Bookstores as Communes
By Erica and Karen
We love bookstores. We spend quite a bit of both time and money in them. We like the knowledgeable owners and long-time managers who are usually minding the store. We like the feeling of serendipity they bring to our day when, by just a turn of the head, we find something unexpected that ends up being a book we love.
Though their demise has been predicted for years, and too many have fallen by the wayside, we are delighted that many old bookstores seem now to be thriving, and new ones are popping up. We are even happy to read that Amazon, which is now opening physical stores, recognizes that a click may not be a transporting buying experience. And Barnes and Noble is expanding its offerings to include beer and wine, encouraging even more lolling around the printed page.
Bookstores are communal places where people who love to read can explore and nurture and share their passions. Bookstores are a destination when we travel. We love to go into one in another country to see what people are reading. We like to live where there is an independent bookstore nearby. Bookstores are the places our husbands go to shop when we are off shopping for something else.
And so we want to recognize our favorites, and we urge you to add yours to our list.
Shakespeare & Co., Lexington Avenue and 69th Street (and one of the same name, though unrelated, in Paris). You can now eat breakfast and lunch there too. Best (relatively) recent recommendations: The Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante before they were best-sellers, and Citizens of London by Lynne Olson (a great book and must read).
Rizzoli, relocated from 57th Street to elegant and historic new space on Broadway between 25th and 26th Streets. It's hard not to be taken in by gorgeous coffee table books even on the most arcane topics, and it's even harder to resist lugging one home. Rizzolli also hosts some pretty interesting lectures. We attended an early morning one about Cuban architecture, sponsored by the Institute of Classical Architecture. We want to go.
The Strand on Broadway and 12th Street. It now has all the more recent publications, along with too many tsotchkes for our taste, but we particularly love browsing through the used books, stumbling upon something new or being reminded of one, with the same thick paper and beautiful typeface, we used to love. (Main Street by Sinclair Lewis was a recent purchase.) We lose our sense of time in those aisles.
Posman. We loved the Grand Central Station location before it closed. It had just the right mix and we usually left with something new in our totes. We haven't found another location that has engendered the same loyalty, but the one at 30 Rockefeller Center, with its section on foreign language publications, does attract a different kind of customer and has a different kind of vibe. Worth a stop if you're in the neighborhood.
The Bookstore Lenox, Mass on Housatonic Street. A small curated bookstore that's been catering to the literary Berkshires crowd for years. The proprietor Matt always has a pithy comment or two on your choice and a recommendation for next up. And Get Lit, the wine bar, is a great place to take your book, sip your wine, chat with Matt and while away an afternoon or early evening.
Books & Books, Westhampton Beach, NY on Main Street. Part of a family of independent bookstores, this one is owned by two local residents who were in the book business for years. What makes it so enticing is not only the large, beautiful but manageable space but also the witty and perceptive staff recommendations that are found in books all up and down the shelves. B&B also hosts wonderful evenings, at both the store and the local library with such luminaries as Jay McInerney and Linda Fairstein. The beach wouldn't be the same without this one.
Books & Books is also a favorite in Miami Beach. A series of small rooms, each with a finely culled selection, equally apt staff recommendations, and lots of places to sit and think--or chat about the latest book you read. A peaceful, shady retreat, just off a courtyard, B & B is steps from the heat and noise of Lincoln Road, but far, far away.
Hatchards, London. Foyles is way too much for us, but Hatchards is just perfect.