Bear Pond is like old-home day. You see all your friends.”

Did you appreciate this story?

Show us your ❤️ by becoming a Seven Days Super Reader.

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

Tags: ,

Pin It
Favorite

More by Paula Routly

  • Hooked: Kate O’Neill to Cover the Vermont Opioid Crisis for <i>Seven Days</i>
  • Hooked: Kate O’Neill to Cover the Vermont Opioid Crisis for Seven Days

    When Kate O'Neill wrote an obituary for her sister, Madelyn Linsenmeir, she never expected it to be read by millions of people around the world. More than 1,000 readers left comments on the obituary, published on the Seven Days website. The outpouring verified the magnitude, pervasiveness and cruelty of the opioid crisis. But it also pointed out how many stories we, the media, are missing. So we hired O'Neill to spend the next year finding and reporting on them.
    • Jan 16, 2019
  • Backstory: Orneriest Subject
  • Backstory: Orneriest Subject

    • Dec 26, 2018
  • Our Towns: Can Rural Vermont Communities Survive in the Age of Amazon and Act 46?
  • Our Towns: Can Rural Vermont Communities Survive in the Age of Amazon and Act 46?

    Vermont's rural towns are facing multiple challenges — a declining birth rate, closing general stores, school consolidation. Seven Days explores the problems, and how communities are responding, in this special report that spans the state.
    • Dec 5, 2018
  • More »

About The Author

Paula Routly

Paula Routly

Bio:
Paula Routly is the cofounder, publisher and coeditor of Seven Days. In 2015, she was inducted into the New England Newspaper Hall of Fame.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Seven Days moderates comments in order to ensure a civil environment. Please treat the comments section as you would a town meeting, dinner party or classroom discussion. In other words, keep commenting classy! Read our guidelines...

Note: Comments are limited to 300 words.

Latest in Culture

  • Remembering <i>Seven Days</i> Photographer Matthew Thorsen
  • Remembering Matthew Thorsen

    • Jan 9, 2019
  • Remembering Vermonters We Lost in 2018
  • Remembering Vermonters We Lost in 2018

    Stella Sławin Penzer (pictured) escaped the Nazis who killed her parents in Otwock, Poland, in 1942. She survived the Holocaust, married, emigrated to America in 1949, and advocated for peace and racial justice all her life. She's among the eight individuals featured in this year's collection of "Life Stories." The others include a decorated bomber pilot who served in World War II, a beloved tai chi teacher, a former Sudanese refugee and a lifelong farmworker.
    • Dec 26, 2018
  • More »

Recent Comments

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative
newsletters:

All content © 2019 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401
Website powered by Foundation