I've received a lot of emails today about various stores on this blog that have closed. It's a crying shame and a frustrating part of posting anything about bookstores that they are closing at an alarming rate. I began this project after I had lived in New York for about 6 years and felt very familiar with the bookstores there and their relative health. I moved to the west coast about 2 years ago, while this blog was still in its beginnings, and haven't really kept it up. I suppose I should have simply deleted the blog, but the response for it was very good and I figured that as long as it was at least somewhat useful to people, I would leave it up. I fear that the time of its usefulness may be drawing to a close. I've been moving some posts over to my new blog, and I may, in the future, continue to make new bookstore posts there. I appreciate all the great feedback I've received since I first published this blog, and I hope someone there in the city, with lots of time to devote to it, can create a similar visual catalog of New York's great book places. (Photo from Unchanging Window).
Here at the corner of Houston and West Broadway most Saturdays, the street vendors in these shots have been at it for for over 15 years, proving that it's not impossible to survive in New York doing what you love (at least for now). The selection is bookish and brainy with a wonderfully reliable selection of classics. The vendors are chatty, smart, and experienced, with plenty of observations on changing New York from the streets-eye view. They've even appeared in the documentary Book Wars. Plus: You're not far from Kiosk, you lucky person!
6o's counterculture types never seem to stray far from their original obsessions (i.e., comic books, Che, tarot cards, Tantric sex, Art Nouveau), and Unoppresive has a pretty reliable selection of these kinds of books. They remain a great bookstore however by transcending these topics and branching further out into a wide range of subjects. And no matter what your politics are, you can't argue with the prices. No empire building here; the markups on these books can only just cover the rent in this beautiful, pricey West Village neighborhood. Plus: Don't be scared to head back into the dungeon-like kid's book area, it's actually pretty good.
Reminiscent of the green wooden bouquinist stands that line the Left Bank in Paris, the Strand Kiosks at Central Park offer a nice selection of used & reduced-price new books to take strolling down the leafy colonnade of Poet's Lane, or on your rowboat in The Lake. The kiosks are open May through October, weather permitting. Plus: They even take credit cards, thanks to hand held machines also reminiscent of Paris restaurants.
In many parts of the country, a big chain store like Barnes & Noble seems like a bland, monolithic mall store, stomping out the charming little guys with overblown, cookie-cutter architecture and ever-changing, minimally book-wise staff. But here in New York, it's nice to be able to do a little one-stop shopping sometimes. B&N started in New York & it kinda feels like the hometown spot; it suits the scale and demands of New York, offers free same day delivery in Manhattan, and, with locations going out of business all over the city, it almost feels like an underdog these days. For those who turn their noses up at huge chain stores like Barnes and Noble, read this. Those who can see the value will enjoy the massive cast iron columns, 4 floors of books (not a matter of a narrow space, each floor is sprawling), and generous "sit down anywhere on the floor" policy that gives it a distinctly casual air. Plus: Some of the biggest author readings anywhere.
Located in the leafy courtyard premises of the Villard Houses (the storied, long-time home of publishers Random House), Urban Center Books is a jewel box of books and journals on architecture and design. Stacked to the ceilings with nearly impossible to find titles, this airy, be-laddered shop turns browsing into a visual education. Plus: Urban Center events will put you at the center of discussion on architectural matters in the city.
If you show up to the Mid-Manhattan branch of the NYPL about ten minutes to 11 on a weekday, you'll notice a long line of people waiting to get into the Book Sale section of the library. If you come back the next day at the same time, you'll see the same people. In a word: dealers. And why not? Hardcovers are $2.00, paperbacks 75 cents and the selection is pretty quality. These aren't ex-library books either (for the most part), they are almost entirely donated. This was found there recently for $4, to give you an idea. There, the cat's out of the bag. Let's just hope the dealers aren't too angry now. Plus: The volunteer staff are always a treat!
*another one bites the dust...
While their massive neighbor has shuttered its windows, Skyline continues toward the 20 year mark, "offering the book-buying public everything from inexpensive, second-hand reading copies of their favorite classics to high-end, rare, signed, and out-of-print titles."
If you're looking an atmosphere and inventory strong on Beat lit., this is your place.
Plus: Looking for some hard-to-find jazz vinyl to go with your Kerouac first edition? Academy Records & CDs is across the street, where you can chat with grade A music nerds about the strengths and weaknesses of various 50's sound engineers.
The section of Broadway between 72nd and 73rd Streets is one long stretch of street book vendors. The abolishment of categories at vendor tables always makes for some interesting juxtapositions of books, like a library set to "Shuffle". Plus: Who knows? you might even find a Barbra Streisand record. What could feel more New York than that?
Books of Wonder is New York City's oldest and largest independent children's bookstore, as well as the city's leading specialist in children's literature both new and old. They feature a gallery of rare and original prints and illustrations from classic children's books in the back of the store, along with a beautiful assortment of vintage kid's books. Plus: The in-house Cupcake Cafe provides the preferred stimulants for all ages: caffeine for parents and frosting for the kids!
Descend the few steps from the pavement into the nearly underground heaven of Twelfth Street Books, and you, you lucky person, will find a selection that is chosen with an eye for quality, unashamedly scholarly and (even more rare) well-priced. Those with a special fondness for bookstores so full that the books lay in rows and stacks on the floor (we know who we are) are in for a special treat here, where a lovely overflow spills out all over the place. Plus: 12th St. now has bags!