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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A Bookshop Interview with Clifford Brooks

 (Photo from the Avid Bookshop website.)

(Photo from the Avid Bookshop website.)

Clifford Brooks is a poet, teacher, and one of the founders of The Southern Collective Experience, an organization that has always been supportive of my own creative projects, and so I wanted to loop Cliff in to my bookshop interview series to pick his brain and see which shop tops his own list of favorites.

Favorite Bookshop: Avid Bookshop (Athens, Georgia)

1. How did you discover the shop?

The launch, and my first reading - ever, of my book, The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics.

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

The poetry section is my favorite. It is not a sliver of one shelf, but generously represented. The location close to my heart has large windows in front, an open, airy interior, large enough for room to casually browse, but small enough for that total literary experience we bibliophiles need to get our fix.

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

Selected Works of Robert Pinsky, several novels by Pat Conroy, All Over But the Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg, the Collected Work of Rilke, and the Collected Work of Edna St. Vincent Millay.

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

The knowledgeable staff, the space they give you, closeness to The Grit, and comprehensive stock. What sets it apart is the business model and philosophy that makes them thrive as an independent bookstore.

For more about Cliff and his work, visit his Facebook page.

A Review of Fairview Books

A Review of Fairview Books

424 Fairview Ave., Hudson, NY

Much in the same way that The Bookloft bookshop in Great Barrington, MA is just outside of town in a large strip mall, Fairview Books is just outside of Hudson, NY in a busy strip mall too, but while Bookloft surprised me with the organized presentation of an indie version of Barnes & Noble, Fairview is a different animal altogether, and I’m still not quite sure how to categorize that animal. The shop has unique items and some discounts, but the quality and style are all over the map. This can be good, or not so good, depending on your book shopping needs and expectations.

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A Review of bookbook

A Review of bookbook

266 Bleecker Street, New York, NY

While hustling from Greenwich Village toward the Bowery section of Manhattan a sunny Saturday afternoon, I stumbled across bookbook out of the blue. (Ed. Note: They spell their name lowercased, so that’s not a typo.) I hadn’t heard of it before, despite living in the city for about five years not long ago and having walked up and down Bleecker more times than I can count. Dumbstruck by my ignorance, I walked in and found a real gem of a bookshop. Whatever you do, don’t make my mistake and overlook this place.

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A Bookshop Interview with Melinda Wilson

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Melinda Wilson is a poet, essayist, editor, professor, reading host, and all around creative superhero, and she graciously agreed to fill us in on what was once her favorite spot to load up on books!

Favorite Bookshop: Baldface Books (Dover, New Hampshire)

1. How did you discover the shop?

I heard about Baldface during my time as an undergraduate English student at University of New Hampshire. Dover was a stone’s throw away from Durham where the main campus is located, and many students chose to live off-campus in Dover. I was one of those students. Several of my friends with similar literary interests had raved about Baldface, and I eventually visited the shop.

2. What part of the shop was your favorite?

Baldface is…well, was…the storefront recently closed permanently and the bookseller now sells from his rare book collections online only and has a few racks of records at a storefront called Cracked Skulls in Newmarket, New Hampshire. Baldface was a crowded but delightful space with a mishmash of different types of shelving of different colors and sizes. Since it’s no longer open, I can probably say without causing backlash for the store that it was most definitely a liability issue. Any one of those top-heavy shelves could have collapsed on me as I browsed the lower shelves. Nevertheless, this was kind of the best part. The shop had character. I remember holing up in a corner of the poetry section, sitting legs crossed on the carpeted floor, god, that carpet must have been a century old, reading Plath, Lowell, and Berryman. The poetry section was at the back of the store in a somewhat narrow space, and often I would get sidetracked in the excellent vinyl section at the front. I remember my then boyfriend, now husband, having several lengthy and energetic conversations about Dylan with the bookseller…I think his name was Clyde.

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

I’ve bought a number of books there over the years: a couple of Seamus Heaney collections, Gary Snyder’s Turtle Island, some older editions of Anne Sexton’s early work, Louis Simpson’s A Dream of Governors, W.D. Snodgrass’s Heart’s Needle…I can’t remember them all, but grab any worn book off my shelves, and it’s got a decent shot of having been acquired at Baldface.

4. What was it about Baldface that made you really love it? What set it apart?

I was studying with the poet Charles Simic during the years I was a Baldface regular, and I could almost see Simic’s influence on the poetry shelves there. The Elizabeth Bishop collections he would tout in class were all over the stacks. James Tate’s books also feature prominently in my memory. My memories of Baldface are obviously tied up with my nostalgia for a period in my life when I consumed poetry voraciously, definitely more so than I do now, when my entire life was devoted to the study of poetry and my craft. Life has definitely gotten more complicated…or something akin to that… since those days, so thinking of Baldface now, I end up in a headspace of pure joy and enthusiasm for what the world contains. I’m sad that Baldface isn’t a brick and mortar location anymore. It’s sad to think I can’t revisit the physical space from which much of my poetry’s root system grew. I guess Baldface has always felt to me like a space in which I could converse with the past. So many of the books were second-hand with previous readers’ annotations, and even seeing the handwriting of someone who likely read the book I was reading decades and decades ago felt like a kind of communion. Because the books were used, they were often cheap, which also solidified my love of the place. Beyond that, Baldface was a space in which I felt welcome. Every time I walked in, I got the distinct sense that I was the audience for the product, this was my place, I belonged there.


Melinda Wilson is a published poet, critic and essayist. Her work has appeared in journals such as Verse Daily, The Cincinnati Review, The Minnesota Review, Arsenic Lobster, The Agriculture Reader and Coldfront among many other publications. She holds an MFA from The New School and a PhD in English from Florida State University. She is a Founding editor and current Managing Editor of Coldfront. (www.coldfrontmag.com)

A Review of Half Price Books

A Review of Half Price Books

3207 Broadway, San Antonio, TX

Let me start off by saying that I’m cheating a little here. This blog is about hyping small independent bookshops, and Half Price Books doesn’t reeeeally fall into that category. There are 120 locations (way more than I thought) but I have only ever been to two spots in San Antonio, Texas, and I have loved both. If they sold new books at new prices, I wouldn’t review them. But they sell everything under the literary sun and then some, and all at discounted (sometimes deeply discounted) prices. This place is a treasure trove and you absolutely must do yourself a favor and find one near you.

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A Review of Mystery on Main Street

A Review of Mystery on Main Street

119 Main Street, Brattleboro, VT

I previously reviewed a bookshop with a similar name in Johnstown, NY, but this one out in southeastern Vermont seems to be its own entity, and it had some cool little tricks up its sleeves. Unlike the Johnstown shop, this one actually focuses exclusively on mystery, crime, and noir titles. And being located right in the heart of downtown Brattleboro, surrounded by a plethora of cafes and shops, you can easily work this store into an adventurous afternoon of browsing.

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A Review of Idlewild Books

A Review of Idlewild Books

170 7th Avenue South, New York, NY

There are two branches for this travel-themed shop in greater New York, but on this day I visited the Manhattan/West Village location, with its rounded corner windows turning the little store into a bright and delightful place to browse. As stated, the books are travel related, but they don’t always contain themselves specifically to travel. If that sounds confusing, I assure you, it’s a really wonderful thing.

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A Review of The Twig Book Shop

A Review of The Twig Book Shop

306 Pearl Parkway #106, San Antonio, TX

Since I moved away from San Antonio in 2009, the Pearl Brewery area has absolutely exploded with development, and in a beautiful way. My friend Christina gave me a tour of the new digs, the coffee shops, hotel lobbies, plazas, and of course a beautiful little bookshop. It’s not a huge shop, but it’s a fun one, and fits the aesthetic of the updated neighborhood very well.

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A Review of Magpie Bookshop

A Review of Magpie Bookshop

392 Main Street, Catskill, NY

The small city of Hudson, NY has garnered a lot of attention in recent years as a bustling and growing hotspot for NYC transplants feeding its downtown revival, but just a short drive away and across the Hudson River is a somewhat subtler, quieter town that may be overlooked from time to time, but shouldn’t be. Catskill has a fun little downtown lined with trendy shops, cafes, a movie theater, and yes, an excellent bookshop. Magpie Bookshop is not one to overlook, and mixes small town charm with literary surprises that will make any bookworm happy.

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Bookshop Interview with Melanie Faith

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Melanie Faith is the author of two new books on the craft of writing, Poetry Power and In a Flash!, and she’s here to tell us a little about her favorite bookshop. But there’s a twist: her favorite bookshop isn’t quite a bookshop at all. Take a look!

Favorite Bookshop: My choice is a bit of a maverick: thrift stores. Specifically, a treasure-trove- filled Goodwill in the Show Me state.

1. How did you discover the shop?

My fantastic fellow-bookworm sister introduced me to her Goodwill book section a few years ago, and it’s become one of our favorite go-tos during my visits. We go at least two or three times in the summer weeks I spend at her house in Missouri.

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

From the plate-glass double doors clear across the open-concept warehouse-type building, the book section calls to me, just past the donated dining sets and a synthesizer from someone’s garage, beyond the racks of clothes arranged by hue, and motley bric-a-brac on shelves. Tucked beside the VHS and DVDs and CDs (and even a few tapes) lined up in neat stacks in a metal bin, there are three jam-packed book shelves against a brightly-painted back wall.

It may not be a particularly elegant set up and it doesn’t have chairs to invite a good long beverage-soaked-paging-through like my beloved-now-gone Borders used to, but elegance and comfiness are beside the point when books are at stake. This place is authentic and a bit of a throwback. The thrill of the search is keen and energizing.

I’ve found novels that were clearly 100% new with pristine, undog-eared pages and remaindered from a popular chain store down the street alongside poetry volumes baring oodles of squiggly red and blue and black pen notes in the hand of a college freshman (or senior or professor—part of the fun, as in Billy Collins’ poem “Marginalia”—is in the imagining). It’s a serendipitous, almost mystical process, and when it comes to book browsing (much like a yogini doing Tree Pose), I can stand for marathon stretches if good books are in the offering. Did I mention I can hold almost my own body weight in book bargains in my arms? No reading weakling here!

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

Everything from poetry to bestselling recent novels to memoirs and classics (lots of college students in my sister’s town donate batches of lit books, whole semesters-worth, at a clip- I can’t decide if that’s wonderful or wonderfully sad) and some children’s books for my darling nieces’ library. Most books are just a dollar a piece, and even rare books are usually, at most, $2 or $3 for gently-used texts. A few times I lucked out and the books I wanted to purchase were on sale for 50 cents each—my stack wobbled in my arms on the way to the register on those days.

During my last week at my sister’s place last summer, the final four books I purchased there were (drumroll, please!): The Paris Wife (about Hadley Hemingway) by Paula McLain (which I’ve devoured and sent off for a writing pal to read next), a dishy old-Hollywood memoir of Ava Gardner (which I’ve also read cover-to-cover and happily sent off for a second writing friend who loves and writes well about old-Hollywood), Kim Edwards’ The Memory Keeper’s Daughter (can’t wait to dig into that one this fall), and an awesome book about the making of one of my favorite movies, The Princess Bride, that I gifted to my sister and plan to read next summer when I visit.

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

The Goodwill is not many other readers’ first thought when deciding on a new read, and yet thrift stores all across the US contain gems just waiting for readers. Like an antique store or swap meet or yard sale or craft fair, you can’t go in with one book and one author in mind. Instead, the smorgasbord of possibilities await! Why limit oneself? Give yourself at least a good half hour to 45 minutes—you’ll need it.

My other favorite element of the shop is that all of the goods are donated new by chain stores or gently-used from the community, and the money raised goes back to local nonprofit charities to assist people in nearby communities. Everybody gets a good deal from the purchases. While I love a good, long recline on a comfy chair with a book or three in a reading marathon as much as anybody, there’ll be plenty of time for that post-purchases, and I’d love for my fellow readers and writers to consider a stop by your local thrift store for a good perusal. You’ll do your book shelves and your local community some good and return home with quite a few treasures to entertain for endless hours.

Bio: Melanie Faith is a poet, professor, and photographer. She loves the Tiny House movement and collecting twinkly costume-jewelry pins. She wrote a craft book about the flash fiction and nonfiction genres to inspire fellow writers, In a Flash!: Writing & Publishing Dynamic Flash Prose (Vine Leaves Press, April 2018), and Poetry Power (also Vine Leaves Press, Oct. 26, 2018). Her short stories are forthcoming from Red Coyote (fall 2018) and Sunlit Fiction (Nov. 2018), and her poetry will appear in Meniscus Literary Journal in New Zealand and Up North Lit (Oct. 2018). This fall, she is teaching a few writing seminars, including a poetry-thesis-writing class and a class she created that combines two of her passions, called Photography for Writers. See more of her photography, writing, and projects at: https://www.melaniedfaith.com/blog/

A Review of Brattleboro Books

A Review of Brattleboro Books

36 Elliot Street, Brattleboro, VT

One of the things that makes downtown Brattleboro such a fun place for a weekend road trip is they have 3-4 bookshops all within about two blocks of each other, and the best one for quality used books is Brattleboro Books. It looks quaint and old-fashioned on the outside, with a dark wood exterior, a lamppost, and antique-looking signage—perhaps something out of a Harry Potter village or a colonial-era downtown—but inside the shop is chock full of all the new, old, and quality goods you’d hope for in a used book shop.

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A Review of The Book Nook (Lenox Library)

A Review of The Book Nook (Lenox Library)

18 Main Street Lenox, MA

This bookshop review is a little different because The Book Nook in Lenox, MA is actually part of the town library, a little alcove just inside by the front desk. But what it lacks in size, it greatly makes up for in quality and value. I happened upon it while attending the annual Lenox Apple Squeeze, just a few minutes after purchasing a taco-in-a-bag, munching away and halting in my tracks when I saw the Book Sale sign. For anyone who knows me, you understand my feelings of exalted joy. 

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A Review of Bartleby’s Books

A Review of Bartleby’s Books

17 West Main Street, Wilmington, VT

Wilmington could be any anonymous crossroad town on a long road trip, but I assure you, it isn’t. Where that one small village exactly halfway to your destination might usually have a gas station, a diner, a mechanic, a traffic light flashing yellow, and then a cluster of homes, Wilmington seems to be an exception to that rule. Situated exactly halfway between Bennington and Brattleboro in Vermont, and serving as the entryway to such ski resorts as Mt. Snow and Stratton, Wilmington is probably a lot of people’s favorite little town, bustling with galleries, antique stores, cafes, restaurants, little hotels, and of course, a couple bookshops.

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A Review of The Bennington Bookshop

A Review of The Bennington Bookshop

467 Main Street, Bennington, VT

This little shop located in picturesque downtown Bennington, Vermont is almost like a miniature indie version of a Barnes & Noble, in that it features all new books in a bright, clean environment, and has a dash of all the major categories and styles. But it has just enough local flavor to make it unique to this particular town and region, too. Plus, it’s close to a handful of cafes and restaurants I really enjoy, so it’s always a must whenever I pass through Bennington.

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Bookshop Interview with Kevin Ridgeway

 Photo borrowed from  Elder Zamora's Portraits in Poetry , May, 2018.

Photo borrowed from Elder Zamora's Portraits in Poetry, May, 2018.

Kevin Ridgeway is a California poet with at least six books under his belt, and I’m sure plenty more coming. His latest is a split chapbook with Gabe Ricard called A Ludicrous Split and is well worth your time. Here he tells us a little about his favorite bookshop, one I very much need to visit myself one day. Enjoy!    

Favorite Bookshop: Gatsby Books (5535 E Spring Street, Long Beach, CA)

1. How did you discover the shop?

On November 28th, 2012, I was asked to do a featured reading by a local press at a growing literary hub in Long Beach, CA. It was Gatsby Books. I met Sean Richard Moor, the personable owner and master of ceremonies of every reading. I had finally found an independent book store to get chased out of for hanging around too long.

2. What part of the shop is your favorite?

My favorite part of the shop is the poetry section. It has a wide range of the greats--from local authors to the classics. I'm always browsing that shelf.

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

Hammer and the Hearts of Gods by Fred Voss, Poets and Pleasure Seekers by Gerald Locklin and The Early Death of Men by Clint Margrave are among the titles I've scored at Gatsby's.

4. What is it about Gatsby’s that makes you love it? What really sets it apart?

This place is a place where everybody knows your name. Ruby the Cat meows during readings and Fred Voss, Gerald Locklin and Joan Jobe Smith are regulars and personable yet brilliant scribes. And Sean Richard Moor is the glue that holds it all together. He also even sold my books. Whata guy. The best indie book store around.

A Review of Saratoga $1 Book Warehouse

A Review of Saratoga $1 Book Warehouse

Stone Blvd. (?) Saratoga Springs, NY

This shop, more than any other I’ve visited in my life, has me torn about my experience. On one hand, you have a large selection of used books in pretty good shape that are one dollar each. This could be a goldmine for the right person. Dollar books are no joke for bookworms and there were some major deals on those shelves. But on the other hand, my experience at the Saratoga $1 Book Warehouse left me feeling…well, to put it mildly, a little unsettled.

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A Review of Northshire Bookstore (Manchester)

A Review of Northshire Bookstore (Manchester)

4869 Main Street, Manchester Center, VT 

This place is a long-time favorite, a standard bearer for what a great bookshop should be. This branch (they have two) is located in the town of Manchester, Vermont, surrounded by forests, beautiful mountains, long sweeping farm valleys, and outlet shops scattered throughout the area. It’s a trek from where I currently live (Albany, NY) but it’s definitely worth the drive whether you’re looking for new or used books, because they have both in abundance.

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A Review of Dog Ears Book Barn

A Review of Dog Ears Book Barn

Route 7 Hoosick, NY

Okay, hold up. I’ve driven past the sign for this shop hundreds of times in my life. It sits at a busy intersection outside Hoosick, on Route 7 between Troy, NY to Bennington, VT, right across the street from the incredible Big Moose Deli. But I always figured the weather-beaten sign for Dog Ears Books was for a tiny little shop in some country stable, the outdated books yellowing in the summer sun, hardly worth the time to stop. I couldn’t have been more wrong. This place is a treasure trove, and you have to put it on your “Must Visit” list as soon as you can!

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