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Feeding My Obsessions: New York’s Best Bookstores

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It’s the last weekend of Christmas shopping and I’ve basically checked out of consumer culture.

Don’t expect much from me this holiday season, unless of course, it’s wine. Or books. From, y’know, the bookstore, not that Internet-commerce hydra, Amazon.

Because, try as you might to deny it, bookstores are cool, bro. Cliche, I know, loving bookstores, but! Their smells! And the quiet rustling sounds of spines cracking! Pages fluttering! Other readers breathing!

“I know,” you say, “everyone loves bookstores, asshole. Get a new idea!”

Sure. I hear you.

But sometimes, you read about yet another neighborhood mainstay closing (or in this case, moving), and you just want to help. And you do, but in the process, pick up a bunch of, um… stuff.

Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks

That’s just what happened last weekend, with an impromptu stop to Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks in the West Village. Located half a block from one of my new (old) favorite shops, Three Lives Bookstore, I’m actually a little embarrassed I’d never heard for Bonnie Slotnick or her shop before, but thanks to a well-timed peek at Twitter, I learned about her flight from her current location on West 10th to a potentially new-spot in the East Village. I figured that I’d do what I can to help relieve her of packing *some* of her wares (a modest grab of four books between Ian and myself).

It’s absolutely no effort to shop a specialty shop, chat with its owner and, in the process, pick up some used, essential books for your collection. In this case, I added to my already heaving food-and-wine shelves while supporting a local biz. It’s not much, but it’s something.

Besides, I like listening to my bookshelves, hoping one day I’ll hear them groan with a happy sigh.


Bonnie Slotnick’s is not the only specialty bookstore that I shop in New York City. Below are my favorites, excepting The Strand, which gets enough play on its own.

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Literally across the street from Bonnie Slotnick’s is Three Lives & Company is new to my list of favorites, and thank all gods for that. A particular focus is paid on fiction, narrative non-fiction and poetry, while the staff is most certainly one of the most well-read bunch in the city. It is charming as hell.

I first read about Joanne Hendricks Cookbooks in Edible Magazine back in 2011, when I first moved to New York. I promptly visited the cute little shop off a quiet Greenwich street. I immediately hated my luck that I couldn’t afford a giant copy of Escoffier (in the French, naturellement). Sigh. Joanne Hendricks herself was a real treat; she’s lived in the house for ages, and still hand selects her collection of books from estate sales, auctions and Internet sales.

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Located in the Flatiron District, Idlewild books is a perennial favorite of wannabe polyglots and wanderers. Shelves stock the latest in guides, travel narratives and language books, while you can also sign up for language classes before taking up your long-awaited round-the-world trip.

Greenlight Books: not a specialty shop, but a special shop. I don’t know what it is, but this Fort Greene bookmonger, with its tables of neighborhood favorites, new arrivals and local writers, is just a warm, inspiring anchor for a hopeful one-day writer such as myself.

A roughly 10-minute walk away from Greenlight, Unnameable Books in Prospect Heights is a slapdash and charming used bookstore. Tiny (don’t wear a backpack) and tight, its a fun place to spend a leisurely Saturday afternoon, losing yourself in the special hypnotism inherent in shelf-browsing books others have given up.

Photos by:
Three Lives & Company by Garret Ziegler | Flickr
Idlewild by Eden Pictures | Flickr

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