450 Columbus Ave., New York, NY
Book Culture has a few locations throughout New York City, and the one I visited was a short walk from the American Museum of Natural History, or as I always called it, “the museum with the dinosaur bones.” A very technical and precise term. But anyway, this bookshop felt like the kind of store you’d go to in order to get a book for yourself and a gift for someone else, or vice versa. I don’t mean that in a bad way at all, because if you don’t find a book you want, there are almost as many gifts as books, about a 50/50 split, making it much harder to walk out the door without something someone in your life would enjoy.
Just outside the shop was a display of remainders, which is always a good sign. I always give an extra nod to a shop that is willing to sell some new books on discount. Inside and to the left were displays for newer titles, recent bestsellers in both paperback and hard cover, and a lot of New York-centric books. They were all new, and the books continued to stretch into the back of the shop, but you have to weave through a lot of tables and displays of gifts as you move from one section to the next.
And by gifts I mean they have everything: designer water bottles, glassware, mugs, cards, toys, clothing, purses, backpacks, glass decorations and knickknacks, jewelry, candles, picture frames, clocks, postcards, all kinds of stuff. It alternates back and forth between the gifts and books, and you’ll find a mix of both in each room you wander through.
Moving toward the back I found a table of those “blind date” books wrapped in brown paper, a magazine nook near the registers, and a wall of fiction. In between were tables and displays of paperbacks, mysteries, travel books, language books, outdoors, food, gardening, U.S. history, African-American history, and a table of discounted titles over near the nook for the bathroom. The selection was solid considering how much of the shop was dedicated to gifts, and a bookworm will have plenty to sort through here.
I should note that they have a children’s and YA section downstairs that I did not get to check out, which is a pity. I had to run, but if that’s something you’re looking for, they have a whole downstairs dedicated to it!
I’m curious to know what their other locations feel like, and I’ll definitely put them on my list to visit. This one felt a little less like “your hometown bookshop” and more like a shop aiming to balance the needs of locals and tourists alike. Its bright, spacious rooms are very welcoming and you’ll find plenty of staffers all around stocking books and gifts, helping customers, etc. If you’re looking to browse before or after you visit the museum, I recommend popping in.
Atmosphere — A sunny, gift-oriented shop with new titles, a few discounted tables, and tons of gifts.
Quality — The books are all new and top quality.
Quantity — There were a lot of books for a shop that dedicates almost half its space to gifts.
Diversity — A good range of books. It’s not the Strand bookshop but if you’re looking for something recent, notable, or trending, they should have it in stock.
Affordability — There were some discounted titles, but for the most part you’ll pay typical prices.
Amenities — There were a few chairs scattered about, plus gifts galore. They also have kid storytimes and events, so check their schedule.
Location — It’s on Columbus (hence the name) just a couple blocks from the American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side.
Customer Service — The staff were plentiful and seemed happy to help others who were shopping at the time.
Overall — Whether you’re looking for gifts or books, this shop has enough of each to keep a casual shopper satisfied. You’ll find plenty of new and recent bestsellers and loads of designer gifts. Recommended if you’re near the museum and looking to browse for a bit.