Rainy days in NYC are some of my favorites. They have a special ambiance, an almost romantic feel to them. Gray, wet mornings in the city call for comfy sweaters, strong coffee or thick hot chocolate with little marshmallows and, above all, a good book.
My love affair with books began early. There are photographs of me as a child with oversized glasses, my nose buried in a copy of Little Women, Journey to the Center of the Earth, or The Magician’s Nephew. And I’m happy to report that I’m in good company. New York City is a town that loves books and we have the phenomenal bookstores to prove it.
If you find yourself in The Big Apple some cold, rainy morning, check out one of the bookstores below and get lost in the stacks.
116 East 59th Street
Home to Old and Rare Books and one of the largest collections of antique maps in New York, Argosy is the sort of place where you might not be able to afford to actually buy the merchandise (although, if you can- good for you!) but is worth exploring anyway if only for the thrill of being surrounded by so much history. When you step inside Argosy, the din of the street falls away and you can almost fool yourself into believing you’re in the library of some wealthy, eccentric uncle (they still make those, right?) So, go on, ogle that six thousand dollar first edition. Who could blame you?
Housing Works Bookstore and Cafe
126 Crosby Street
Buying books is great. Buying books while supporting a good cause is even better. Enter Housing Works Café and Bookstore. Staffed almost completely by a dedicated army of volunteers, Housing Works mission statement is “to end the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS through relentless advocacy, the provision of lifesaving services and entrepreneurial businesses that sustain our efforts.” As an added bonus, Housing Works sometimes plays host to The Moth StorySLAM, an open-mic storytelling competition. So, buy a cappuccino or a muffin, park yourself at a cafe table and while away your rainy day with your nose buried in the tome of your choosing.
Three Lives and Company
154 West 10th Street
With a remarkably knowledgeable staff, frequent readings by authors and a clientele as passionate about the store itself as they are about its merchandise, Three Lives and Company is a Greenwich Village institutions. Visitors are encouraged to go in with a sense of curiosity and no preconceptions about what they’ll be buying. In a shop like this, you’re apt to discover a title or author you’ve never heard of- and that’s part of the magic of the place.
828 Broadway at 12th Street
18 miles of books. That sort of says it all, doesn’t it? Strand is the grand-daddy of New York City bookstores. Old, new, used, rare, out of print. It’s all here. 2 and a half million books. It’s possible to spend all day lost in Strand. And, yes, I’m speaking from personal experience. The fact that it’s a stone’s throw from Union Square only adds to the appeal of an already remarkable place. If you go, be sure to pick up one of their tote bags. Owning a Strand tote is an unspoken right-of-passage among the city’s bibliophiles.
Location Provided by Invitation Only
This place is the stuff of legend. It’s the rainbow unicorn of New York City Bookstores. It’s rumored to exist but only a select few have ever actually seen it. That’s because Brazenhead is the city’s only “Speakeasy Bookstore”. Formerly housed in an Upper East Side apartment, Brazenhead moved to new digs this past July. You have to know someone who knows someone in order to find or be personally invited to visit by Brazenhead’s owner and NYC’s Patron Saint of Ink and Paper, Michael Seidenberg.
Have I been there? Yes, I have. Am I going to give you the address? No, I’m not. Happy hunting!
Books of Wonder
18 West 18th Street
Probably the best-known children’s bookstore in the city, Books of Wonder has an extensive collection of new and classic books as well as a wide selection of collectible, original art and illustration. If you’re interested in bringing home a unique souvenir from your trip or find a special gift for a book lover in your life, one of the posters or original works of art offered here is a great choice. They also host a popular story time on Saturdays at 11am and Sundays at 11:30a to help keep your little travelers occupied and happy on rainy weekends in the city.
The Corner Bookstore
1313 Madison Avenue at 93rd Street
The Corner Bookstore isn’t exclusively for children but it is renowned for its children’s selection as well as for inviting neighborhood kids to review advanced copies of young adult and middle-grade fiction. Their reviews are then published in the fall and spring issues of The Corner Bookstore’s Kids Newsletter, by Kids, for Kids. They also hold an annual Christmas Eve party with champagne for the adults, milk and cookies for the children, and a visit from Santa Claus himself. And the perks! They create book baskets for a variety of special occasions from baby showers to graduations, gift wrap for free, and regular customers can charge books to their personal accounts. Trust me, you haven’t lived until you’ve told your bookseller to “Put it on my tab!”