1475 Western Ave., Albany, NY
The Book House will always have a special place in my heart because I bought my first book of poetry there, back in the spring of 2005, and it changed my life, giving me a creative outlet I never had before. For a long time I wasn’t able to return because I had moved away, but when I came back to the Albany area in 2015, I headed here and still stop by a few times a year. To say it’s located in the center of a strip mall is a bit deceiving unless you know Stuyvesant Plaza, which is home to a series of specialized and upscale clothing and gift shops, cafes and fine dining, plus a Chipotle, a TGI Fridays, that kind of stuff, basically the kind of strip mall an upper-middle class suburbanite would frequent. The only reason why I go there is The Book House, and this shop is worth the trip, especially if you're a local.
The main thing that will determine how successful your trip to this shop will be is whether or not they have their discounted tables set up. I’ve gone there when there are no half-off tables at all, and while the store has plenty to offer, a poet like me looks first and foremost for those steals and deals, and might end up leaving empty handed without any such offers. But more often than not, this shop has plenty of discounted titles, and excellent titles as well, not just the ones they can’t get rid of—bestselling memoirs, recent nonfiction, and fiction by the likes of John Steinbeck, Michael Chabon, Anne Lamott, Agatha Christie, P.G. Wodehouse, Harlan Coben, August Wilson, and so many more. Real value, talented writers, all with 40% and 50% Off stickers.
The rest of the shop would be worth a visit even without these incredible deals, but you'll just have to pay the usual new book price. The staff have done an excellent job of plastering the shelves with their detailed recommendations, and there is a wonderfully large children’s and YA section in the rear. The shop has chairs throughout for relaxing, especially up front where the bestsellers and new titles are on display, and the front area often holds events, readings, and signings.
In all, this is a dynamic, lively, robust shop that will easily suit any book lover’s needs. If you’re an Albany local or just passing through, please do keep this shop in mind.
Atmosphere — A well-sized shop that never seems too crowded or too empty, with places to relax and lots of recommendations by staff posted about.
Quality — The shop focuses on new books, so the quality is excellent. The discounted titles are of high quality as well, with very little trimmed fat from titles they can’t sell.
Quantity — There’s a lot to find here, with plenty of offerings between the large fiction, various nonfiction, and children’s areas.
Diversity — Each section has a robust array of titles and authors, well balanced and diverse.
Affordability — I’ve been here without any discount tables, and on those trips you’ll be paying typical prices for new books. But when they have their discount tables out, get ready to load up.
Amenities — There are places to sit and relax within the shop, and there are plenty of cafes and dining nearby to go afterward.
Location — In Stuyvesant Plaza just off the Northway, not far from I-90, on Western Ave. with plenty of parking.
Customer Service — The staff were mostly waiting to help up at the front desk, but have always been friendly and welcoming.
Overall — This is an excellent shop with a wonderfully balanced offering, with a great children’s section and tons of fiction, new and old. Their discount tables are some of the best in the business, when they’re out, and if you catch them during their occasional sidewalk sales, you'll find an even bigger discount awaiting you, so watch for that.