Anyone who’s driven on I-84 by Union, Connecticut has seen a tempting sign hovering right off the highway that says “Food and Books.” This week I finally stopped to have a meal. But not only a meal…
Founded in 1970, the restaurant adds to dining two other goals: to encourage people to read and to recycle extra books. When you have a meal – and the food is basic hearty American grub – you get to choose three free books from the shelves lining the dining room.
So why did they start doing a book give-away? In 1983, the owner wanted to thin out his personal collection, so he lugged a couple of boxes to the restaurant and passed them out to his customers. They now handle about 100,000 books (or 50 tons they say) per year. The books come from libraries getting rid of their surplus, from flea markets, and from donations. I picked up books by Anthony Trollope and Anita Brookner as well a short story collection from a writer I don’t know named Joy Williams. My companion got the original scripts from the movies Pulp Fiction and The Matrix.
The waitress called me away from the stacks when my food was served, but no one rushed me afterwards as I continued to browse. There is also a store downstairs called the Book Cellar that features, its leaflet says, all sorts of “reasonably priced” and “unique and hard to find titles.” I didn’t go downstairs, but it certainly looked intriguing.
It is such a winning combination – food and books – one many people experience in their own homes, that it is doubtful that I will ever drive I-84 again without stopping in and have a bite and a browse.
Photos courtesy of Barry Hock