New York is most certainly the place to go for buying, as well as reading, wonderful books.
The books above were purchased from: The Strand bookshop, The Strand (pop up stalls near Central Park), Book Thug Nation and random stalls on Bedford Avenue (Brooklyn) at weekends and evenings.
This is going to be a rushed post because, clearly, I have a lot of reading to do, but it seems the right time to set out what I loved about my NY book buying.
Disclaimer: in London I don’t go to specific second hand book shops. I go to charity shops and, when I’m lucky, library sales. These kinds of things don’t really make their way into guide books so I’ve no idea if the Big Apple has an equivalent. Basically I’m aware that I’m not really comparing like with like. Charity shops don’t always have the most literary bent, so there will be as many copies of ’50 Shades of Grey’ as of Dickens. I have no wish to read the former and I already own complete hard and Kindle copies of the latter so such shops are a delightful hit and miss; keeping up the suspense for what I might find and also helping me curb my buying. In contrast, I’ve been patronising pretty heavy-weight literary second hand book shops while on holiday. ‘The Rough Guide to New York City’ describes Book Thug Nation in Brooklyn as ‘Serious (but not as scary as it sounds)‘. I don’t think anyone would say the same about the Animal Welfare Charity Shop on Lower Marsh, SE1, but then I live near the latter and still keep the buying under control. I’m not sure the same would be true if I lived near BTN. It contains my dream library and only the limitations of my suitcase prevented me from going completely overboard.
The best things about NY book shopping
1. Russians! This may not be everyone’s first priority, but there are translations here that either aren’t available in the UK or that are so obscure they only appear in flagship bookstores and even an optimist like myself wouldn’t expect them to filter down to second-hand shops for several years to come. New Yorkers really buy Russian literature, they must, because I have seen more than one copy of the Platonov and Krzhizhandovsky books above. This means people buy them and then don’t want them enough to keep them. Wow.
2. NYRB, my new favourite publishers; they are responsible for the translations mentioned above. I had hoped to be able to pick up their titles more easily here, but I hadn’t realised how big they were and also how fabulous. The books are attractive, the list is excellent and lots of bookshops have whole shelves devoted to them. They also have lovely copies of ‘The New York Stories of Edith Wharton’ and ‘The New York Stories of Henry James’ which I resisted … just…
3. Expectations met: I’ve been looking out for some of these NY classics for ages. ‘Call it Sleep’ has yet to appear in any of my regular charity shop trips, and I’ve been hoping for ‘What I Loved’ for ages. I’ve never been so optimistic as to expect ‘Nightwood’ or Nella Larsen, because they simply aren’t that well known in the UK. What a joy to discover them in their native territory.
All in all, New York has delivered, and I have lots of happy reading ahead of me!