Sunday, April 25, 2010

I Heart NYC Bookstores

And customs will surely discover it when they open my suitcase and find over a dozen new books.

Although Toronto has  a lot of bookstores, many of which I love very very much, I have to say... New York deals out bookstores in style.  Of the 5 or more bookstores (Indies, not Barnes and Nobles) we hit in our first two days here, not one of them was junky or dirty.  Not one of them smelled like fast food or had moths from the dust on the shelves.  Big or small they were classy and tidy, and I found stuff I wanted to buy at basically everyone of them; thank god I was able to hold back some or by now I'd have 30 new books and not twelve.

My absolute favorite was the Strand.  18 miles of books is their logo, and four floors of approximately 10 foot high shelving stuffed with books makes me think they're possibly underestimating the milage.  They seem to be mostly like Toronto's BMV Books, in that they largely carry sell off books at a greatly reduced prices from the cover price and with a sprinkling of used books as well, but prettier and better organized.  The staff was knowledgeable and plentiful.
I won't lie, I wanted to buy everything they sell, from the stunning rare and old books, to the the pencils with their logo on it.  To date I've bought a mug and 8 of my 12 books there, and we've loved it so much we've been twice.  Their sections are all very impressively sized, the YA is the single biggest I've seen anywhere.  Plus they have a bathroom, which is a bonus in any bookstore as you can honestly spend ridiculous amounts of time mulling over books if you're anything like me.

My next favorite was Books of Wonder, a childrens and YA only store.  Now why are there not more of these??  Crawling with parents and their young bibliophiles, our sunday visit proved there's a market world round for this type of store.
Books of Wonder has been on my radar for quite sometime, Tamora Pierce actually credits them in her acknowledgments.  But last time I was here was what started my re-entry into YA, and I actually only bought historical books about New York while here, and didn't even venture down to Books of Wonder.

I wasn't about to make the same mistake twice, so we've visited twice, and we weren't disappointed.  A beautiful little store on a side street in Chelsea, Books of Wonder has almost anything you could be looking for in YA and children's literature.  Their only hole, that I could find, other than oddly not having complete sets of a lot of series, was they didn't have Fablehaven!  Shocking but true.  And although some of their staff are supremely knowledgeable, they did have two staff members who were completely lost.  One who had no idea what Fablehaven was, and one who had no idea what The Sisters Grimm was (apparently I should be moving to New York specifically to enlighten these folks).  Other than those two blips our stop at wonder books was really pleasant...and included delicious cup cakes from the cup cake cafe!  Major book shopping bonus.  Also because of their numerous author signings and drop ins, they have lots of signed copies of books, all for sale for the flat cover price!

Alrighty, the last place I want to rave about isn't technically a bookstore, but it may be the best of all the book homes in all of New York City... The NYC Public Library.  The beautiful main branch on 42nd was my destination to get a taste of NYC's library system.  Although likely the most beautiful library branch, it also houses impressive collections:
Often referred to as the "main branch," the magnificent Beaux-Arts landmark building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street is not a branch with circulating collections at all (except for an outstanding Children's Center), but rather houses the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. Here are the Library's rich and diverse collections in the humanities, social sciences, and special collections. These non-circulating graduate-level collections were initially formed from the consolidation of the Astor and Lenox Libraries, and have evolved into one of the world's preeminent public resources for the study of human thought, action, and experience -- from anthropology and archaeology, to religion, sports, world history, and literature.
Completed in 1911, the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building currently houses some 15 million items including a children's area, genealogy collection, rare books, manuscripts, japanese scrolls and even comic books!   The ball and chain couldn't understand why I wanted to visit a public library on vacation so we only made a brief visit including the genealogy collection and impressive reading rooms (and of course the store!).  Once inside he quickly agreed that it was an impressive stop on our itinerary.  To have the reason and time to sift through those collections would be a pleasure, though the constant stream of lookey-loos might get irritating.

Would I recommend these three wondrous book abodes for your next trip to NYC?  Most indubitably.  Keep in mind that we did go in a good half a dozen other books stores around town, all of them really great independent shops often specializing in something specific such as rare books, art books social activism books, etc.  Beyond all the other marvels of Manhattan, I can guarantee any books store visits should be the top of your list next time you're there.


  1. Well darlin I feel like I have been there and wish to go again. This time to experience it first hand. Your bibliog is delightful and the photos of the library make me think of Harry Potter. Magic!

  2. hmmm, hogwarts. I think you're right, no wonder I was so taken with it!

  3. Thanks you've given me some great ideas for my own trip in August!