Best bookstores in NYC?
June 15, 2006 6:15 AM   Subscribe

Where are the best book stores in NYC?

Dedicated bibliophile heading to New York - I've been told about The Strand, but I'm also interested in smaller, specialized stores, preferably with a soft spot for poetry. Have also heard rumours of a poetry library...
posted by theinsectsarewaiting to Shopping (27 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Well, might be useful.
posted by caelumluna at 6:22 AM on June 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You may be thinking of Poet's House, on Spring Street at Lafayette. Yes, check it out! Lots of neat events, too.

Having come from Arizona where good bookstores are a much-appreciated hotspot in a cultural wasteland, I am pretty disappointed with New York's bookstores. Strand is dazzling to walk around in, but it's crowded and their books are overpriced for second-hand and they don't weed out the junk very often (I worked there for a time). Haven't found any smaller stores that really scratch the itch. I like to shop the sidewalk vendors around NYU, mostly. St. Marks Books is a reliable pleasure.

My favorite bookstore is Spoonbill & Sugartown, off of the Bedford stop of the L. Deals on interesting used books, an arresting selection of new stuff, especially art books. Two enormously fat cats. It's well worth the quick nip into Brooklyn.
posted by hermitosis at 6:30 AM on June 15, 2006

Ditto on the overratedness of the Strand. A good bookstore is not hot, crowded, and uncomfortable.
posted by yesno at 6:41 AM on June 15, 2006

Best answer: Oh, for Pete's sake. You may not like the Strand, but that doesn't make it "overrated": you are not the universe. The Strand, like many huge used book stores (e.g., Acres of Books in Long Beach, Calif., another favorite), is hot, crowded, and uncomfortable. Furthermore, the staff is surly and unhelpful. Don't like it? Fine, stay away, leave a little more room for the rest of us. But it's a great bookstore, and if you can't take the heat, it's your loss.

For poetry, the great NYC institution is the Gotham Book Mart (now at 16 East 46th Street in Midtown); there are amazing treasures there, and the sales staff is knowledgeable and helpful. General artsy-cultural: St. Mark's Bookshop (31 Third Avenue, in the heart of the East Village); academic/cultural: Labyrinth Books (536 West 112th St., right next to Columbia University). And if you want your money to go to a good cause, visit Housing Works Used Books Cafe (126 Crosby St., a block east of Broadway and around the corner from the Prince St. N/R stop). It's a real grab bag, but you can find great stuff at low prices, and the money goes to help the homeless find housing, jobs, and health care.

Good hunting!
posted by languagehat at 7:07 AM on June 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

echo on Housing Works!
posted by hermitosis at 7:10 AM on June 15, 2006

St Marks Bookshop in the East Village (31 Third Avenue at 9th Street) is small but interesting, and open til midnight.

Also, you might try Labyrinth Books in the Columbia University neighborhood - West 112th Street, just east of Broadway.
posted by klpage at 7:12 AM on June 15, 2006

For new and remaindered, I do like Coliseum Books, which is across from Bryant Park.

There are also great tiny used book stores in New York. Walk around and look. But I'm not letting my secrets out on AskMe.
posted by dame at 7:19 AM on June 15, 2006

Yeah, we can't tell 'em about all the good places. Move to the city and walk the streets!

klpage: You have been pwnz0red!
posted by languagehat at 7:21 AM on June 15, 2006

Best answer: A couple of the cool, smaller places in the Village are Three Lives & Co. and Biography Bookshop. Shakespeare & Co. on Broadway (near NYU) is not bad, but also check out Unoppressive Non-imperialist Books (a remainder shop) on Carmine St.

I really miss Labyrinth. That was one of my all-time favorite bookstores.
posted by mattbucher at 7:22 AM on June 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

I really miss Labyrinth. That was one of my all-time favorite bookstores.

Huh? Has Labyrinth vanished recently? Their website still claims they're there. Or are you thinking of some other store?
posted by languagehat at 7:31 AM on June 15, 2006

I'm saying I recently moved out of NYC and that's the one store I really miss.
posted by mattbucher at 7:35 AM on June 15, 2006

Strand is dazzling to walk around in, but it's crowded and their books are overpriced for second-hand and they don't weed out the junk very often...

Stop in regularly and do your shopping from the carts of books that haven't been shelved yet.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:43 AM on June 15, 2006

Check out Left Bank Books on West 4th. For a more relaxed Strand experience, try the branch on Fulton. Other favorites include St. Marks, Housing Works, and Shakespeare & Co.
posted by muckster at 7:56 AM on June 15, 2006

Rumor has it that the Strand is now air-conditioned, by the way.
posted by staggernation at 7:57 AM on June 15, 2006

Once you have some books, you should take them to The Brandy Library!
posted by rmless at 8:41 AM on June 15, 2006

I also like the Strand Annex at 95 Fulton Street, and Housing Works has to be the most pleasant used-book buying experience in Manhattan. The MoMA store nearby has an excellent art section downstairs.
posted by hsoltz at 9:26 AM on June 15, 2006

Once you have some books, you should take them to The Brandy Library!

Or The Library Bar or Bar and Books or The Library Hotel ...
posted by mattbucher at 9:28 AM on June 15, 2006

I was in the Strand a few weeks ago and it was really nice and air conditioned inside, with a remodeled second floor. The Strand is *great* for art books and other books that are normally expensive, and it also does a good job with hardcover bestsellers (history, especially). I wouldn't knock it; I like the serendipity of it.

Otherwise, I heartily second Three Lives and Co. (I loved it when I lived in New York and still go every time I'm in town) and second Labyrinth as well--a great resource if you like more 'academic' books (philosophy, for example).

I'd also say, don't forget museum bookstores! The Whitney and the MoMA have great bookstores inside. The MoMA art bookstore on the second floor, just off the lobby, is wonderful, and has big tables for sitting down and browsing.
posted by josh at 10:03 AM on June 15, 2006

The Strand's priciness is what kills me. I do some shopping in their $1/book areas, but I do even more in the outside section that's five books for $2. It's the farthest cart or two east on the north side of (what is it) 12th, which is to the south of the store. At that price, I don't feel guilty about picking up any number of books that might be interesting -- and there are many. A lot of those are older.

The Strand also has a bigger, roomier, and more air-conditioned annex, on Fulton St. in the financial district. It has some $1 books, but no five-for-$2. The selection is slightly larger, I think, and it's much more comfortable. But if you want good prices for used books in general, the Strand is not the place to go, in my experience.
posted by booksandlibretti at 10:41 AM on June 15, 2006

I'm a fan of the [previously mentioned] St. Marks Bookstore, as they're open to midnight. Moreover, they carry a lot of literary magazines and some nice bargain deals.

The Strand is also good for bargains, particularly the review copies section. My best advice would be to scribble down the names of a couple of recent books you're interested in before you hit that section. They're half-price if you can find 'em!
posted by anjamu at 10:45 AM on June 15, 2006

Thrift shops. Wonderful, hidden, rare volumes stashed all over the place.
posted by Captaintripps at 12:25 PM on June 15, 2006

Agree with languagehat's comparison of Strand with Acres of Books. And agree with the mutiple assessments about the Strand. Both stores have a huge amount of books. And because both stores have been picked over so much, and have regulars picking over the new stuff, there's nothing much left for the casual visitor, except a bunch of old books nobody wants.

On my recent trip I found the Housingworks store (also mentioned by languagehat) to be a real find. Good selection, nice cafe -- and bathrooms, very important for the tourist. (Another location like that is the Union Square Barnes & Noble, which is open late.)
posted by Rash at 2:16 PM on June 15, 2006

Here's the NYC Bookstore list from 2004. The main site is a Geocities site that has exceeded its data transfer limit at the moment.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 2:37 PM on June 15, 2006

For an opulent bookstore selling volumes of sheer beauty, visit Rizzoli. And no bibliophile's visit would be complete without swinging by Pierpont Morgan's nice little place, recently reopened after a major overhaul by Renzo Piano.
posted by rob511 at 11:05 PM on June 15, 2006

I strongly second 3 Lives and Coliseum and Rizzoli. also, David Markson lives a few blocks from 3 Lives, and you can find him there sometimes
Strand, indeed one ugly-ass hot place, is cheap and has a lot of good books and is not B&N. good enough for many of us
posted by matteo at 3:12 AM on June 16, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. Great stuff. Guess I'll visit the Strand for curiousity's sake, and then check out some of those fantastic sounding smaller stores. Cheers.
posted by theinsectsarewaiting at 8:02 AM on June 16, 2006

Sorry--meant to post this earlier.

Best independent bookstores 2005
Best independent bookstores 2006

From Chekhov's mistress
posted by kensanway at 8:03 AM on June 22, 2006

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