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 Three Lives 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.
During my long browsing session, this shop was alternately packed to the gills or serving just a small selection of readers on the day I walked in, and there were certainly moments when I was twisting and leaning my way through the tables and displays taking my usual notes and photos (although the pics here don’t show that, but they were there!). Up front I saw lots of brand new titles and recent bestsellers, staff selections, and an array of notable and topical nonfiction, including humor, political, memoirs, biographies, New York-focused, and educational test-prep books.
Further toward the rear I found the fiction section, books on and about writing, zen/philosophy, travel, language, LGBT+, poetry, and books on feminism, nationalism, and modern governance and the social movements that affect it. There were a lot of titles I hadn’t seen before and I really like that in a shop. Nothing is more humdrum than going bookstore to bookstore and seeing the same hardcovers over and over, but Three Lives had a lot of interesting titles by a new wave of forward-thinking and fresh authors.
They also had some great literary nonfiction offerings, with subsections and books focusing on authors like Orwell, Colette, Theroux, Hemingway, and Chatwin. It was a bit more diverse than that, I assure you, but it’s always nice to see a shop dedicate a healthy section of shelving to lit non-fic, one of my favorite categories. If this were my neighborhood shop I’d be happy about that, and even happier if I’d found a little discounted section, but that’s the poor poet in me talking. It’s only a bookshop after all, not heaven on earth, and it’s certainly one worth a visit.
Atmosphere — Busy and packed with books and readers, and it felt like the place to be to find something different, fresh, and new.
Quality — The books were all top quality and well displayed.
Quantity — There were a lot of books in here for a modestly sized shop.
Diversity — The books here covered plenty of ground, including titles and subjects you may not see in every shop.
Affordability — Typical bookstore prices; perhaps I missed the discount shelves.
Amenities — It’s a packed little shop so not much room for lounging about, but there are a slew of great bars and cafes nearby.
Location — Greenwich Village just off the Christopher Street 1 stop.
Customer Service — The clerks were all busy shelving and chatting with customers, helping here and there.
Overall — This is the type of shop you go to if you have that new bestseller in mind or you just want to browse for something off-beat and fresh, something you didn’t know you needed but the moment you see it you knew it was waiting for you all along. That kind of bustling bookshop.