New York City bookstores

6 Feb
A big part of my focus on my wee 10 day trip in New York City was to break my front tooth on a chain store bagel. I accomplished that almost immediately! Bravo. It was a cinnamon raisin bagel slathered in awesome amounts of cream cheese at a DD (full name withheld to protect the chain name) very near where I was staying. I knew that if I didn’t eat at the Air BnB, then I was less likely to be called out for crumbs on the floor (see previous note for more on that). The bagel was chewy (‘Well, of course, a chain store bagel,” noted Air BnB hostess when I told her. I hung my head.) and then suddenly, it was also crunchy. Crunchy-chewy. Chewy-crunchy. Crewy? Chunchy? Forgive me, I have had insomnia and had to work a two hour (yup) shift early this morning. This is tough on an older gal.
Where was I? Oh yes, so then it was crunchy and I thought hmmm. Then I ran my tongue over my two front teeth, both of which had cheap veneers to make up for their extreme chipped-ness because no mouth guard for years and an ice chewing obsession. Sure enough, one tooth was back to its old self. Gack! So there I was on the subway taking selfies of my front teeth so I could see what the heck. Later, when I called the dental receptionist back in Vancouver, she suggested that I don’t eat on my front teeth at all over the next week until I could see the dentist.
My other focus was bookstores. Vancouver used to have bookstores other than the big chain one, but now it really doesn’t. It has about two independent bookstores and a few used bookshops but nothing that makes me go wow wow wow. I went to six bookstores in NYC and here is the list – might be of interest if you ever plan to visit or just like reading about bookstores. I love reading about bookstores.
1. Strand Bookstore – main store – 828 Broadway – I know I shouldn’t have been but I was disappointed. I’d been to Strand in 2005 and was so excited about going back. Strand is a mix of new and used books and it is huge. It also has some neato non-book items. Part of my disappointment might have had to do with the fact that I went on my first full day when I was still jetlagged. Dale, Luc, and I (see previous post to see who these fellows are) went together and while they found a lot to buy, I didn’t find anything. Not sure why – perhaps if I had spent more time in the used section, I might have found more. We also went on a weekend day so, yeah. I didn’t find their selection of new books that interesting. I wouldn’t worry about Strand though, it is super popular. It shall carry on without me I am happy to say.
2. Sisters Uptown Bookstore – “The only black-owned bookstore in Manhattan” 1942 Amsterdam Avenue. I googled bookstores as one does and found out that this was a short-ish walk from where I was staying. I got lost but a nice gentleman showed me the way. New Yorkers aren’t assholes and in fact are nice to tourists. He showed me to the door of this small bookstore and cultural center and awesome levels of awesomeness abounded. The employees were super friendly, the art on sale amazing, and a great selection of books. Very cozy and lovely and thank god it exists.
3. Book Culture – 4 locations. I was at the 2915 Broadway store and the one near Columbia University, 536 W. 112th Avenue. I didn’t even know this store existed but found it as I was heading back to the subway from a visit to a Barnes & Noble location. A lovely layout in both stores, some nice non-book stuff and a great selection of academic and non-academic books. The second floor of the Columbia University location has a lot of excellent used books. The Columbia store is much more focussed on academic books.
4. Bluestockings – 172 Allen Street, East Village. I happened upon this bookstore on my way to the Tenement Museum. It is a pretty hardcore feminist bookstore and there were some interesting titles.
5. Barnes & Noble – 555 5th Avenue and 2285 Broadway – say what you will about chain bookstores and I’ve never found Barnes & Noble in Bellingham to have anything of interest. But the 5th Avenue store in particular was excellent – and the staff super knowledgeable and helpful. Lots of cool New York City stuff too. A great magazine selection, particularly literary magazines.
6. Housing Works – 126 Crosby Street. This used bookstore was so amazing that it is going to get its own note at another time.
I had also wanted to go to Greenpoint Books in Brooklyn but I never made it to Brooklyn.
I ended up buying a good number of books and a few magazines. And the thing is, there are many, many more bookstores to be discovered when I go back to the Big Apple.
I’ll write about Housing Works Bookshop and Cafe in the next installment. It was an oasis. It was incredible and great Christmas carols!!
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