The Old Book Shop of Bordentown
200 Farnsworth Ave
Bordentown, NJ 08505
A waaaay long time ago in November, I visited the Old Book Shop of Bordentown and got to chat with the owner. It is a charming little store, piled high with a variety of books and other documents. While this shop specializes in rare and antiquarian books, it carries plenty of inventory of all genres. It’s a great place to find “something you didn’t know you wanted when you walked in,” says the owner, which is one advantage of buying from a brick-and-mortar store. Having entered the business first as a collector himself, this bookseller approaches his shop like a curator approaching an exhibit, and like a curator, this seller views the purpose of his store as primarily educational. He tries to introduce readers to authors, topics, genres, and specific editions that maybe they didn’t know about before. He says he’s just “doing [his] tiny bit to diffuse knowledge.” The Old Book Shop of Bordentown caters to readers interested in esoteric subjects: New Jersey issues, the American Revolution, and many others. The in-store inventory leans more heavily towards nonfiction, especially history, but there’s also plenty of literature and even a tightly stocked children’s book section. The store tries to appeal to collectors, historians, genealogists, and devotees of all sorts, and has the professional affiliations to prove it. This store is not the place to pick up a beach read, but it is absolutely the place to fall in love with something new. The only kind of downsides are 1. the store’s website isn’t pretty (but it’s usable), and 2. you have to park on the street (but it’s not terribly congested, unlike, say Haddonfield, where there’s on-street parking and parking lots, and it’s STILL a pain in the neck to park).
The owner himself is a book lover. He started as an amateur collector of Sherlock Holmes books while working on Wall Street. As his career in finance continued, he grew more and more disenchanted with the industry. He says, “The financial industry doesn’t create; it only leads to the pursuit of more and more money.” It fosters greed. Tech innovations made his physical presence on Wall Street unnecessary, and, combining that with the after-effects of 9/11, the owner just couldn’t think of any reason to stay in the industry anymore. He asked himself, “What am I creating?” His bookshop, in his view, shares and creates knowledge and fosters life-long learning. He finds his role as a mediator of knowledge infinitely more satisfying than his previous work, if significantly less lucrative.
The owner and I talked for a long time about some of our favorite books. He claims that The Grapes of Wrath is the best American novel of the 20th Century. I am wary of superlatives, but I think I pretty much agree. He’s also a big fan of Hemingway. The Sherlock Holmes books are what got him hooked on reading. His mother checked one out for him from the library when he was in 6th grade or thereabouts, and he’s loved them ever since. The owner also happens to be a national expert on baseball. His collection is on the topic is one of the top five in the United States.
So, here’s why you should buy books from the Old Book Shop of Bordentown:
- It’s local.
- You can find almost anything there, and what the shop doesn’t have, it can get easily.
- Very reasonable pricing. I got a barely-used book for $6 that retails for at least $15 new.
- The owner’s a nice guy.
- Bordentown is a charming historic town, and the book shop is in an especially charming and historic part of town, so shopping there feels special or indulgent.
- If you’re looking for used, rare, antiquarian, or other special books, this place specializes in that sort of thing, so it’s better able to take care of your needs.
Conclusion: buy books here.
PS In the interest of journalistic or bloggalistic or whatever kind of integrity, I should tell you that the owner did give my little baby boy a free board book. But I promise that I already liked the shop before the owner did that. It really is a great store.