New York is a book lovers’ paradise; the city has many great independent bookstores. While most of us shop from time to time at Barnes & Noble and everyone has ordered a book or tw0 (or 3) from Amazon – who knows where your money goes when you order from these Goliaths. Amazon has been called the most predatory competitor in the world – putting mom & pops and small b’s everywhere out of business. What about the humble and tenacious Davids out there on bookselling land? They need your help and support to keep them sustainable. For book lovers, these stores keep the romance of book discovery alive. For the passionate reader in you, New York’s fabulous independent bookstores promise delights, discoveries, and stimulation that no big B&N could provide!
If you love supporting your local community, how about checking out your local independent bookstore. This holiday season instead of helping that killer book whale Amazon swallow up more m&ps and little b’s – keep your dollars in the community.
Here are a few wonderful local bookshops (small and not-so-small) to try:
Strand Bookstore 828 Broadway at 12 St – 212.473.1452- The Strand is a New York staple and pretty much world famous by now with its claim to house “18 miles of books.” And it is indispensable. Rare books, used books, and any book you can think of! Call the store and they will put it aside for you. You can spend countless lazy afternoons, walking in vowing not to purchase anything, and walk out with more books than you could possibly fit in your bag. This place is open late…until 10:30 every night. Help is here for insomnia!
St. Mark’s Bookshop 31 Third Avenue • (212) 260-7853
If you’re sick of finding a less-than-satisfactory selection of the works of Walter Benjamin, Gilles Deleuze, and Jean Baudrillard in the bookstores you frequent, then St. Mark’s is the store for you. Since the late 1970s, St. Mark’s has been a necessity for the students, artists, and academics of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Besides having a wide selection of new releases, its unmatched critical theory/philosophy section will scratch the itch of anyone interested in the dynamics of late industrial capitalism. For everyone else, it has an impressive assortment of poetry, affordable popular works, and an expert staff.
Housing Works Bookstore Café 126 Crosby Street • (212) 334-3324
Housing Works is a non-profit organization that organizes around issues of AIDS and homelessness. Housing Works runs twelve thrift shops around the city, and its location off Houston features a full bookstore and café right next door. This bookshop functions as a hub for activism, a literary events space, and a perfect location for people-watching on their second storing balcony seating area. The volunteer staff has always been friendly. This is a great place to get a used book that’s cheaper than the subway fare it took to get there.
Bluestockings 172 Allen Street • (212) 777-6028
Bluestockings is another multi-faceted establishment, which hosts nightly events featuring poetry, book readings, and activist meetings. Bluestockings probably contains the most extensive collection of radical books in the city. While there are plenty of mainstream works, the majority of the store is dedicated to heterodox subjects such as radical feminism, anarchism, Marxism, queer studies, Zapatistas, and Native American studies. In addition, the Occupy Wall Street inspired art that covers the walls gives the store a rebellious vibe. There are few spots in the city where one can flip through Living My Life while contemplating a poster that states, “Resistance is Fertile.”
Alabaster Bookshop 122 4th Avenue • (212) 982-3550
This one-room store is a do-it-yourself adventure. Customers are given free rein to explore all the nooks and crannies in this cozy and tightly packed shop. Feel free to peel through the random stacks of books or climb one of the ladders to grab a dusty, long forgotten copy of The 42nd Parallel or The Art of Loving on the top shelf. There’s no disapproving store manager to stop you. In 2007, Alabaster was dubbed the “Best used bookstore that’s not the Strand” by the Village Voice.
McNally Jackson Books 52 Prince Street • (212) 274-1160
McNally Jackson has been in its Soho location for nearly a decade. The store hosts a wide variety of notable literary events, such as the “Dave Hill in conversation with Ira Glass” or ”Carlin Romano in conversation with Simon Critchley.” In addition, the in-house café gives this store a welcoming touch. The staff is friendly, knowledgeable, and incredibly patient with difficult customers who want a specific book but can’t recall the name of the book or the author. Turns out the book I wanted was The Price of the Ticket: Barack Obama and Rise and Decline of Black Politics, and thanks to the efforts of the employees, I found it in a matter of minutes.
Posman Books 75 9th Avenue • (212) 627-0304
Posman Books has been family-owned since 1999 and now has three locations throughout Manhattan- in Grand Central, Rockefeller Center, and now its newest location in Chelsea. The one in Chelsea Market, which includes an extensive children’s section with reading nooks for families, was named the 2012 “Best Bookstore in New York City” by New York magazine . The best thing about Posman aside from an amazing (non B&N like book selection) is the staff. These folks really care about books and are always willing to recommend their favorite works.
East Village Books 99 St. Mark’s Place • (212) 477-8647
Narrow, cramped, and musty: a description that might be a turn-off for some venues, but not at bookstores, and East Village Books provides this atmosphere in spades. A charming shop with a versatile assortment of cheap used book, this is the place to come to if you need a good, worn copy of Jitterbug Perfume or Coming Up for Air. In addition, there is an area in the back of the store that extends outside, where the hardwood floor turns into sand and gravel. The perfect place to reach book-nerd Zen.