Pageant Print Shop’s entirely glass storefront bordered by light blue is instantly eye-catching and proudly displays the treasure within. Inside its bright, buttercream interior, an immense assortment of old prints and maps line every wall and fill neatly-labeled display racks. This sanctuary of beautiful historical pieces was created by Sidney Solomon and Henry Chafetz in 1946. It was originally one of the many second-hand book stores on Fourth Avenue, an area that was then known as “Book Row. ” Now under the leadership of Sidney’s daughters, Shirley and Rebecca, Pageant Print Shop primarily sells old prints and is thriving at its current 4th Street location. Having worked with historic pieces her whole life, Shirley knows how to get the best prints. She has amassed her impressive collection from antique book auctions as well as other various sources that she has built up over the years. Roger, who has been working at Pageant Print Shop for over a decade, told Manhattan Sideways that “what we are looking for are old books with the bindings broken that are really not in very good shape on the outside, but still have good quality prints, maps, or illustrations on the inside. ” Although they search for old books based on the contents within, the shop also sells the old bindings for creatives looking to make decoupage and other fun art projects. Pageant Print Shop is definitely a fixture in the East Village, and in the words of Roger, is “one of those neighborhood jams. ” They enjoy “a loyal group of people that have been coming here for eons, " tourists looking for something authentically New York City, and neighborhood people walking by. He told us that newcomers are often “surprised that they are able to buy a piece of history, ” and return for more of their authentic, beautiful, and historic prints. Pageant Print Shop is unique in its extensive, high quality, and affordable selection. Roger affirmed that “It’s going to be hard for you to find someone who has this kind of a collection at these kinds of prices — it’s just true. ”
Book Club isn’t just for the suburbs anymore — as a new bookshop, bar and coffeehouse gives East Village denizens and beyond a new place to pore over and pour over their favorite reads. Married proprietors Erin Neary and Nat Esten, East Village residents themselves, had longed for an independent bookstore to serve the Alphabet City area, they told the Manhattan Sideways team when we popped in to see dozens of happy customers enjoying a read and a latte one sunny Friday morning. “We always thought that the neighborhood needed another bookstore, ” said Erin, “and we also kept wondering, ‘Wouldn't it be so cool if you could drink wine while you were shopping for books? ’” They decided not only to open a bookstore and bar, but to additionally add in the day-to-night-element of coffee into the mix. While both Erin and Nat had worked in hospitality before, bookselling was new to them. “I started doing research in 2017 and worked with the American Booksellers Association’s consulting program to help new bookstores get off the ground, ” said Erin. “I met with them as well as other bar owners and bookstore owners in the neighborhood and did as much research as I could without actually doing it. ” The duo launched Book Club in November 2019, enjoying an enthusiastic community reception until COVID-19 forced them to pivot. “Nate started doing bike deliveries — as many as 20 miles a day! ” Erin told us. “He’d go out to Harlem to drop off books and then all the way out to Bushwick — so a lot of people learned about the store that way. ”Once they were able to reopen to the public, Book Club forged full steam ahead in engaging the community in “book club”-esque events — from author talks to poetry readings to creative writing workshops, with additional unique offerings like an adult spelling bee and a “drink and draw” sketching class. They’ve also recently received their full liquor license, and plan to roll out literary-themed cocktails like an In Cold Bloody Mary or the Murder on the Orient Espresso Martini, Erin told us. More than anything, she added, she enjoyed having customers back in the store to guide them toward their next favorite book. “Our staff are not just really good baristas, but they’re avid readers as well. So between myself and the rest of the team, we have a really good handle on the books here — it’s fun to be able to curate not just what we stock, but to get the right book into someone’s hands. ”
I guess it would be quite obvious to those who have been reading my site since the beginning, that my particular passion, besides Manhattan itself, is books. I have been a frequent customer of the Strand since I was a little girl and my mom made this a destination on a New York City outing. Their stock has certainly increased from the few book shelves that they began with in 1927 on Fourth Avenue - to the 4, 000 square feet that they moved to here on 12th Street, in 1956 - to today's space of 55, 000 square feet. The "18 miles of books" consisting of old, new and rare books covers several floors. For years I just treated this shop like it a was museum, especially the Rare Book Room upstairs. I would step in and browse for hours, wanting everything, but not being able to justify purchasing it all. Then I opened my own book shop, inspired by the Strand. Despite their avenue address, the Strand has carts of books lining 12th Street rain or shine and a side street entrance. They also boast a Central Park kiosk open when weather permits and a pop-up location in the Club Monaco on 5th Avenue between 20th and 21st Streets.
Lyn Trotman describes Quest as “a peaceful sanctuary in the heart of midtown. ” President of the New York Theosophical Society, which studies the wisdom behind various world religions, Lyn also operates the Society’s book shop, Quest. The store is a pleasantly-scented oasis, with a section devoted to incense, candles, and gemstones. People interested in esoteric studies and rituals can browse through books on every conceivable spiritual tradition, from Kabbalah, to Sufism, to Buddhism, and all things in between. “A lot of other metaphysical bookstores are gone. We are the oldest one left. ”
With its sharp corner spine, perpendicular window displays, and eye-catching red accents, the façade of Three Lives and Co. resembles an enticing book cover. Inside, caramel-colored shelves, a cozy patterned carpet, and warm lamps surround an assortment of handpicked reads. As the current owner, Toby Cox, put it, “just open the door and it’s a jewel box. ”Three Lives, which takes its name from the Gertrude Stein novel, was opened in 1978 by Jill Dunbar, Jenny Feder, and Helene Webb. Originally located on Seventh Avenue, the shop moved to the corner of 10th Street and Waverly in 1983. It has since remained a “small neighborhood bookstore, ” while the neighborhood has grown “to sort of become the world. ”Toby first stumbled upon the store on a visit from his home state of Rhode Island, where he sold books for ten years after graduating from Brown University. He was so in awe of the little shop that he sung its praises in the local Providence newsletter. Nine months later, he moved to New York to work as a book publisher, and for the next three years, he frequented Three Lives to “revel in the store. ”Then, “it all came together in a magical way. ” Toby asked Jill if she was interested in having him as an additional partner; Jill countered by offering Toby the business. In early 2001, Toby took over the store. Toby sees Three Lives as much more than a store selling books. To him, it is a vibrant community center — a place to “step off what’s going on outside those red doors, relax, unwind, have an easy chat with a staff member, and let go of all the pressure. ”
Tucked into a cozy storefront on E9th Street, Pillow-Cat Books is — for any literary-minded animal lover — the cat’s meow. Guarded by the shop’s namesake cat, the bookstore opened by author Cleo Le-Tan is the city’s first animal-themed bookshop, offering new, used and vintage books across genre and language with one uniting theme — at least one animal or animal character within its pages. Cleo, a New York-based writer and the daughter of famed New Yorker illustrator Pierre Le-Tan, was inspired to open Pillow-Cat Books in September 2021 after working on A Book Lover’s Guide to New York, itself a charming tribute to the Big Apple’s best independent bookstores. “I interviewed people who have bookshops, and then I realized, ‘Oh, I want my own! ” she told the Manhattan Sideways team when we happened upon her eclectic collection one sunny Friday. She began to curate and source a stock of animal-themed works, finding special joy in hard-to-find tomes from years past. “I love vintage children’s books from the 1950s and 1960s, ” said Cleo, surrounded by books available to shop by category of animal as well as subject matter. Cleo told Manhattan Sideways that settling down in the East Village on 9th Street among the block’s many other speciality retail shops was one of her favorite parts about running Pillow-Cat. “I think it's a really nice block — I like how many independent, unique shops there are, ” she noted. “It’s a fun block because you get people coming from Tompkins Square Park who are friendly and local, but you also get visitors. ” We’d have to agree — as we browsed the shop, we already noticed several grateful visitors building their own stacks, making sure to give Pillow-Cat a pet on their way out.
A psychological and cultural resource center combining a bookstore, libraries, training institutes, and continuing education, the C. G. Jung Center serves as a fulcrum for all things Jungian in midtown Manhattan. An air of learnedness wafts throughout the premises, awash in the smell of old books and older dreams. Carl Jung's wide-reaching areas of interest wind their ways through our unconscious, through dreams and myths and memories, and all are represented in the literature available here. The bookstore downstairs has readings on these and more from authors Jungian and otherwise, but the real treasure is the library on the fourth floor. We stopped in and chatted with Robin, a psychoanalyst-in-training who waxed historical on Jung's break with contemporary academics and with Freud, symbols, myths, and newer-age psychoanalytical practices. One of our writers, a once and future psychology student, spent quite a bit of time perusing the literary offerings, happily flipping through tomes from "The Presence of Siva, " to "Existential Psychotherapy" to "Sexual Behavior in the Human Female" and "Psychopathia Sexualis. " The reading room is carpeted with a large, worn, oriental rug and furnished with colorful squishy seating. Chairs sit in a pleasantly haphazard arrangement around a wooden table, giving the impression that the ghosts of scholars remembered and forgotten were sitting in the room reading just before browsers arrived. Certainly, they have not strayed far from this house of learning.
Though the main location for Westsider Books, which opened in the 1980s, is on Broadway, the Westsider "record store" on 72nd Street did not come about until 2007. Every corner of the store is packed to the rafters with interesting finds in different genres of music and literature. In a world that is quickly becoming digital, Westsider prides itself on selling records, VHS tapes, CDs, DVDs, sheet music, postcards, and countless paperbacks. Westsider's adherence to older practices also means that customers can make trades and sell used books (though mainly at the Broadway location). Having lived on this street for a number of years now, and having owned my own bookstore, I continuously lose myself in the shelves full of rare, fascinating items, and can easily spend hours in the eclectic shop. Dorian Thornley and Bryan Gonzalez, the owners, believe that they may sadly be the last used bookstore on the Upper West Side, a neighborhood that was full of used-book stores at one time. For now, there appears to be enough bibliophiles in the area to keep the quirky shop in business. I am certainly someone who appreciates their commitment and wishes them well for many more years to come.
Never one to miss the opportunity to browse in a bookstore, I brought some of the Manhattan Sideways team inside with me. We had a splendid time attempting to guess what each classic was by its cover, as they were all in Korean. We went on to check out the music section, posters, games and cards. According to the person I spoke with, Koryo has been on 32nd Street for over thirty years. What a fabulous shop to spend time in, despite the language barrier.
Choices tries to help anyone looking to improve his or her life while also offering different paths to recovery for its varied clientele. Jay DePaolo discovered Choices Books & Gifts shortly after it was sold by the original owners, a doctor and a nurse, who opened the store in 1989 to help the 12-step community. Jay came in while shopping with a friend, who said, “Wouldn’t it be great to own something this cute and adorable? ” Unfortunately, or fortunately for Jay, the new management was having trouble keeping the business afloat and wanted to sell. Jay’s friend set up a meeting. Jay did not have the finances to purchase Choices, but he had a clear vision for the store and was a savvy businessman, having owned Italian restaurants in the past. Miraculously, he met a potential investor, and after knowing Jay for only a day, the man loaned him the money to take over Choices in 2002. Within two years, Jay was pleased to tell me that he managed to bring the store back from the brink of failure. When I asked Jay what some of the immediate changes that he made were, he said it was as simple as moving some of the merchandise around, allowing the space to feel more airy and welcoming, rather than cluttered and claustrophobic. He also added an online side to the business. Arguably the biggest change was that Choices became less focused on the 12-step and therapy world, and more broadly applicable to “anyone who’s on a quest. ” Jay added, “We’re all in search of something. ”I recognized Jay's commitment to his bookshop immediately and the extreme fulfillment he gets from the business. He told me that people continually stop by to share their appreciation and offer comments like “I want to thank you, you saved my little brother’s/cousin’s/sister’s life. ” Choices is not just a retail store: the staff chats with any customer who needs advice or a willing ear and attempts to help them on the road to recovery. In 2016, some fourteen years after Jay took over the shop, he is now able to speak at length about different methods and tools that people can use to better themselves. He was quick to point out, however, that he was not always so knowledgeable. He said that he had entered the business essentially blind and had to learn about it from within. Most of his education came from his suppliers who willingly told him about the purpose of each product. And he continues to learn from customers by talking to them about books they have purchased in the past and what paths have worked for them. “I owe everything to others, ” he admitted. “Most of the stuff in here has a meaning, ” Jay went on to say, rattling off the names of jewelry and candles, which he now knows by heart. The shelves are chock full of books for both people in addiction programs and “civilians” - the word for people not directly affected by addiction. He has everything from general daily readers filled with affirmations to crystals and tarot cards used by a more select group. Some of his staff offer different sorts of readings to customers who request them as another aid in their personal therapy. “It really is a little treasure, ” Jay said after walking me through the store. He spoke to me about what a pleasure it is to come to Choices everyday, saying, “I skip to work! ” As I was leaving, Jay shared one of his favorite ideas to live by: “Serenity isn’t peace from the storm, but amid the storm. ” It was an apt expression for a calm little store in a bustling city.
There is no question that the independent bookstores of New York are disappearing, which is why I am always thrilled to come across one that is thriving. Book Culture was originally founded as Labyrinth Books in 1997 by Book Culture's current owner, Chris, and Cliff, his partner at the time. Chris' career had begun in the 1980s when he started selling books for Papyrus Bookstore. He also worked at the old Book Forum, located across the street from Columbia, and at Great Jones Books. In 2007, Book Culture broke off from Labyrinth Books. Two new locations opened in Morningside Heights and the Upper West Side in 2009 and 2014. In 2010, Annie Hendricks joined Chris as a co-owner. I spoke with Cody, who became the store manager at 112th Street in 2013. He explained that the real estate is owned by Columbia, and so the shop sees a lot of college students, especially in the early autumn months. Book Culture's customer base, however, is varied: after all, he pointed out, the Upper West Side has not really had an independent bookstore since Endicott Books closed in 1995. Book Culture carries a wide variety of subject matter including English, anthropology, history, philosophy, and sociology. Despite how many independent bookstores have been lost, Cody has optimistically seen a trend over the last four years, which he called "a natural renaissance of independent booksellers. " He noted that chain stores are not sustainable in the literary world, since people "want bookstores to be tied to the communities. " Cody acknowledged that Book Culture has tried to fulfill its role as a community center by offering events, such as family outings and bagel breakfasts. He then went on to say that since Book Culture takes care to cater to the neighborhood, the store "oftentimes offers a better curated selection" than one's average Barnes and Noble. "In many ways it's more than just a bookstore. It's a great place to spend a couple hours. "Cody has noticed a few other recent trends. The store, he told me excitedly, had become increasingly busier. He has noticed that there has been a "return to fiction" with specifically a "growing interest in translated works. " In response, Book Culture's literature section has expanded. Customers are encouraged to spend time figuring out what interests them. He then stated, "It's rare that someone doesn't leave with a book or at least a good idea of what they'd like to read next. "