June 10, 2013
Traveler Restaurant offers diner fare and free books
by Claire Kelley
If you ever find yourself driving north on I-84 near Union, Connecticut, it’s worth it to plan a stop at Traveler Food and Books, located off of exit 74. What may seem like an ordinary diner is actually a bibliophile’s haven, because each customer is allowed to take up to three books for free.
According to an article on display inside, the current owners of Traveler Restaurant are dedicated to helping used and unwanted books find a new owner:
Martin Doyle, the original owner, started giving away books to diners in the mid-’80s as a way of cleaning out his own cluttered home. When Karen and Art Murdock took over in ’93, they expanded the tradition and, in the process, established their restaurant as a sanctuary for unwanted books. They come from all over–leftovers from church sales, bookstores that are closing, library extras. Wherever there are books in need of a home, the Murdocks are there with an empty horse trailer and a couple of hand trucks to cart away as many boxes as they can. Some mornings they arrive at the restaurant to find bundles of orphaned books on their doorstep.
“People just would much rather see them go somewhere than in the trash,” Karen says. Although “there are some books you can’t even give away free,” Art admits, most are just looking for the right owner. He restocks the shelves daily and estimates that he and Karen have given away around 2 million free books since they started.
On a recent road trip, we stopped at Traveler Food and Books. This slideshow includes images of the restaurant, and also showcases some of our book finds.
The menu for the Traveler Restaurant.
Bookshelves are part of an otherwise ordinary diner.
Traveler Books and Food allows customers to choose up to three books from their shelves for free. Here, a patron makes his selection.
The basement of the restaurant is the “book cellar,” which functions as a used bookstore.
We also found a “Choose Your Own Adventure” novel.
Books found included The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene.
Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.