For several years now I've been making periodic road trips with my husband to the New York City area for various family events- weddings, funerals, anniversary parties and so on. Both sides of his family are centered there so it's the setting for many large family events, most of which are attended by people traveling in from all over the country. We live in the Boston area so when we're driving to New York part of the trip invariably involves time on route I-84 in Connecticut and for several years I've noticed a large, old-fashioned looking sign on the side of the road in the town of Union, right over the Connecticut-Massachusetts border: FOOD BOOKS. Map of Traveler Restaurant:860-684-4920 1257 Buckley Hwy Union, CT 06076, US
The sign looks like something out of the 1950s- picture a clean-cut nuclear family dressed in their Sunday best in an old-style station wagon driving to grandma's house; they see this large friendly sign inviting them in to a simple diner-style restaurant for a hearty meal. Oh, and books! Free books. Three, to be precise, per person, with your meal. When we first pulled off the highway to try The Traveler I was a little daunted and didn't quite know what to expect- I wasn't even sure it was really open or if it was actually a relic from the 1950s. Well it is actually a lot of fun.
There are bookshelves all over the spacious restaurant full of all kinds of books- old books, new books, all categories. There is also a tight but well-packed used bookstore in the basement selling everything from vintage children's books to vintage Playboy. Each time we go I can't wait to place my order for lunch and start browsing the shelves for my three books. Every time I come back with some random discovery I never would have found or even thought of. Humorous French detective novels. Out of print science fiction. A biography of a French writer from the 18th century. All the books upstairs are available for taking as part of the free book offer and are also for sale for 50 cents apiece after that. They also sell books in bulk- big grocery bags full of popular fiction, or romance novels, or cowboy novels, or scifi for prices from $2.50 to around $20 depending on the contents.
Oh yeah, and the food's pretty good too. For a book lover it is so much fun.
So, what did I choose? The Portrait of Zelide, a biography of 18th century French novelist Madame de Charriere; Dolly, a novel by British writer Anita Brookner, and a book of short stories by Argentinian writer Edgardo Cozarinksy called The Bride from Odessa. On my first trip to The Traveler I got Radiant Cool, an experimental novel published by the MIT Press about a murder and written by philosophy professor Dan Lloyd, and Daniel Pennac's The Fairy Gunmother, a bizarre, hilarious French detective novel starring "professional scapegoat" Benjamin Malaussene. You just never know what you're going to find. But I know that I have some fun reading ahead!