A Review of Housing Works Bookstore Cafe


126 Crosby St., New York, NY

Wherever you combine a used book store and a café with food and coffee, I will find you. I will find you, and I will spend time with you. I came across this shop by accident while looking for Jackson McNally in SoHo, and damn, what a cool spot! Beyond just having a huge array of used books (all donated) and a relaxed, comfortable environment, this place is extra special because proceeds from the shop support a ton of local initiatives, like those working to end AIDS and homelessness. (You can find out more at their website.) So all of us buying cool books helps fund essential causes for those in need. It's a win-win-win.

And as far as the books go, they’re all used and cover a wide selection of genres and topics, everything from newer mass market fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, crime, and classic literature, with nonfiction sections dedicated to biographies, music, cooking, and a lot more. Most of the fiction is either along a large back wall near the café and seating area (which has a dozen or so tables that hold one to four people each) and in a series of carts near the stairwell, where you'll find the newer arrivals. It was fun hopping from cart to cart looking for that one book that called my name. I found it over in the classic crime fiction section, a pulp novel in a sealed plastic wrapper called The Devil’s Mansion. “Janet was forced to escape the eerie old house or become the bride of the Devil himself!” COOL!


There were plenty of nonfiction sections and a vinyl section downstairs as well, and up in the balconies on either side I found more nonfiction, including histories, musical bios, occult, and memoir sections, with more seating for visitors wanting an aerial view while they worked and read. The coffee, tea, and bagel selection looked great in the café in the rear, and there was always a bustling feeling without being too crowded. The shop just had a great vibe: old books, creaky wooden floors, tall bookshelves, ornate stairs, the scent of coffee in the air. And just outside are the cobbled streets of SoHo. It's just an awesome store, so check it out if you get the chance.         

Atmosphere — A lively shop with balconies, a café, and plenty of books to read, the smell of coffee, old wooden floors and walls, it’s just a superb feelings wandering around in there.   

Quality — The books are all (or almost all) used but they’re in really decent shape, and some older ones are in plastic to keep them in top form.

Quantity ­­ Lots and lots of books spread out in this fairly large shop. You’ll have plenty to sort through.  


Diversity — Excellent selection of authors and titles, covering all the major bases. I liked their selection of older pulp titles too, definitely some titles I hadn’t seen anywhere else.

Affordability — Being used editions, you’ll be paying a hell of a lot less here than in Barnes & Noble.   

Amenities — A café with food, coffee, tea, and other treats, with seating spread out all over the shop, even in the balconies. They hold plenty of events too, so keep an eye out for flyers.

Location — Very close to the Prince Street subway stop in SoHo, and just a few blocks from Jackson McNally.     

Customer Service — Very friendly folks working up at the front desk and busying themselves all around the shop. Most were volunteers too, according to their website.

Overall — This was an excellent experience, with lots of great used books to sort through in a fun, bookish, old school environment, plus coffee and pastries while I took a breather and read some books? Don’t miss this shop.