New York City has always had a reputation as a hub for the literary-minded. Storied establishments that still remain, like The Strand and McNally Jackson, are stocked with whatever your literary lust might need. But for when you’re in need of a quieter reading encounter, New York also holds its fair share of hidden bookstores that you might pass on the street without noticing the cave of wonders inside. And while some from the list may be small, don’t underestimate the generous selection that can fit in one hole-in-the-wall.
We started putting together this article before the untimely passing of Michael Seidenberg, founder of Brazenhead Books. We had been in the midst of communicating with him to feature Brazenhead when we heard the news. This article will conclude with a tribute to Brazenhead, though it is no longer in operation. It was a space that was characteristically New York, founded by a quintessentially New York New Yorker. So take a break from buzz of the city, and dip into one of these off the beaten path but well-worth-the-trip bookstores.
1. The Book Cellar
Love library books so much you want to keep them forever? Stop into the Book Cellar, concealed in the back of the NYPL’s Webster branch on York Avenue on the Upper East Side. This little spot is the book equivalent of a 24/7 extensive garage sale. The amount of paperback volumes that fit into the basement space is a near miracle, and the prices are unbeatable. While visiting, we heard a woman buying a whole armful of novels comment to the cashier, “These would be the price of a single book from Barnes&Noble!” She’s right. The Book Cellar is also great for donations, so if you love the finds, you can also give back. Give cheap books, and ye shall receive.
The Book Cellar is located at 1465 York Avenue, New York, NY 10074.