Main Street News

House of Books: A Curated Community Fixture in Kent, CT

By Published On: June 12th, 2024

“We take the books seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously.” 

House of Books general manager Benjamin Rybeck illustrates the bookstore’s approach as striking just the right balance between curated and welcoming. And although the store has changed hands over the years since its founding in the 1970s, the longevity of House of Books only speaks to the surrounding community’s dedication to it. As Benjamin explains, “The partnership that owns Kent Barns decided to buy the bookstore because it’s considered an anchor of the community.”

The people of Kent have stood by House of Books for decades, and to Benjamin, this reflects a greater appreciation for books as a respected form of media. “The idea that books are devalued is opposed by individuals who care really deeply about books, and the spaces we create for them should be preserved, kept active.”

Woven into the fabric of the community

House of Books, located at 10 N Main Street in Kent, CT, is much more than just a place where you can buy books; it serves as a place to go besides just home and work, as a community gathering space similar in function to a town square, and as a place where people can socialize and enjoy a sense of togetherness. 

And while Kent has many businesses like this, when it comes to House of Books specifically, Benjamin notes, “Any independent bookstore survives because it’s a community space first and foremost.”

Thus, the community’s role in shaping House of Books’ offerings and successes is not lost on Benjamin, and he acknowledges that the bookstore has been created and continues to operate in partnership with the community. House of Books would not exist without the people of Kent, so the bookstore pays attention to what they want in terms of books and programming and tries to meet these expectations. 

“It goes beyond books, because you can get the books anywhere. What is unique is the arrangement of the books, the staff recommendations, the people who are selling the books, the sense of discovery coming into the bookstore,” Benjamin describes.

A bookstore with perspective

While House of Books certainly does listen to the community’s interests and requests, it is nevertheless dedicated to crafting its own voice through the presentation and selection it provides. 

In the curation of the shop, House of Books is mindful about fostering a certain taste, reflecting the sorts of books they like to read at the shop. Benjamin adds that while this curation might not always be focused on the guaranteed best-sellers, it meaningfully incorporates the texts that the store’s staff truly cares about.

Drawing inspiration from the well-known literature hubs of New York City and Boston, House of Books strives to adopt a model that is elevated without being lofty, and one that maintains an overall fun environment. “I do generally think, though, that people want to feel that a bookstore has a point of view,” Benjamin says. “When you try to have something for everybody, you wind up having nothing for anybody.”

Looking forward to summer events

As a key member of Kent’s many vibrant businesses, House of Books takes part in activities in the town and often puts on events of their own. Participating in Kent Barns’ Second Saturday celebrations—which feature a flower market, farmers market, art exhibitions, and live music—House of Books helps sell books at author talks coordinated by RT Facts. Benjamin explains that these are very active days in the community that serve as a perfect way to get many people together in one space.

House of Books also has its own exciting events on the horizon, including a Where’s Waldo? scavenger hunt taking place all throughout July, in which families can search for Waldo as he hides in businesses around Kent. Furthermore, the store runs a monthly book club with selections chosen by the group that highlight a mix of contemporary works, classics, and texts in translation. The club is growing in size, and this month’s chosen book is Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. For a closer look at more of House of Books’ upcoming events, click here.

Many of House of Book’s programs reflect a local slant, informed by the regional angle of many of its authors and writers. “One of the funniest things about this part of the world,” Benjamin reflects, “[is that] when people are here, they’re not necessarily looking to go to events.” With this in mind, House of Books aims to organize and frame their activities so that they feel like a continuation of the Kent experience, there for you to enjoy whether you live in town year-round, stay there on weekends, or are just visiting for the day!

Images courtesy of House of Books. To learn more about House of Books and what they have to offer, you can visit them at 10 N Main Street in Kent, CT. You can check out their website and find their contact info here.