A Review of Battenkill Books

A Review of Battenkill Books

15 E Main Street, Cambridge, NY

It had been a long time since I took the twisting country backroads through Washington County to the small town of Cambridge, NY, but once there I felt this warm nostalgic feeling wash over me. Not much in the town seems to have changed in the 9 years since my last pass through, but I certainly don’t remember this quaint and clean bookshop, full of bestsellers, trinkets, and discounts that will make any bookworm happy for having trekked through forests and farmland to get there.

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Bookshop Interview with Rachel Nix

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Rachel Nix is a poet, reviewer, and editor extraordinaire who deserves a hurricane of praise for putting together what I tell everyone is my favorite poetry anthology, America Is Not The World (available at Amazon!), and in this interview she takes us on a tour of her favorite bookshop down in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Enjoy!   

Favorite Bookshop: Coldwater Books (101 W 6th St, Tuscumbia, AL)

1. How did you discover the shop?

It’s been at least a decade ago, but I believe a friend first took me there. Coldwater Books is in a historic area of Tuscumbia, Alabama, where I imagine folks discover the bookstore by both purpose and accident, but always with as much affectionate as I first did. For those unfamiliar, it’s near the Helen Keller Public Library, which was the first public library in all of Alabama, and of course the Keller birthplace. Spring Park, one of the most beautiful parks in the Shoals, is also nearby – making this tiny little community a perfect place to easily pass an afternoon.

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

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There’s so much to love about this bookstore, but my favorite thing is the way local writers are featured so thoughtfully. There are various spots within the store to happen upon works by area writers: typically in the front of the store; almost always mid-store on a table with books spread out all over and a chair pulled up next to it for intimate gandering; mingled in where applicable; and then upstairs where artists’ works, such as paintings, postcards, soaps, and other handmade crafts are lined along the shelves near books by locals broken up by genre.

The walkthrough has to start with a coffee – you can order just about any variation of brew imaginable and often enough, the shop has a special drink made up for current events. (I had a frozen Butterbeer this past weekend with a nod to Harry Potter.) Coffee in hand, I then tend to loafer from room to room, seeing what’s new or what’s recommended by its shelfmates – the organization there is neat and dependable but also has a way of recommending books we might not otherwise notice and could fall in love with. If my nephew is with me, we spend a lot of time in the back room; this section of the store offers a long stretch of children’s books and toys all located in a play area, which includes a reading cave.

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

I usually buy poetry books at bookstores and I do this at Coldwater, too – specifically local works, but this is also one of the few places where I branch out the most. I’ve bought several books on local myths and history covering everything from the musical richness of the area to hauntings dating back to the Civil War era.

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

Coldwater Books is a place for community and local pride, nurtured with an old-fashioned approach to business and with a progressive reach in blending what readers are offered. It’s a quiet place to escape to, an energetic and celebratory meeting place for local events, and the single best place to witness what’s being offered by people of the area and those outside of our little corner of the map.

Bio: Rachel Nix is an editor for cahoodaloodaling, Hobo Camp Review and Screen Door Review. Her own work has recently appeared in Anti-Heroin Chic, L'Éphémère Review, Occulum, and Rogue Agent. She resides in Northwest Alabama, where pine trees outnumber people rather nicely, and can be followed at @rachelnix_poet on Twitter.

A Review of Market Block Books

A Review of Market Block Books

290 River Street, Troy, NY

Market Block Books is pretty much the go-to spot for new books in the city of Troy, and it’s perfectly situated in a gorgeous downtown setting close to the river and plenty of cafes, bars, shops, and restaurants. And though the shop isn’t huge, it has just enough of everything to keep you busy with new bestsellers or local fare.

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A Review of Lyrical Ballad Bookstore

A Review of Lyrical Ballad Bookstore

7 Phila Street, Saratoga Springs, NY

If you have never explored the shops and cafes of downtown Saratoga Springs, then the Lyrical Ballad Bookstore is going to be an exciting treat for you. And if you’ve been there before, you already know how enchanting and sprawling this shop can be. And when you walk down that side street and through the front door, you may find the first few rooms are piled with books on every surface, shelves of all sizes, and even on the floor, but those rooms are only the beginning.

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Bookshop Interview with Ryan Quinn Flanagan

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Ryan Quinn Flanagan is the author of a new book called Return to Vegas Poems, and he took a few moments to tell us about his favorite bookshop, one that is no longer.

Batta Bookshop (Batta Used Books), Ontario, Canada

1. How did you discover this shop?

I had just moved to a new neighbourhood in Toronto, ON Canada and was searching out used bookshops in the area and the one closest to my apartment ended up being the best by far. I lived a two minute walk from Batta and spent so much time in there! Not just going rack to rack and soaking up that musty magical smell of all the old books, but also talking books with the old timer who owned the shop.

2. What part of Batta was your favorite? Give us a walkthrough of what it was like to browse around.

My favourite part of the shop was in back. All the more popular stuff was up front and in the window, but the closer you got to the back the more treasures you could find. The far wall had more new releases and a non-fiction section while the middle of the shop was various turning racks four to five books deep with just about anything you can imagine. That’s what I loved about it. There was no order to it. Everything was random. You had to go searching so that when you found something it really felt like a treasure. There was a large brown floor to ceiling bookshelf behind the racks which was a large philosophy section separating the front of the store from the stock in back. More rare and valuable titles were kept in back as well behind a simple black curtain and were brought out if you inquired. The cash register was on the right wall in a small corner by the front door where the old timer’s wife watched her soaps on a small fourteen inch portable black and white television. She would ring things through and make change barely ever looking up from her soaps. She ran the register and her husband ran the books and all the years I went there I never once saw or heard them speak to each other. But he said they had been married over fifty years or something crazy like that. They loved books and surrounded themselves with them, it was great!

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3. What books did you buy there?

Ha, where to start. My Understanding Media by Marshall McLuhan and his student Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, along with a good part of my philosophy collection: Rousseau, Foucault, Mill, Descartes, Plato, Locke, Camus, Hume, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, Bertrand Russell, Heidegger, Sartre, Kant, Voltaire, Marx, Spinoza, Hobbes etc.

Also a large part of my modernist stuff as well: Joyce, Forster, Baudelaire, Woolf, Conrad, Beckett, Rimbaud, Mansfield, Kafka, Pound, Cummings, Proust…you name it. Plus some of my Leonard Cohen books as well as some of Irving Layton’s and Al Purdy’s and some Canadian Poetry Collected volumes as well. You could get anything there and I did: books on art, books about the Bolshevik Revolution, military history, Woodward and Bernstein stuff, Chomsky, books on Native American folklore, economic theory, Basho haiku, John Knowles’ A Separate Peace (one of my favourites), all sorts of poetry, Irish history stuff…just a trove of stuff to go through and pickup and the prices were always insanely cheap.

4. What was it about Batta that made you love it?

I loved that it was a real mom and pop place run by an old couple who lived upstairs and who just loved books – that simple. A little hole in the wall that you could walk past on the street and miss if you weren’t looking. But the best thing about Batta Books that separates it from any other bookstore I have ever been to was the stocks in the back. And by stocks, I mean random piles of books stacked uneasily everywhere, and how the old timer couldn’t remember your name from five minutes ago even though you told him twice, but suggest some obscure book you hadn’t been able to find anywhere and he would walk over to one of the stacks and pull it out or be able to tell you right off that he didn’t have it. I watched this old man in his 70s do this so many times. He had a running catalog of every book in there and what pile it was in, truly remarkable to see. And if by some miracle they didn’t have what you were looking for he would order it for the next time you were in. That old timer was a magic man to me. The store is closed down now I hear. Both he and his wife have most likely passed on. And I haven’t lived in that city now for over a decade. But when I lived in Toronto that was the place for me. The books still have the smell of that little old shop along the Queensway whenever I open them.

Bio: Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his wife and many bears that rifle through his garbage.  His work can be found both in print and online in such places as: Evergreen Review, The New York Quarterly, Nerve Cowboy, Ariel Chart, Red Fez, and The Oklahoma Review. Visit: http://ryanquinnflanagan.yolasite.com/

A Review of Yellow House Books

A Review of Yellow House Books

252 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA

I stopped into Yellow House books on a busy Saturday afternoon before catching a movie in downtown Great Barrington, and though it was only a few rooms large, Yellow House was filled up with book lovers and casual shoppers giving it a lively feel. The shop shares a porch with a small clothing store, but there’s no missing the distinctive yellow paint of this literary domicile. So when you spot it, just climb those steps and go right on in!

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A Review of The Bookloft

A Review of The Bookloft

332 Stockbridge Rd., Great Barrington, MA

Upon discovering The Bookloft bookshop in the middle of a small town supermarket plaza, I was uncertain about what I’d find inside. A deep discount goldmine? A cheapie cast-off shop? But as we know to never judge a book by its cover, I have learned to never judge a bookshop by where you find it, and The Bookloft turned out to be a very pleasant surprise.

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Bookshop Interview with Iris Appelquist

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Iris Appelquist is the author of such books as A Banner Year and Nice Feelings, and Iris took a few moments to talk about the complex relationships we sometimes have with bookstores in our community.   

Prospero's Books (1800 W 39th St, Kansas City, MO)

1. How did you discover the shop?

About 17 years ago I was 18 and attending a poetry reading by accident. My friend Emily and I on a seat-of-our-pants excursion from our ‘burbs 10 minutes away. I probably recited an Ani DiFranco spoken word piece. That initiated many relationships that helped fuel my earliest serious attempts at poetry, though I had been writing since childhood. It hadn’t yet occurred to me that there were people who made their lives around whatever or everything they wanted to do.

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

I don’t really have a favorite part…I can say the thing I least like about it. There are plexiglass panes in the floor, you can see down into the basement level. One of the people then running the store said it was so that one of the owners could look up women’s dresses.

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

About 80% of those pictured came from Prospero’s Books.

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4. What is it about Prospero’s Books that makes you love it? What really sets it apart as a bookshop?

Well. There was another bookstore I wish I could have profiled for you, but it recently closed for business.

I don’t actually love it. I have to say that they have supported me personally and ‘professionally’ (if you can call writing poetry a profession) for a very long time, and without their help I would not have had many of the opportunities to which I’ve been availed and it’s the only bookstore standing to which I’ve made any kind of regular patronage…that being said, it’s increasingly clear to me that their choices and conduct as a business, and as representatives of the writing and reading community of Kansas City don’t align with my values, as I’ve come into my middle 30’s. I have a lot less patience for white boomers who think they’re cute for refusing to acknowledge changing social climes. Where their priorities are reflected in their actions around issues of inclusion and social responsibility (as an arts publisher and venue, and retail business), I find myself at odds with them.

They have been featured on the Colbert Report, and in the New York Times for a stunt concocted by the owners back in the ‘aughts (a staged book burning as a comment on the lack of readers), and they are the largest independent used books store in Kansas City. To say nothing of their history and commitment to literature would be a disservice to all the poets who’ve found venue with them, and to all the readers getting their kicks on the cheap. They enjoy a base of support from the community, regardless of their politics. But, really...I don’t fuck with them. Unfortunately for me, they control four of my titles.

Bio: Appelquist is a Kansas City native and psychology student at University of Missouri Kansas City

A Review of The Bookstore and Get Lit Wine Bar

A Review of The Bookstore and Get Lit Wine Bar

11 Housatonic Street, Lenox, MA

I found a number of small town bookshops during a recent weekend tour of western Massachusetts, but only one had a wine bar, and even though I stopped in before lunch on a Saturday, I was tempted to sit down, pour a glass, and dive into a book in one of this shop’s cozy chairs. I resisted, sticking to the shelves, but this must be a fun place to take in a reading, and I can attest it’s a great shop to spend an hour or so relaxing and poking through the shelves.

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Bookshop Interview with Joanna C. Valente

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Joanna C. Valente is the author of Sexting Ghosts, Xenos, and Marys of the Sea, among others, and is the editor of A Shadow Map: An Anthology by Survivors of Sexual Assault. I caught up with Joanna about their favorite bookstore, Quimby's, which I definitely need to visit. Check out Joanna's full bio below for info about their website, books, and more!   

Quimby's Bookstore (536 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, NY)


1. How did you discover the shop? 

I discovered Quimby's, which is a bookstore in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York, last summer when I did a reading with The Operating System. It's a beautifully crafted and curated space full of art and culture and all things strange and unusual. It's a space for anyone who doesn't feel totally "normal," whatever that means. I love it so much. 

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

I love the small press section - as well as the zine section, which is quite substantial, especially since it's usually not in many bookstores. There's also a ton of art on the walls, some of which is by local artists, which I also love. Supporting a local community is one of the most important things editors, readers, artists, and writers can do. 

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

Margaret Rhee's "Love, Robot." is a good one!

4. What is it about Quimby's that makes you love it? What really sets it apart as a bookshop? 

It's about building a physical community, which is really different than a lot of bookstores, even indies. I really love the environment and how it embraces a sense of occult and occult interests as well, as well as a DIY punk vibe (there's a wonderful zine section and a really inspiring small press section, along with a great music section). And these are all things I'm really passionate about

Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015), Xenos (Agape Editions, 2016), and Marys of the Sea (The Operating System, 2017). They are the editor of A Shadow Map: An Anthology by Survivors of Sexual Assault (CCM, 2017). Joanna received a MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College, and is also the founder of Yes, Poetry, a managing editor for Luna Luna Magazine and CCM, as well as an instructor at Brooklyn Poets. Some of their writing has appeared in Brooklyn Magazine, Prelude, Apogee, Spork, The Feminist Wire, BUST, and elsewhere. Visit www.joannavalente.com/

A Review of Chartwell Bookseller

A Review of Chartwell Bookseller

55 East 52nd Street, New York, NY

This small shop is set off from the lobby of a polished midtown Manhattan building by a black marble hallway lined with photos of Winston Churchill, who is heavily featured in this bookshop. They sell books by him, about him, about World War II, British history, and other books Anglophiles would love. With recent films about Churchill’s era (Dunkirk and Darkest Hour, to name a couple) proving his time in power is still intriguing to us, this shop is perfectly situated to fulfill your every Churchill curiosity.  

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A Review of Librarium (Used & Rare Books)

A Review of Librarium (Used & Rare Books)

126 Black Ridge Rd., East Chatham, NY

Set back from Route 295 on a little dirt road surrounded by small farms and country cottages, you’ll find a shop full of used books piled along narrow aisles and tall shelves through multiple, winding rooms. You may not know it exists if you’re just passing through the area, or if you miss the small sign, but if you’ve heard of the shop through word of mouth or have a sharp eye, a visit to this brimming bookseller could be quite the treat.

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A Review of Shaker Mill Books

A Review of Shaker Mill Books

3 Depot Street, West Stockbridge, MA

On my way through the Berkshire Mountains to check out a bookshop in Lenox, Massachusetts, I stumbled across Shaker Mill Books in West Stockbridge. It looks rather unassuming from the outside, a one-floor building behind a lovely old red barn/mill right at the main crossroads in town. But when I walked inside, I was pleasantly surprised to find not just a massive array of books, but there were excellent deals all over the place. My eyes got really, big really quick, and I did not go home empty-handed.

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A Review of Beacon Reads

A Review of Beacon Reads

309 Main Street Beacon, NY

Beacon Reads is a small two-room shop next door to the Howland Public Library on Beacon’s Main Street, and they sell a lot of overflow titles, mass market paperbacks, and some older classics. Though it feels like a balance between a tag sale book table and a tiny bookshop, they do sell their own shirts and bags, and all the proceeds go to support the library itself, so you can feel good about dropping a few dollars on that David Baldacci book or the Michael Connelly novel you’ve been meaning to read. And to its credit, it has some other unique finds that make it worth exploring if you’re walking by.

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A Review of Binnacle Books

A Review of Binnacle Books

321 Main Street, Beacon, NY

When I lived in Beacon circa 2009, there really wasn’t any bookshop outside of the small library annex that sold overflow titles and well-worn mass paperbacks. This bookshop, however, puts Beacon back in the literary race. It’s a small shop, just a few cozy, compact rooms, but it packs a punch, has plenty to browse through, and gives Beacon’s Main Street some much needed literary representation.

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A Review of Logos Book Store

A Review of Logos Book Store

1575 York Ave., New York, NY

I came upon Logos as I was wandering around waiting to check into my Airbnb up in the Yorkville neighborhood of Manhattan. It was just before lunch on a Saturday and York Ave was quiet, matching the calm inside the store. I had the shelves all to myself, aside from the clerk up front, who was polite and let me browse at my own pace. There was a nice array of oil paintings hung up above the bookshelves, and the store had that old book smell with softly creaking wooden floors—I felt very much in my element.

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Bookshop Interview with Bud Smith

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Bud Smith is the author of Double Bird, Work, F-250, Calm Face, and other books of fiction and poetry, and I caught his ear for a quick moment to ask him some questions about his favorite bookshop. 

BookBook (266 Bleecker Street, NYC) 

1. How did you discover the shop?

Michael Bible told me to go there because we were drinking beer and talking about all those NYRB releases. He said that they had books in like new condition for $6 or so. It's not quite a used bookstore. It's like a major discount for like-new books. 

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

That big stack of NYRB releases is the best. It's right in the front of the store. I went there the other day and bought five of them. Past that are popular fiction titles and beyond that in the back of the shop there is literature. So you can nab Nabokov or whoever for $6.  

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

A few Eve Babitz. A few by Tove Jansson. Fat City. Lucky Jim. 

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

I just like how good quality the books are and how cheap they are. I like that it's right outside the Christopher Street path stop so I can get there quick from Jersey City. There is a WORD bookstore in my neighborhood in Jersey City but I do not like it very much. BookBook is the shit. Codex is another really great bookstore at the far Far east end of Bleecker.

Bud Smith is the author of Teenager (Tyrant Books, 2018), Double Bird (Maudlin House, 2018), WORK (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2017), Dust Bunny City (Disorder Press, 2017), Calm Face (House of Vlad, 2016), among others. He lives in Jersey City, NJ, and works heavy construction. He blogs in the secret underground blogging ring known as tinyletter, follow him there, oh gawd. Also, he’s on Twitter at @bud_smithFor more about Bud and his books, check out his website, www.budsmithwrites.com.  

A Review of Shakespeare & Co. Books

A Review of Shakespeare & Co. Books

939 Lexington Ave., New York, NY

A weekday morning for a neighborhood bookshop could very well be a quiet affair, but Shakespeare & Co. on the upper east side of Manhattan was humming with guests on a Friday morning in March, though at that early hour, just after ten, most of the patrons were there for the coffee and pastries from their café tucked into the front of the shop. A few people took up chairs in the back to read over their steaming mugs. But I was there for the books, and there were plenty to browse through.

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A Review of the Chatham Bookstore

A Review of the Chatham Bookstore

27 Main Street, Chatham, NY

Columbia County in upstate New York is a gorgeous area of the country, with rolling hills, small farms, and quaint towns like Chatham, which has a pretty, revitalized main street that is home to a combination of chic artisan shops and longtime local favorites that have held on through the years, including a one-screen movie theater and a bookshop. The Chatham Bookstore is a gem that has survived through four decades as a literary outpost with a great selection of books and events.  

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A Review of McNally Jackson

A Review of McNally Jackson

52 Prince Street, New York, NY

In the heart of Soho’s cobbled streets and chic high-end clothiers, there’s an equally glossy and glass-encased bookshop that has a surprising number of works by indie authors and poets waiting within. First impressions, though, make the shop seem very au courant, with swaths of art books and large sections dedicated to photography, design, architecture, art, fashion, and other stylish topics. But until you start digging into the fiction, literature, and poetry, you don’t see the whole story.

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