Seeking beautiful indoor reading spaces in NYC and Brooklyn
April 16, 2010 10:10 AM   Subscribe

Seeking beautiful indoor reading spaces in NYC and Brooklyn.

On a day like today which is kind of gloomy and chillier than it should be, I want to go sit in a pretty, quiet, public indoor space and get my read on. As a newish resident of Brooklyn, I am unaware of where to go to do this. My local library branch is a squat ugly windowless building with drop ceilings and beige carpeting. Of course I know about the grand reading room at the NY Public Library, but I’m looking for more places like this in Manhattan, Brooklyn, or Queens. I’m seeking spaces (I’m not limited to libraries) that have either interior beauty or a spectacular view, that welcome the public, and are peaceful enough (ie NOT Grand Central) to sit with a book. Does this exist outside of NYPL? If so, please lead the way…

posted by greta simone to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
This is pretty weird, but I sometimes read/do work in the lounges of the big hotels that overlook Times Square.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:21 AM on April 16, 2010

I like to find out of the way benches in museums and read.
posted by Pineapplicious at 10:31 AM on April 16, 2010

Uh it's not beautiful (on the inside at least outside it's really impressive), but Brooklyn has a public library, too. It's at the Grand Army stop on the 2, 3. You might also be able to hang out in the Brooklyn Museum's lobby, Brooklyn Museum stop on the 2, 3.
posted by edbles at 10:31 AM on April 16, 2010

If you can talk yourself into NYU's Kimel center, you can go to a high floor and chill on a couch with an amazing view up 5th Ave.
posted by prefpara at 10:42 AM on April 16, 2010

Response by poster: Just to emphasize, I'm looking for places that inspire some kind of awe, because otherwise I'd just stay in my apartment :)

Also, to more narrowly define 'welcome to the public', I want to make sure that these are places that one is welcome to sit for hours and not get the side eye from employees or security guards. So I feel like sitting in a hotel lobby probably isn't my best bet, but again, I'm not against reading any and all suggestions.
posted by greta simone at 10:45 AM on April 16, 2010

I really like reading at ReBar in DUMBO because a) the neighborhood is off the water and feels particularly atmospheric on gloomy days, and b) the upstairs interior was several overstuffed vintage chairs in the corner (which you can't really see on the website) where I can sit and read. It's a populated by a straggle of freelancers during the day, so no one hassles you if you pay $1.75 for a coffee that takes 5 hours to finish. I typically order a glass of wine as it turns into evening.

I've lived here for nearly 4 years and I haven't found the exact location you're looking for, though I've certainly kept my eyes open. Brooklyn especially conjures this need for a romantic reading room that it hasn't, in my experience, fulfilled in reality. But maybe I'm wrong and have just missed this gem.
posted by zoomorphic at 11:00 AM on April 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

Privately Owned Public Space is a great resource for this, although there are only 3 spaces in Brooklyn listed.
posted by mlis at 11:25 AM on April 16, 2010

Awesome question. I'm not sure I have a great answer. The Rose Room at NYPL is just OK -- it's crowded, sweaty, the bathrooms are horrifying, and it's just generally not comfortable, which is very depressing.

I have very fond memories of the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, but you need a Columbia/UTS/other seminary affiliation to get in, IIRC.

Other thoughts: the Cloisters seem like an obvious choice (restrictive hours, though).

Whenever I wanted to get some serious reading done, I would just get on a J train and ride it back and forth across BK & Queens. I'm weird, though.
posted by zvs at 2:05 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

They usually need you to have a paid membership, but there are some really lovely private libraries dotting the city. For example, The Center For Fiction (formally the Mercantile Library).
posted by painquale at 2:38 PM on April 16, 2010

This will sound a little weird, and it costs money, but I imagine that the room with the Egyptian temple in the met might be a fantastic space to go read. People might look at you a little funny, but otherwise, it has the fantastic, awe inspiring aspect (3,000 year old temple), it's fairly quiet, nice view out the window, some places to sit, etc. Added bonus- you get to explore the museum before/after you read. Downside (as stated above)- museum admission, even though it is a donation, going there for free gets you dirty looks from the museum staff.
posted by Hactar at 8:39 PM on April 16, 2010

The Morgan Library has a wonderful atrium.
posted by brookeb at 9:40 PM on April 16, 2010

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