Book Club

‘I never, ever remember the way a book ends’: Meet Vermont Book Shop owner Becky Dayton

Dayton joins’s Book Club to navigate the complexities of Rebecca Makkai's latest novel, “I Have Some Questions For You.”

Becky Dayton
Meet Becky Dayton of Vermont Book Shop. Photo courtesy of Becky Dayton

No independent bookstore is quite like another, according to Becky Dayton, owner of the Vermont Book Shop. Each one brings something unique to the people who frequent it, offering visitors an experience they can’t replicate anywhere else.

“I think all independent bookshops are different from any other bookshop because they’re creations of the individuals that work there and own them, not some corporate overlord,” Dayton said. “My bookshop, like other independent bookstores, is a reflection of the community that I live in, my taste, and the taste of my booksellers.”

Located in Middlebury, the Vermont Book Shop is part of a college town, where the community is small, but “extraordinarily educated and sophisticated.” The store has been in operation since 1949 and is something of an institution. Two years after Dayton became the owner in 2005, she updated it significantly, giving it a makeover with new shelves, exposed brick walls, and a painted ceiling. Today, customers enjoy finding novels in the VBS Signature Reads section, which highlights staff-endorsed books with great sales records.

Like many other small businesses, the bookstore’s success was tested in 2020. A planned construction project was set to block off easy access to the store and limit foot traffic for the summer of that year. Then came COVID. Because the pandemic hit in March 2020, there was an unexpected turn of events.


“There was a silver lining to the COVID cloud, in that what could have been a really devastating experience for us, losing all of that business… everybody else was in the exact same boat, and there was government support,” Dayton said. “In the end, it all kind of worked out beautifully.”

Dayton’s love of literature started years before she became the owner of the Vermont Book Shop. The bookseller told us that she has always loved to read, ever since she was a “nerdy kid” who would spend time in the public library. In high school, she rediscovered novels, thanks to a teacher who encouraged her to read for pleasure. The stories that she is drawn to now speak to her interest in human experience.

“I love literary fiction and memoir. Those are my two favorite genres. I am most interested in real stories of real people,” Dayton said. “I don’t do well with suspension of disbelief. I love a beautifully crafted sentence. I like to tell people that I never, ever remember the way a book ends because I get so caught up in the experience of reading and being involved in the story.”’s Book Club is featuring Rebecca Makkai’s “I Have Some Questions For You,” as this month’s pick, and Dayton will be in conversation with the author. The book follows podcaster and professor Bodie Kane as she returns to the Granby School, a fictional New Hampshire boarding school that she attended. During her senior year, her roommate, Thalia Keith, was murdered, and as Kane revisits the place where she grew up, she begins to question whether the accused culprit was falsely condemned. Exploring themes such as race, gender, class, and law, the book is a gripping page-turner. Dayton said that she read “I Have Some Questions For You” twice.


“It resonated really deeply with me, probably because I was a product of an elite boarding school in the Northeast,” she said. “All of that was very familiar to me, all the way down to the creepy sports trainer and the teacher with mushy boundaries. She just nailed it.” She added, “What really stood out to me was the commentary on what happens when you have all of these adolescents living together in a place where their parents aren’t supervising them. And the adults who are supposedly looking after them have interests that are not necessarily in [the students’] best interests.”

Dayton said that the book raises questions about justice and society’s fascination with true crime.

“Our culture is kind of preoccupied with true crime stories and those involving pretty, white girls, when so many more horrible things happen to young men of color — like they get put away for crimes that they didn’t commit,” she said. “And yet, it’s pretty horrible that this girl was murdered and left in the swimming pool.”

Dayton will speak with Makkai on April 25, at 6 p.m., about the stirring, new novel, which she called, “incredibly smart and accomplished.”