This Small-Town Restaurant Gives Away Books to Every Single Customer

At the Traveler Restaurant in Connecticut, you can be both well-fed and well-read.

booksCourtesy Karen Murdock“There’s something for everyone—on the menu and on the bookshelf,” claims Facebook’s description of the Traveler Restaurant. This small, family-style restaurant in Union, Connecticut, is an ideal destination for foodies and book lovers alike. A huge bookshelf sits in the dining area, and when customers have finished eating, they are allowed—encouraged, in fact—to take books home for free.

booksCourtesy Karen MurdockYes, books, plural. The Traveler is so full of reading material that the owners let their diners leave with up to three books—free of charge! (Here’s why you should be reading every single day to keep your brain happy.)

However, it wasn’t always that way. The restaurant’s original owner, Marty Doyle, loved cooking and reading—but he kept those loves separate until the 1980s. That was when he decided to purge some of his massive collection of books, and brought some books in for his restaurant patrons to peruse.

Today, the Traveler is under the ownership of Art and Karen Murdock, and its link to literature has become as important as the food itself. A massive sign outside the restaurant reads “FOOD AND BOOKS.” Books dot the main dining area, so, while you’re waiting for your food, you can pass the time by perusing the titles and making your selection. Menu items such as the “Booklover’s burger” and the “Charles Dickens wrap” celebrate the Traveler’s connection to reading. The building’s basement even functions as a used bookstore, where “best cellars” go for bargain prices. If you’ve ever wondered why old books smell so good, here’s your answer.

The Traveler’s collection includes books of nearly every style and genre. Karen Murdock estimates that the restaurant gives away a whopping 100,000 books per year. Some come from her and her husband, but nowadays, most come from regional libraries and charitable community members. As the Traveler’s popularity grows, the Murdocks find themselves collecting books from all over New England. The pair has a truck and trailer specifically for these “book runs.”

booksCourtesy Karen MurdockThe restaurant itself is a small, quirky building with blue-green walls and a yellow roof, located off Route 84 in Connecticut. Its non-literary fare is mainly American, including sandwiches, burgers, and seafood. Learn more about the restaurant on its Facebook page, and learn about some more unique dining experiences you should definitely treat yourself to.

[Sources: Atlas Obscura, The Hartford Courant

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Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a Staff Writer for RD.com who has been writing since before she could write. She graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English and has been writing for Reader's Digest since 2017. In spring 2017, her creative nonfiction piece "Anticipation" was published in Angles literary magazine. She is a proud Hufflepuff and member of Team Cap.