“What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not foolin’ a soul.” Neil Gaiman
“You’re the only person I’ve ever met who can stand a bookstore as long as I can. A smarty-pants, the kind you don’t find every day.” Junot Díaz
Last year I planned to post about the bookstores visited in New York City. My scholarship trip kept me busy but each day, for a fortnight, I found time to wander the city and drop in to a bookshop. I did not spend as much time in some as I wanted and missed others altogether. I did not make the time to post partly as I had not visited as many stores as planned. On my recent visit to New York City there was more time to explore and it confirmed that four bookshops are not to be missed.
1. Three Lives & Company (154 W 10th St – corner of West 10th Street and Waverly Place) has carefully selected titles arrayed arrestingly. It feels as if no title is randomly placed and that each book is in the spot that makes it most likely to find the right reader. I spent an hour looking at hardback titles within a metre or two of the threshold that must have been hand-delivered from the printing presses that day they were so new. The store is named after the three original owners (with a hat tip to Gertrude Stein).
2. Book Culture (536 West 112th St and 2915 Broadway at 114th St) has stunning bargains, a wide-range of literary magazines and very helpful staff. I picked-up far too many weighty hardback volumes at unbelievably good prices for sensible travelling but could not resist. After loving “The Great Comet” on Broadway decided to re-read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (last read in 1987 as an undergraduate). NB You need plenty of time to browse here, especially for the store on Broadway.
3. Strand Book Store (828 Broadway) is one that most visitors to NYC will note. They boast “eighteen miles of shelving” and a rare book room along with a host of services to help locate books. It is wonderful to browse but you need time. All day really. Make sure you ascend to the top for the rare books room.
4. McNally Jackson Books (52 Prince St) has a real buzz when you walk in. There is a cafe but there’s something in the air that makes the place feel electric. If you are looking to see what is new or essential it is easy to browse the relevant section. They are currently highlighting Syrian authors. The way they arrange their fiction titles in geographical regions is a feature me. Their “print on demand” service is worth checking out if you are in the store as is the extensive range of literary journals.
Bookstores of NYC
What follows is my alphabetised list for bibliophiles who find themselves in New York City:
192 Books (192 Tenth Ave at 21st St) has a careful selection of new titles and more esoteric treats.
Albertine (972 5th Ave) – have not visited yet.
Archestratus Books & Foods (160 Huron Street Brooklyn) – – have not visited yet.
Argosy (116th East 59th St) is a fine store for rare and old books. They have many maps of interest. There’s plenty of room to move and helpful staff.
Astoria Bookshop (31-29 31st St) – have not visited yet.
Barnes and Noble (555 Fifth Avenue/97 Warren Street/33 East 17th Street/150 East 86th Street) is a chain that I am happy to browse. The Upper East Side store was 5 minutes from my apartment and has a great collection of art and photography titles (being so close to the Guggenheim and The Met). The Columbia University B&N is also superb! It is clear that the chain is selling much more than books – gifts, records and bookish trinkets – in their effort to lure customers to part with their cash. I quite like the spaces and certainly would use the “same day delivery” service is a resident of the city.
Bluestockings (172 Allen St) is clearly a community hub with a wide-range of titles. They are a “volunteer-powered, collectively-owned radical bookstore” and have a fair trade cafe. I loved it. Highly recommended.
Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks (28 East Second St) – have not visited yet.
Bookbook Bookstore (266 Bleecker St) has a friendly vibe and some good deals on remaindered books.
Book Culture (536 West 112th St and 2915 Broadway at 114th St)
Book-Off (49 W 45th St) is probably more impressive to most as a source of bluray and DVDs but certainly has a great number of inexpensive paperbacks.
Books of Wonder (18 West 18th street) – is a very inviting space for families and children.
Book Thug Nation – have not visited yet.
Community Bookstore (143 Seventh Avenue, Brooklyn) – have not visited yet.
Forbidden Planet (832 Broadway) will suit the scifi geek and collector.
Greenlight Bookstore (686 Fulton Street and 632 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn) is another independent bookstore with a well-curated selection that works hard to serve the local community. They have an online store too.
Housing Works Bookstore Cafe (126 Crosby St) – have not visited yet.
Idlewild Books (170 7th Ave S) is a great bookstore for travellers and those learning languages. I really liked the vibe in this friendly space.
James Cummins Booksellers (699 Madison Avenue between 62nd and 63rd Streets) is a fascinating space with as high a level of security as one could imagine for a bookseller. When you see the prices of the rare books on offer you will understand why. I picked up a class set of Oscar Wilde’s, “Ballad of Reading Gaol” printed on Japanese vellum. 😉
Mast Books (66 Avenue A) Click on their website. That’s what they do. I love it.
McNally Jackson Books (52 Prince St)
MoMA Bookshops are superb for coffee table books of exhibitions and a wide-range of art, architecture and visual design. I spent a long time here browsing.
Posman Books (75 9th Avenue and 30 Rockefeller Plaza) – have not visited yet.
Spoonbill and Sugartown (218 Bedford Ave) – have not visited yet.
Shakespeare & Co. (939 Lexington Avenue between 68th and 69th Streets) is a compact bookstore with a coffeeshop and also has a print on demand Espresso Book Machine. It was well-patronised when I visited and I wanted more room to breathe.
Strand Book Store (828 Broadway)
Rizzoli Bookstore (1133 Broadway) is a ritzy space and has some beautifully arrayed titles with a particular emphasis on fashion, design, art, architecture, photography and European magazines. There is a good selection of literature in Italian, French, and Spanish.
The Corner Bookstore (1313 Madison Ave) is a great shop for young readers and actively seeks reviewers from their clientele. They taken the unusual step of allowing children to have charge accounts (my own children would love this).
The Frick Collection Shop (1 East 70th Street) is worth a look. There is an impressive number of books on JMW Turner.
The Met Fifth Ave. Store (1000 Fifth Avenue) s another source of impressive coffee table books but also many excellent academic and non fiction titles. I spent a long time browsing. Highly recommended.
The Mysterious Bookshop (58 Warren St) – have not visited yet.
The New York Public Library Shop (Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street) is a bookish must after you have visited the library.
The powerHouse Arena (28 Adams St) – have not visited yet.
Three Lives & Company (154 W 10th St – corner of West 10th Street and Waverly Place)
Topos Bookstore Cafe (788 Woodward Ave) – have not visited yet.
Unnameable Books (600 Vanderbilt Ave) – have not visited yet.
Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books (34 Carmine St) is a treat. In an era where independent bookshops have to be clever and focused to survive this delightfully eccentric store made me smile and feel happy to visit. A must.
Westsider Books (2246 Broadway) is a great secondhand bookshop space with some interesting, often rare titles. I like standing on the stairs to look at the shelves. It is also quite fun listening to the owners chat.
WORD (126 Franklin Street, Brooklyn) – have not visited yet.
They are great bookstores and I purchased quite a few too many books for someone returning home by plane. The following are just a small selection of the total. 😉
Which NYC bookstores are your faves? Can you post a comment adding stores I have left off the list?