Housing Works Bookstore and Café (126 Crosby Street New York, NY 10012)
This is a great second hand bookshop/café where all proceeds go to Housing Works, Inc (the largest Aids activist group in the U.S. and a general ‘lifesaving’ service provider for people going through a tough time). It has a fantastic selection of books (particularly poetry and cult novels) and a buzzing atmosphere, the café being both a social hub and serious work space.
Strand Bookstore (828 Broadway New York, NY 10003-4805)
Strand is one of those bookshops whose reputation precedes it, purportedly housing seventeen miles of books – though whether anyone has ever tried laying them out mile by mile is a good question. There are a lot of books in the place and the crowds of people who cram into the store seem almost insignificant in comparison to the towering bookshelves.
If you can get to the tables, they have some great book-selling schemes going. These include the ‘Strand Curated Collections’ where an author/artist selects six books which have inspired them; the staff picks section which actually included some interesting titles rather than just the typical bestseller/marketing-spend driven selection you see at other bookshops and a table of rare books which include some signed first editions. It’s claimed today that people are buying more books but reading less than ever which may be reflected in the fact that Strand now have an in-store designer who can help you build your ‘ideal collection’. Suggested categories including award winners, french wrappers and Vintage (for those who love the smell of old books apparently). Thoughts on books as interior design objects aside, Strand is definitely worth a visit.
Bryant Park Reading Room (between 40th and 42nd Streets & Fifth and Sixth Avenues)
This is my favourite small park in New York. Not only is it behind New York Public Library, with fantastic views of the Empire State Building and gothic style Radiator Building but it looks completely different every season.
This year the Reading Room returned to the park. The original idea was coined back in 1935 when the depression meant that many people had lost their jobs and had nowhere to go. The ‘Open Air Library’ was created to give ‘out-of-work businessmen and intellectuals a place to go where they did not need money, a valid address, a library card, or any identification to enjoy the reading materials’ (source: http://www.bryantpark.org/things-to-do/reading_room.html).
The current reading park-side reading room has an impressive selection of magazines and books donated by publishers such as Oxford University Press which are free to enjoy and a schedule of discussions and events planned themed around some of the books on offer. Having arrived in NY by boat at dawn and being unable to check into our accommodation for five hours, the reading room was a welcome escape from the heat and crowds of the city who didn’t appreciate us taking up all the ‘sidewalk’ with our oversized bags.