New York City has bookstores for just about every taste and interest, from travel to cooking to fomenting revolution. Having so many bookstores stocking so many titles is a privilege that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Read on for our six favorite specialty bookstores, then go support them all. By Jessica Allen.
Reading inspires us to go places, even if we don’t leave our sofa or lawn. Idlewild gives us the push we need to get out and travel, by stocking its travel books and literature about a particular place on the same shelves (rather than in separate sections, as most stores do). So, if you’re captivated by Russia, for example, you can plan your trip by flipping through Lonely Planet, Fodors, Faithful Ruslan, and Travels in Siberia in one stop, or just spinning one of the store’s globes and seeing where your finger lands.
The Mysterious Bookshop in Tribeca has a sign that reads “Nobody shoplifts from a store that knows 3,214 to murder someone” posted prominently among its bookcases, which are stocked floor to ceiling with espionage, crime, and mysteries. Here’s where to go if you’re looking for a brand-new hardcover, the first edition of a classic, or a Sherlock Holmes parody. It’s also a great place to see your favorite authors in the flesh or hang out with other bibliophiles at one of the store’s book clubs.
OK, we’ll give you three guesses about what gets sold at the Drama Book Shop, and the first two guesses don’t count. This store has been around since 1917, and is a must-visit for all lovers of the theater and the cinema. (Unsurprisingly, it’s located in the Theater District.) You can browse scripts, monologues, books about the crafts of acting, writing, and directing, and, of course, a vast collection of work by and about Shakespeare. The staff also gets mad props, as the kids would say, for enthusiasm and helpfulness.
The goal of Singularity & Co. is, well, singular: to make sure sci-fi titles stay alive. Each month the owners of this bookstore, who call themselves “time-traveling archivists longing for futures past,” digitally republish a great yet forgotten sci-fi novel. The DUMBO store itself is a veritable treasure trove of titles new and old, from a huge array of Choose Your Own Adventures to novelizations of Star Wars and Star Trek to cracked paperbacks to vintage pulp about half-naked ladies, lost planets, and spacemen.
If you think capitalism is for the birds, and right is always wrong, then this is your bookstore. Ditto if you think we’re living in a new era of Jim Crow and that our culture is disintegrating into a morass of silliness. Chelsea’s Revolution Books sells titles to inspire, and to inspire social change. You’ll find quality fiction, DVDs, CDs, kids’ books, and nonfiction in such subjects as science, politics, poetry, philosophy, history, and economics. The revolution might not be televised, but it can be read.
What’s great about Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks is that the emphasis is, and has always been, on the books, specifically cookbooks, periodicals, and etiquette manuals. Bonnie Slotnick—proprietor, sales clerk, gift wrapper, and expert—stocks a range of titles related to the art of eating and making food. She specializes in vintage, including old issues of Gourmet, and first editions of classics. Call before you go; this tiny, tightly packed shop doesn’t always keep regular hours.