Entering a bookstore is like going a treasure hunt—you never know what you’ll find. A number of independent booksellers survive in Talbot County, Maryland, each with a personality of its own. This makes them fun to explore, especially on a rainy day. Whether you’re a collector of historic volumes and antique maps or you’re simply searching for the latest bestseller, you’ll enjoy the hunt and, if lucky, engage in an informative conversation with a passionate bookseller.
Flying Cloud Booksellers
26 W. Dover Street, Easton, MD 21610 www.flyingcloudbooks.com
Inspired by the idea that every town needs a great bookstore, The Bluepoint Hospitality Group opened Flying Cloud Booksellers in September 2020. The clipper ship for which it was named set the world’s s sailing record for the fastest passage between New York and San Francisco for over 130 years, hence the tagline “the swiftest fulfillment of your literary needs.”
Flying Cloud’s bright red door and eye-catching window display invites readers to browse the shelves of fiction and non-fiction bestsellers, biographies, literary classics, books about design, food and wine, and the natural world.
Among its specialty publications are The Paris Review, Monocle, Poetry, and Ploughshares published through Emerson College.
Although the children’s room was designed for young readers to explore the collections of classics and new releases, the colorful space is equally appealing to the adults in their lives. With approachable shelves, playful animals and chairs made for relaxing with a good book, the room was created to foster the love of books. The one-of-a-kind artwork in the children’s section was commissioned by award-winning artist Penelope Gottlieb.
“You’ll find crabs, birds, and natural items specific to the Eastern Shore seamlessly interwoven with notable books of important historical figures, art, and the natural world — all intended to conjure the imagination of our young readers,” said Bluepoint Hospitality’s Emily Sullivan.
Flying Cloud has hosted book signings and children’s readings with additional programming planned for this summer and fall. From its opening, the bookstore has been an active participant in local community events, including the Chesapeake Children’s Book Reading Festival. A book club reading room is planned for this summer, open by reservation to the community.
“Being part of a community that is rich in intellectual curiosity makes bookselling enjoyable,” said Sullivan. “And we love watching young readers develop a love for reading. Last year we did a children’s Year of Free Books giveaway where the recipient can select a new book each month.
Through their restoration efforts, Bluepoint Hospitality Group owners Paul and Joanne Prager have brought another Flying Cloud to life. An historic log canoe built on Tilghman Island in 1932, it was the largest and most competitive log canoe under sail. “Nearly 100 years later, Flying Cloud has returned to competitive sailing form, and we love being able to watch one of our namesakes in action.”
Each of Talbot County’s independent bookstores has an appeal of its own, which makes them fun to explore, especially on a rainy day. Collectors of historic volumes and antique maps as well as the reader searching for the latest best-seller will find these to be engaging places for a leisurely browse and an informative conversation with a passionate bookseller.
4 N Washington Street, Easton, MD 21601 www.vintagebooksmd.com
Tim Boyle had always been an avid reader and book lover whose lifelong dream was to own a bookstore. When his children left for college, Boyle ditched the corporate world and made his dream come true. Now his Vintage Books and Fine Art bookstore is a place to browse, to marvel, ask questions, and join in a lively conversation.
On the shelves are titles on Eastern Shore history, antique books and maps, art posters, and original work from Eastern Shore artists. Boyle purchases his stock from “anywhere and everywhere” — other book dealers, rare book auctions, online sales, donated books and house calls to view private libraries. He describes the collections as time machines to the past. Vintage Books also carries a few items unrelated to books; items described as “forever hip and cool” from the art deco through Mad Men eras.
Boyle finds there’s a lot to like about Easton. “It’s a spectacular town, one of the prettiest in the state with a great amount of historic appeal,” he says.
Mystery Loves Company
202 S. Morris St., Oxford, MD 21654 www.mysterylovescompany.com
Kathy Harig was a librarian for 28 years and the owner of Baltimore’s Mystery Loves Company bookstore for 31 years. When she and her husband moved to the Eastern Shore, she searched Talbot County for the best place to open a second location. Nothing suited her needs until the day she stood with a friend outside of the Oxford Museum.
“Just then the sun set over the Tred Avon River. I took it to be a sign,” she recalled. “We fell in love with the restored Bank Building on Morris Street.”
The white-columned building, listed on the National and Maryland Historical Registers, became the second location of Mystery Loves Company. When the commute between the shores became too much, Harig closed the Baltimore location.
Oxford’s Mystery Loves Company is a beautiful, cozy space to browse for a new book or a fragrant candle. It’s got a reading room with a view overlooking the river and carries a variety of fiction, new and used, for all ages. The selections include books on Eastern Shore history, nature, and nautical life. Since Harig is a prodigious reader (and is reading several books a day), she’s happy to offer suggestions.
“I love recommending books… giving the right book to the right person at the right time, by talking with them and finding out what they really want and need.”
Store events are also part of what connects Mystery Loves Company to the community. These take place in the bookstore, the museum or a nearby restaurant. Readers get to meet their favorite authors, both local and national, attend readings, ask questions, and have their books signed.
“I love meeting new people and seeing and talking with my regular customers,” says Harig. “I love being around books in a beautiful, special place like Oxford.”
3935 Ocean Gateway, Trappe, MD 21673 www.unicornbookshop.com
The brick store on Ocean Gateway in Trappe is a bibliophile’s wonderland. It specializes in Maryland and Eastern Shore history and among the nearly 30,000 volumes are titles on World War II, history, fishing, gardening, African American and Native American history, travel, and photography.
“I try to carry a little bit of everything,” said Unicorn’s owner Jim Dawson, but he doesn’t let his personal feelings determine what books to carry. “My personal books are in my house, and store books are in the store for the public.”
Among Dawson’s personal favorites are the books of Henry David Thoreau and the works of Gilbert Byron. As luck would have it, Dawson and Byron became personal friends after the author visited the Unicorn.
Known by admirers as the Thoreau of the Chesapeake, Byron’s “The Lord’s Oysters” is considered the finest novel written about the Eastern Shore. Dawson published two of Bryon’s books when the author couldn’t find a commercial publisher. “It was just like the bookstore venture,” Dawson recalled. “I didn’t know what I was doing, but I did it anyway.”
In 1946, Byron moved into a house he built in St. Michaels after he left teaching to pursue a writing career. Jacques Baker, Byron’s friend and founder of the Gilbert Byron Society, spearheaded the effort to move the house to Pickering Creek after Byron’s death in 1991.
Until recently, the Gilbert Byron Society held an annual birthday party at the house. Coincidentally, Byron shares his July 12 birthday with Thoreau.
“He was a modest man,” as Dawson recalls his friend. “Although he was called the Thoreau of the Chesapeake, it was a title he never claimed for himself.”
Niambi Davis was raised on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and takes every opportunity to share her love of the Land of Pleasant Living through words and pictures.