My wife and I are contemplating yet another move (after relocating from NYC to Peekskill and from Peekskill to Pittsfield, all within the last few years), this time an hour east to what’s called the Pioneer Valley along the Connecticut River in Western Massachusetts. There are various personal reasons for the move that I won’t burden you with, but one reason I’m looking forward to it (setting aside the agony of the actual move) is cultural. There is not a single bookstore in Pittsfield; the Valley, with five colleges within a few minutes’ drive of each other, is lousy with them. This article by Andrew Varnon from the Valley Advocate should give you some idea of the riches to be found, and these are just the ones along one stretch of Route 10. The pictures alone have me salivating, as does this quote:

Angell said the Valley was a pretty good place to be a book hound. “There’s probably more bookstores per capita in the Valley than anywhere else in the country,” he said.

(Thanks for the link, Leslie!)


  1. As a Pioneer Valley native and resident, I concur…there are wonderful bookstores here!
    Just went to the Montague Book Mill again on Tuesday.

  2. Je pitsfield-ga lepi wa naran ku wah koeglee-wa! See loeteek! Foelke!!!
    (You no kan by book in pitsfield, dan drive to another place to buy them. Is that easy! F–k!!)

  3. Your town has no bookstores? Do you mean no good bookstores, or does it not even have bad ones?

  4. There are towns with no bookstores at all, sad to say.

  5. The Montague Book Mill is great; I’m still sad that the “real” World Eye burned down a decade ago! Now that was a small-town bookstore!

  6. ‘Lousy with them’? I don’t think I’ve heard this idiom before.

  7. And I learn a new piece of idiom. I’d never heard “lousy with” before and I took it to mean the exact opposite (short on, mean, stingy).
    Interesting. Thank you. I guess my Saturday has now been educational.
    Good luck with the move if you decide to undertake it. Even my pitiful library was a pain to move the last time (and the time before that). I do not envy you your task.

  8. OED, lousy 1.d.:
    ‘Swarming’ with; abundantly supplied with (money, people, etc.); full of. Const. with. slang (orig. U.S.).
    1843 Spirit of Times 4 Mar. 7/3 He was lousy with money, and dared any man to face him. 1856 Democratic State Jrnl. (Sacramento, Calif.) 6 Oct. 2/3 The bed of the river is perfectly ‘lousy’ with gold. 1864 A. J. MUNBY Diary 15 July in D. Hudson Munby 199 Why Sir, these unfortunates are all over the place: the ground (he added with a gesture of disgust) is lousy with them. 1928 S. VINES Humours Unreconciled i. 13 The Totsuka Club was.. in the words of Mr. Podler, ‘just lousy with liars’. 1934 V. M. YEATES Winged Victory xix. 150 And if the Dover Patrol was costly in life, were not shipping magnates lousy with shekels? 1936 W. HOLTBY South Riding II. i. 89 Leckton told me last month they threw in sixteen and a half couple of hounds and couldn’t see a dog. Lost in thistles and willow herb—but lousy with foxes. 1956 R. BRADDON Nancy Wake xiii. 153 The town was lousy with Germans, she noted.

  9. Anybody know what language grijl is giving advice in? Google is failing me.

  10. It looks like Japanese grammar (perhaps Classical: “ga”, “wah”, “no”, “ku”) with non-Japanese vocabulary, then translated into some kind of English Creole or pidgin.

  11. I’m not sure about the Times pitting the whole Pioneer Valley against Greater Boston narrowly defined in their MARIAB showdown. For those of us without cars, perhaps easily accessible by MBTA or PVTA would be fairer? And hey, we’re tied on Raven’s after the Cambridge store opened and the Amherst one closed, leaving Northampton. (I’m pretty sure the owner got his start at the aforementioned Montague Book Mill.) Maybe a draw overall?
    The NYBC is at Hampshire College.
    Oh, and pierogi.

  12. To move because of lack of bookstores? That’s really interesting!

  13. Not a major reason, but a significant benefit.

  14. I was thinking today how much better it would be if we had a new form of nomadism: collections of books would remain in particular houses, and their possessors would move from house to house, leaving the books in place. A couple of years ago I sublet the Berlin apartment of a Marxist art historian and theorist, Gene Ray, while he went to teach at the University of Hawaii, so for 6 months I had permanent access to a wonderful collection without needing to acquire the books and take responsibility for them. Last year I did an apartment swap with a French doctoral student in Paris who had a splendid collection of books on philosophy, sociology, anthropology, art — and again it was not necessary to BUY all these books, it was possible simply to take books down from the shelves on a whim.
    Two things were exceptionally nice: 1. Because the books had been collected by someone other than me, there were all sorts of surprises. Someone else had hunted down books I wouldn’t have known to look for — books interesting to a specialist which wouldn’t necessarily be on sale in a bookstore. The fact that one collection was based in Germany, the other in France naturally meant, in any case, that the owners were drawing on a pool not normally available to me. 2. All these books were not my responsibility. I could walk in and walk out without giving them another thought. It wasn’t until I had tried this that I thought of how much time, money and energy goes into keeping a roof over my books.
    (I hope this is not VERY far off-topic. The thing one likes about strangers’ books is that a good collection so often IS based on a lifetime of visits to secondhand bookstores, finding books that only a specialist would know to hunt out. And the thing one likes about secondhand bookstores, of course, is that one CAN find books that are no longer in general circulaton.)

  15. Yes, I had a similar experience apartment-swapping with a French couple; not only did I get to explore the strange world of bande dessinée but I discovered Jacques Hillairet’s magisterial Dictionnaire historique des rues de Paris. (Of course, I loved the latter so much I had to go right out to Joseph Gibert and buy it — fortunately they had a used copy for under $200.)
    There’s not really any such thing as being off-topic here at LH!

  16. lobstermitten says

    The Pioneer Valley is great; it’s probably where I would choose to live if I had the choice. Very envious, here. I hope you can find a good house for not too much $.

  17. This valley is growing on me, since I moved to the Brattleboro, Vermont, area a year ago. We have four independent new and used bookstores in town here. I do miss the rest of “culture” in the Berkshires — museums, music, theatre — but Northampton/Amherst has more of that then we do here in the frozen north.

  18. The Pioneer Valley is great! I went to college around there. You’ll love it!

  19. "As you know" Bob says

    I live in Albany, and once a year or so I drive over to Northampton, mostly to shop at Raven.
    So, yeah, I get what you mean.

  20. Cum grano salis says

    movin’ before thee get thy sparagus?

  21. We’ve already et the asparagus! Now it’s sprouted those graceful asparagus mini-trees, just beyond the three raised beds with their vegetables (peas, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes); anyone who likes to garden will take a look at the back yard and want the place right away.

Speak Your Mind