I’ve been lucky enough to have several people visit me in New York already, and I quickly discovered that there is SO much to do here that sometimes it’s hard to decide what to do!
To give my visitors a flavor of the Manhattan I love the most, I came up with a customized tour of Lower Manhattan designed around–of course–bookstores. If you’re in town, it’s an excellent way to get a glimpse of several neighborhoods and pick up a souvenir or two all at once.*
31 3rd Ave (on the corner of 9th street)
In the culturally intense St. Mark’s Place near NYU, St. Mark’s Bookshop is a progressive bookstore that has been around since 1977. It carries books that are interesting to artists, academics, and (as they say) other “discerning readers.” It may be moving soon, but it will remain in the East Village and will no doubt continue the spirit of its neighborhood wherever it is.
122 4th Ave (on the corner of 12th street)
This is one of those whole-in-the-wall bookstores that is small and musty yet has endless books. New York Magazine’s profile gets it just right: http://nymag.com/listings/stores/alabaster-bookshop/.
828 Broadway (on the corner of 12th street)
One of the more famous NY bookstores, it advertises 18 miles of books! To be honest, I find this store too overwhelming to go to unless I’m showing people around. There are three floors of bookshelves that hog the floor space; it is always so crowded that you can barely turn around without elbowing someone; I always lose whomever I go with; and it only reminds me of how many books I will never read! However, it is a landmark bookstore, so it’s worth visiting if you are in town.
154 W. 10th St (on the corner of Waverly Place)
Small, neat, selective, and warm, Three Lives and Co is a famous, Greenwich Village neighborhood store. It carries mostly literary fiction, so don’t come here for genre. The staff is very friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful, and it ends our tour in one of my favorite neighborhoods that is populated with plenty of restaurants and cafes to rest your feet, fill your tummy, and give you a place to read all your new books!
The truth is that there are a lot more bookstores to visit in Manhattan and even in Greenwich Village, but by the end of this tour, my visitors are usually all walked out. Keep an eye out for future posts about other New York bookstores I love or want to visit!
*Fair warning: this tour is a lot of walking and can sometimes be a little expensive!