266 Bleecker St. in the West Village
New York, NY
My first night in the West Village, back in 2005, was spent wandering around the streets of West 4th and Bleecker to get acquainted with the neighborhood. Unlike a lot of people who seem to be easy conductors for the city's electricity, allowing its stimulative current to pass through their bodies and become electrified by it, I was (and still am) equally repelled and attracted to the élan vital of New York. Feeling slightly overwhelmed even by the low-key nature of the West Village, I sought refuge that night in a quaint bookshop on the corner of West 11th and Bleecker that had a nice, welcoming glow. Its name was Biography.
Over a year ago I heard local rumblings that Marc Jacobs had outbought the Biography lease upon its renewal in Marc's continuing march towards, what I call, his colonization of the West Village. My fears that Biography would go the way of West Village institutions like Joe Jr's were quickly allayed when it was confirmed that Biography would be moving further south on Bleecker to a new location, with a new name: bookbook.
bookbook offers the best of both worlds - a local independent bookstore with simply phenomenal prices that often beat out Amazon's. The secret is that close to 100% of their books are publishers' overstock, enabling the owners to pass along the savings to their customers.
Though, this does not result in a lack of selection - in fact I've always been surprised by the well-curated depth of their books. In the above photo you can see a good catalogue of Franzen's, Foer's, Fitzgerald's, Denis Johnson's and Joyce's books.
That said, this is not an elitist bookshop. As you can see from the above, Stieg Larsson rubs shoulder's with Tom McCarthy's critically acclaimed 2010 novel, C.
bookbook features an incredibly friendly and knowledgeable staff. You can see Juan and Jenette here in the photo manning the store. Last time I went to the bookbook, I gave Juan a loose description of the type of book I was interested in reading next and he supplied me with some terrific suggestions including Saramago's Blindness, Howards End, the short stories of John Cheever, and Ragtime. The total cost of the haul was something like $25 - and his suggestions were dead on. Sometimes you forget in this age of algorithmic recommendations employed by Netflix that the best tips come from a fellow passionate reader.
Another shot of Jenette and Juan. Last time I was in the store I suggested coming by to take some photos for the blog and they were totally agreeable.
I'm a huge fan of the slightly messy arrangement of the books. It reminds me of what I'd imagine the library of erudite and slightly eccentric gentleman would look like.
So next time you're in the neighborhood, swing by bookbook to pick up that Pynchon novel you've been meaning to read along with a Moleskin notebook so you can fit right in with the rest of the crew at Cafe Doma. I'll be there too.