A Review of Books of Wonder

A Review of Books of Wonder

217 W 84th Street, New York, NY

There’s a special kind of charm that children’s bookshops have, something about the mix of nostalgia for the books you loved to read when growing up and the new books waiting for the young audiences of today and tomorrow all shelved together. I like browsing kid’s bookshops because I have nieces and nephews who like to read and a mother obsessed with Nancy Drew and shopping for them is fun, and that’s not to mention my own appetite for the books of my youth. I have a list of them on my phone that I watch out for, and you can bet I had that list at the ready when I walked through the doors of Books of Wonder.

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A Review of Raven Used Books

A Review of Raven Used Books

4 Old South Street, Northampton, MA

Walking through the clustered bars and busy restaurants of downtown Northampton long after dark, long after our first, second, maybe third drink, we came upon the storefront for Raven Used Books by accident, as I was only in town for the night and had no idea it was waiting for me. We eagerly detoured our journey to the next bar to explore the rooms and aisles of this lovely, lively shop. My only regret was that we couldn’t stay long, because the sheer volume of interesting books at excellent values could have kept me for hours.

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10 Best Used Bookshops in the Capital Region

10 Best Used Bookshops in the Capital Region

Independent Bookstore Day 2019 is upon us, and to celebrate I thought I’d share some of my favorite bookstores in the Albany/Capital Region. Now I should note that my idea of the Capital Region might differ from yours. If I can drive there within an hour or so from downtown Albany, you’re in. There are plenty of great shops right on that line that didn’t make it, and some well within that range who didn’t make it either, but I had the draw the line and decide on my own personal favorites. Here’s what I came up with. The most important thing is this: support your local indie bookshops, whoever they are!  

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10 Best New Bookshops in the Capital Region

10 Best New Bookshops in the Capital Region

Independent Bookstore Day 2019 is upon us, and to celebrate I thought I’d share some of my favorite bookstores in the Albany/Capital Region. Now I should note that my idea of the Capital Region might differ from yours. If I can drive there within an hour or so from downtown Albany, you’re in. There are plenty of great shops right on that line that didn’t make it, and some well within that range who didn’t make it either, but I had the draw the line and decide on my own personal favorites. Here’s what I came up with. The most important thing is this: support your local indie bookshops, whoever they are!  

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A Bookshop Interview with Sam Slaughter

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Sam Slaughter is a Food & Drink Editor for the men’s lifestyle magazine, The Manual, and spirits work has appeared in MaximBloombergThe Bitter SouthernerThirsty, and elsewhere. His debut short story collection God in Neon was published in 2016 by Lucky Bastard Press, and his first cocktail book,  Are You Afraid of the Dark Rum? and Other Cocktails for 90’s Kids will be published by Andrews-McMeel in June 2019. I’m delighted he took a few minutes to tell me about one of his favorite places to buy books.

Favorite Bookshop: McKay’s Books in Greensboro, NC

1. How did you discover the shop?

In college, a professor mentioned that there was a used book store down the road in Greensboro. One weekend afternoon, my roommate and I decided to go. It was love at first sight.

2. What part of the shop is your favorite? Give us a walkthrough of what it's like to browse around.

Being a used bookstore, there’s a ton of stuff, from books (obviously) to vinyl, video games, DVDs, you name it. I used to love start at the front in the fiction section and working my way down the aisle, then turning around and walking back up the other side, going through each little cubby to see what was there. One of my favorite things is that the entire store is, in a way, a treasure hunt. If there are multiple versions of a book, chances are that they are going to be different prices. This makes you want to keep hunting, just in case.

After working through the fiction I’d head down the stairs to the food & drink books to see if there were any cookbooks I was into. Those were the two main sections for me, but I’d also check out the anthropology/sociology section (one of my college majors) and the comedy section. There was also a free section, and you could sometimes get some cool stuff there.

3. What books have you bought there in the past?

I bought most of my collection of contemporary southern fiction there. Ron Rash, Barry Hannah, et cetera. I also got a number of Best American collections there that I still have.

4. What is it about the shop that makes you love it? What really makes the place unique?

As I mentioned above, it’s the treasure hunt thing that gets me every time. I love going through everything, not only to find great books, but to see if I can find a better deal on the book.

In terms of uniqueness, McKay’s has a couple locations, and at this point I’ve been to 3 of them. Each store has completely different inventory that changes all the time. Even if you went back two days in a row, chances are you’d find some new stuff.

For more by Sam, visit his site at http://www.thesamslaughter.com.

A Review of Westsider Rare & Used Books

A Review of Westsider Rare & Used Books

2246 Broadway, New York, NY

I hadn’t wandered the Upper West Side of Manhattan in about ten years, and I mean really wander, spiraling the blocks on foot, coming into sight of Central Park before turning back toward the Hudson River, reaching squares and intersections midway where you can spin in place and see both boundaries. In that regard, the UWS really does feel like its own separate world, its own town, connected to Harlem and Hell’s Kitchen by the 1, the A, and so on. And if that were the case, Westsider Books would be the home of the literary fringe element in town, the place where hopeless poets, serious antiquarians, outsiders, punks, professors, and meticulous collectors would gather to browse and feel at home among the towering stacks of books.

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A Review of Chapter Two Books  

A Review of Chapter Two Books   

37 Spring Street, Williamstown, MA

Williamstown is a gorgeous little spot tucked into the rocky hills and sweeping valleys of northwestern Massachusetts. The town is home to prestigious institutions such as Clark Art and Williams College, the latter being particularly important as Williams is Williamstown, and vice versa. At least it always felt that way to me. Driving through town you find regal older homes, towering brick halls, and stylized glass structures, all seemingly connected to one of the two organizations that make the town so unique, and they all surround the small downtown strip that makes up the social and commercial hub: Spring Street. With cafes, gift shops, a college bookstore, an ice cream stand, a small movie house, and a pub, Spring Street has enough to keep most students and locals occupied on any given day, but with the addition of Chapter Two Books, a new bookshop in Williamstown, there’s an extra reason for bookworms in the area to drive out and enjoy a few hours in this picturesque college town.    

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A Bookshop Interview with Anney E.J. Ryan

Image borrowed from Yelp.

Image borrowed from Yelp.

Anney E.J. Ryan is an excellent poet and an educator down in Pennsylvania (I say “down” as if someone living south of me here in upstate NY is “downhill” from where I live or something). I keep meaning to get down to PA to check out some of their bookshops, but before I head out that way I thought I’d ask my pal Anney about her own favorite local. Here’s what she suggested!

Favorite Bookshop: Firefly Bookstore in Kutztown, Pennsylvania

1. How did you discover the shop?

Firefly opened in Kutztown in 2012, and I visited there immediately, as it’s the closest used bookstore to where I live. The shop sells used books, brand new books and current bestsellers, audiobooks, antique/vintage texts, games, puzzles, and special gifts. It also has a fantastic occult and witchcraft section. Every time I stop in, I find something to buy.

2. What part of the shop is your favorite?

The occult section is at the front of the first aisle, so I usually stop there immediately. I always check out the audiobook and vintage sections, but I spend the most time in the fiction section.

3. What books have you bought there in the past?

Cherry Ames – vintage series for my mother. Superhero graphic novels and The Last Kids on Earth series for my nephew. Robert Bly and Ted Kooser poetry books for my father-in-law. The Jeeves series by Wodehouse, Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, Surfacing by Margaret Atwood, some David Sedaris books, a historical nonfiction book on Robin Hood, and two science fiction novels by C. J. Cherryh. There are more, but I can’t remember them all.

4. What is it about Firefly that makes you love it? What really sets it apart?

The prices are fantastic. They have a bathroom. There are couches where one can hang out and drink coffee. There’s always excellent music playing – classical or instrumental folk music. While the shop carries brand new books and gifts, most of the store is comprised of tall shelves stuffed with old lovely-smelling books. The store welcomes you to wander and dig and get lost in the collections.

A Bookshop Interview with R.M. Engelhardt

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When I asked poet R.M. Engelhardt about his favorite bookshop, I wasn’t surprised by anything that happened next: 1) that he eschewed my usual Q&A session and wrote me a couple paragraphs shooting from the hip; 2) that he picked two shops instead of one; and 3) that neither of the shops are still open. And why was I surprised? Because R.M. is a throwback kicking and smoking his way through the Era of Instapoets, and he’s not about to conform now just for a bookshop interview. But both of these shops sound pretty cool and I’m sorry I missed out on them when they were around. I hope you enjoy, and don’t forget to pick up any of his books, including Cold Ass Coffee Blues & Other Poems (Alien Buddha Press). You can also read his column The Half-Dead Poet Review over at AlbanyPoets.com. Enjoy!

Favorite Bookshops: Capital Bookshop and Nelson’s Bookstore, both formerly in Albany, NY.

Capital Bookshop: “The place looked like a bomb hit it inside. It’s closed now but I always referred to it as the ‘Bookstore Without A Name.’ I ran across the place many years ago in the late 1980s and just casually walked in to find a place where books of all genres were literally strewn all over the place from the ground up in piles and on shelves. There were dedicated sections, sure, but it looked like a book hoarders dream. I would make time to visit the store on my lunch break when I worked for a law firm in the 1990s around the corner. They had a poetry section of old paperbacks as well as hardcovers. Shakespeare, Milton, Dante's Inferno. A lot of classics. You could get lost in there or go missing. It was hard to walk around the books. I had bought several old copies of Poe & Baudelaire's books in Capital Bookshop, and even though the place smelled and had some mildew, it eventually became one of my favorite haunts because you never knew what you'd find. It was an impossible place of imagination, and it crossed your mind now and then that there might be a door in the back that if you opened you'd find some kind of posh secret society or spy headquarters or organization hiding behind the bookstore front like in a movie. But the best part of the store was this: pulp novels. Stacks of them. Detective stories and hard to find old Bantam copies of some of my favorite guilty pleasures for reading. Doc Savage, The Avenger, Science Fiction, Westerns/Louis L'Amour. They were in bad to decent condition but it was amazing what you could find in there. Old albums and comic books too. It was the kind of bookstore that the BBC Black Books was reminiscent of but with less room. Completely unorganized.”

Nelson’s Bookstore: “This was another store which I'd like to mention that is also gone now. It was a huge influence on my work and where I got most of my poetry. Nelson's Bookstore was on Central Avenue a few blocks away from the old Qe2 (an notable former punk/rock club that is now The Fuzebox) and it was the best counter culture, beat poetry bookshop around. Bill Nelson, the owner, sold me my first Bukowski book there in the early 90s, Love Is A Dog From Hell. I bought loads of poetry books there, from Burroughs to Kerouac, Jim Carroll, and so many others that I've forgotten but still have in my collection. Bill Nelson and I would have conversations about authors and I'd show him my poems when I was starting out as a writer. He was like a mentor and his store also carried tons of zines and local poets books. Eventually he carried mine as well. He encouraged me to send my work out and I had a few interesting visits there where I met other, more well known writers there in passing. I even met Serpico there. Yes, the real Frank Serpico, the detective that the old Al Pacino movie was based on. So, in the end, I miss two bookstores. Two favorites that are now just memories of what downtown Albany used to be.”

A Review of Rodgers Book Barn

A Review of Rodgers Book Barn

467 Rodman Road, Hillsdale, NY

It took us a while to weave through the countryside of Columbia County, backtracking down a few wrong turns on dirt roads, but at long last, we stopped in front of the unassuming wood barn along the edge of the road with a sign out front reading Rogers Book Barn. The sign included different summer and winter hours, but it’s a solid bet to be open on a Saturday afternoon no matter what time of year you arrive. And I’m very thankful they were open, because this shop wasn’t just worth the drive, it was a delight to explore.

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A Review of Inquiring Minds Bookstore & Cafe

A Review of Inquiring Minds Bookstore & Cafe

200 Main Street, Saugerties, NY (I have also seen the address listed as 68 and 65 Partition Street)

This shop more than any other has come up as a prime recommendation by most locals I talk to, so I was happy to finally drop in on a rainy weekend this winter. Located on a busy corner in downtown Saugerties, NY (which has a lot more going for it than I expected), Inquiring Minds Bookstore falls into what I’ve come to think of as the “Ideal” type of bookshop. Not only are they an excellent supplier of books, but they feel like the kind of community bookstore that also serves as the social hub of town, and that’s how a shop can go from great to magical.

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A Review of Half Moon Books

A Review of Half Moon Books

35 N. Front Street, Kingston, NY

I stopped into this curious little shop at the end of a long day of browsing, and even though I was getting tired after trekking through the rain and wind, this shop still surprised me with their eclectic selection and the deep cuts they had hidden within. And the books were organized in interesting ways too, like the excellent cultural- and science-focused section called “smart, but not exhausting.” They really make good use of their space and there’s a lot more happening inside than you may expect at first glance. They have a thrift shop too, so if you go I assure you that you’ll be in for a pretty diverse mix of topics and editions.

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A Review of Three Lives & Company

A Review of Three Lives & Company

154 W 10th Street, New York, NY

This corner shop has been selling new hardcovers and paperbacks to locals since the late 1960s, and I only stumbled across it by accident while wandering Greenwich Village looking for a different shop on my “To Review” list. I’m happy to have made the discovery, because while it’s not a large shop, it is certainly packed with an excellent selection of new books, classic titles, and unique authors. And readers as well. That was something they had plenty of.

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A Review of Our Bookshop

A Review of Our Bookshop

97 Partition Street, Saugerties, NY

I drove to Saugerties on a cold, rainy Saturday to visit the Inquiring Minds Bookshop (which I will review in another post) when I saw this shop located just down the same street, not far from where I parked. I’ll never turn down a two-for-one bookshop hunting trip, and I was not disappointed by what I found. What Our Bookshop may lack in the latest bestsellers, they more than make up for in vintage and unique titles and excellent deals on used books, records, and comics.

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A Review of Rough Draft Bar & Books

A Review of Rough Draft Bar & Books

82 John Street, Kingston, NY

I’ve been proud to shine a spotlight on a handful of bookshop / bar combinations in the past, and even a couple wine shop and bookseller combos too, but when it comes to putting a pint, a bite, and a book in front of a casual browser, Rough Draft is the top of the pile. At least so far, though I think they’ll be tough to beat. I stopped in on a rainy Saturday recently and it was such a warm, charming, bustling respite that I didn’t want to leave.

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A Review of Everyone's Books

A Review of Everyone's Books

25 Elliot Street, Brattleboro, VT

This shop bills itself as “Everybody’s Bookshop – For Social Justice and the Earth,” and that should tell you everything you need to know about its unique take on bookselling and the role it plays in the Brattleboro community. More than any other shop in the southern Vermont area, Everybody’s Bookshop has made a name for itself as a progressive, enlightened, and open-minded bastion for those interested in the literary, political, and philanthropic aspects of life.

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A Review of Word

A Review of Word

126 Franklin Street, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY

During my five years living in NYC, I briefly stayed in a warehouse loft a short walk away from Word for approximately six months, and I made it my business to stop in to browse their new selection of books at least every other week, if only for the atmosphere and the comfort of being in a literary space so close to “home,” no matter how temporary a home it was. I was able to get back to the old neighborhood for a visit last month and was very happy to see they were open late into the evening.

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A Bookshop Interview with Brice Maiurro

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The holiday season is a busy one, but poet and editor Brice Maiurro took a few minutes out of his day to tell me about his favorite bookshop, and it sounds like an amazing place. Take a look!

Favorite Bookshop: Mutiny Information Cafe (Denver, CO)

1. How did you discover the shop?

I discovered Mutiny Information Café in what I imagine is the way that most people discover Mutiny Information Café. I was walking down South Broadway with some friends one night and we passed by Mutiny and through their big open glass windows I could see crowds of people crammed up against counters and at tables and mixed in with their records all watching a comedian perform. It was magic, of course, to feel a heartbeat like that. South Broadway is magic in general. I’ve seen so many incredible bands and events all over that long mile, but there amongst the bars on what I’m sure was a Tuesday night or something were people creating space for art. I wandered in and found what space I could amidst the huddled masses and listened to some comedian. I could be wrong on this, but I think it was Jordan Dahl too. I don’t know if this is just a Denver thing or a comedian at large thing but damn, Denver comedians are some of the most self-deprecating, nihilistic humans I’ve ever met. They’re also very funny.

2. What part of the shop is your favorite? Give us a walkthrough of what it's like to browse around at Mutiny.

Mutiny is a living, breathing thing. It’s constantly evolving. I’ve seen performances go from the front windows for passerby’s to see, now tucked intimately in the back surrounded by books, biographies and vintage copies. The pinball machines this week have their own aisle. The record collection is encroaching on the book section and the comic book section is encroaching on the records. They have this beautiful golden display case upfront which clearly must have harvested fancy chocolates or something similar at some point and it’s now filled with any Little Debbie or Hostess snack you might crave on a weeknight bender down South Broadway.

left to right top to bottom - andre carbonell, kenny white, matt clifford, chris eason, first ever punketry.jpg

I’d have to say my favorite part of Mutiny is the back. I will never forget the feeling of wandering into Mutiny to a seemingly low-key scene and sneaking to the back space to find anything from an anarchist puppet show to an ambient light event to a fashion runway to an open night magic night. I’ve seen cyphers in the back of Mutiny, I’ve seen some of Denver’s most prolific punk bands in the back of Mutiny. I’ve kissed women in the back of Mutiny. I’ve seen some of the people I’m closest to strip down to their underwear, covered in the hateful words that people have thrown at them in the back of Mutiny. So yeah, I think the back, surrounded by all those biographies of people who time may or may not forget. That’s gotta be my favorite part of Mutiny.

There’s also outside of Mutiny, a dozen of the same dregs smoking weed no matter if it’s 75 and sunny or -10 and dead cold.

3. What books have you bought there in the past?

I think the two most memorable books I’ve bought at Mutiny are “Coyotes” by Ken Arkind and “Retrospect/ed”, an audio poetry collection by Charly Fasano. Those two dudes are always in the spirit of anything I do in Denver. Seeing the names of people I saw around the city on a shelf in a bookstore is what made me myself realize two things. One, that I could do it. That I could someday get my book out onto the shelves at Mutiny, and two, that being on a bestseller list or getting a book deal with Simon & Schuster could be really gratifying, but I realized there was so much talent just lurking up and down the streets of Denver, and I’ve been so blessed to witness all of it.

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4. What is it about Mutiny that makes you love it? What really sets it apart?

I asked Jim Norris, who owns Mutiny Information Café along with his business partner Matt Mega C one night how he came to own Mutiny and he told me how he came up through Denver’s music venues and at some point, he wanted to step out of the craziness of those venues and bring that same energy into a book shop. Mutiny has some great books. Early editions of Vonnegut novels, Hemingway novels, Kerouac novels. To call Mutiny a book store alone would be limiting. Mutiny is a safe haven for art that is done for the passion, something that Denver believes strongly in. Denver is notorious for having free events. Even so many live music shows I know are $5 suggested donation.

Mutiny Information Café has been a space that has helped me to find some grounding. I’ve hosted open mics there, Matt Clifford and I decided to start Punketry there. If I really like someone, I take them to Mutiny. I had my book release party at Mutiny. I’ve been in Mutiny on a Sunday morning and was lucky enough to have the opportunity to read Dr. Seuss to a room full of kids. I’ve been in Mutiny at the witching hour when the pinball machine plays reverend and I confess my sins to Ghostbusters in multi-ball. Mutiny is this big family of weirdos and the only rules I’ve gathered to be kicked out of that family is being a hateful or violent person.

My friend Squidds, Daniel Madden, told me that the intersection outside of Mutiny is the nexus of Denver, the zero-zero point of the city, and I believe that because I can’t think of a more resetting place. Mutiny is church, and it’s meant a lot to me.

BIO: Brice Maiurro is a poet and writer from Denver, CO. His work has been featured by The Denver Post, Boulder Weekly, Horror Sleaze Trash and Birdy Magazine. He is the Editor-In-Chief of South Broadway Ghost Society. You can find him at @maiurro on Instagram.

A Review of BOOK OFF

A Review of BOOK OFF

9 W 45th Street, New York, NY

About six years ago I worked a block from this multimedia shop, which stands within the general sphere of the Times Square area of Manhattan, and I used to make a habit of going about once a week. While it’s not my favorite bookstore, I went that often for two reasons: dollar books, and deeply discounted classic movies. I recently passed by on a NYC visit and I stopped in to see if the place held up after all this time, and it certainly does.

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A Review of The Spotty Dog Books & Ale

A Review of The Spotty Dog Books & Ale

440 Warren Street, Hudson, NY

A good beer and a good book go together so well, but it’s not very often you see them sold together. The Spotty Dog does just that, but they don’t stop there. This bookshop bar combo also sells art supplies, holds incredible readings by writers and poets from all over the map, and they have an incredible selection of books by bestsellers and indie authors alike, making The Spotty Dog a tough shop to beat.

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