In The Stacks // Strand Kiosk, Central Park, NYC

Continuing my domination of Manhattan bookstores, I bring you the Strand Bookstore Kiosk in Central Park. Located on the Southeast corner of Central Park, the Strand Kiosk gives visitors a taste of one of NYC’s most beloved bookstores nearly 50 blocks up from its brick and mortar location. I’ve walked past the kiosk probably a hundred times, but I’ve never stopped to purchase anything.


As a treat to myself, I went after a painful visit to the dentist to pick up some summer reading material. There is nothing more soothing or enjoyable than perusing books on a beautiful summer day. It was one of those rare days during a city summer– blue skies, a nice breeze, and zero humidity. Despite the pain inflicted on me at the dentist, I found myself falling in love with New York and wasn’t afraid to be a tourist in my own city.

IMG_8585I wasn’t quite sure what to expect in terms of selection, but I was able to find some really great new AND used books. And because of my “I Love New York” state, I wound up wanting to buy everything! Screw the budget! Somehow, I managed to stick with three: The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan, Gentleman Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos, and Home by Toni Morrison. In fact, that’s a pretty good selection of my reading tastes.

At check-out, they had a whole slew of New York themed books, obviously for the tourists, and I was tempted! I wanted to buy a couple collections of essays set in New York, but I refrained. My purse was already overflowing and I had to be back at work.

I am so happy I finally gave in to this cute little corner. It was not busy and it felt so, so “New York.” One of my favorite little shops thus far and I highly recommend it whether you are visiting or just a native looking for something fun.FullSizeRender (5)


IN THE STACKS // The Corner Bookstore // New York, New York

One of these days I will get out of New York City and visit some other shops. In fact, I’d love your suggestions for my next day trip. Think New England, Long Island, Pennsylvania, New Jersey… anywhere I can get to in a day, and I’m there!

FullSizeRender (3)This week I visited The Corner Bookstore on the corner of Madison and 93rd Street in Manhattan. It wasn’t until I started doing these blogs that I realized there are so many adorable and well-curated bookstores in my own neighborhood. It’s allowed me to explore and spend money in a whole new way. I think New Yorkers tend to think of all the neat stuff being downtown and forget that the Upper East Side can be fun too. (Seriously.)

When I first got there I was the only one in the shop. The sign on the door asked that cellphones be turned off before entering, so I dutifully did as I was told and slipped my phone into my purse. The store is small, a single open room, but being the smart New Yorkers that they are, the team at The Corner have arranged the books and shelving to create more space and aisles that are easy to navigate.

I wasn’t greeted upon entering and didn’t really mind until they greeted everyone who entered after me. I guess my not being a regular didn’t warrant it, but I had read such great things about the staff that I was a little bummed out. That said, it’s always nice to be left alone to browse without feeling like they’re drilling holes into the back of your head. I was able to linger in books about Paris for an embarrassingly long time.

IMG_8356At first I was confused where to find what I was looking for. And then I realized– the hardcovers were in the front and paperbacks were in the back. I do like the idea of putting new releases in the front, but I felt cheap going to the back looking for a non-fiction paperback.

I enjoyed scouring the shelves for the perfect book to take home. The selection is small and specific. Everything was already narrowed down for me. I had just finished a crime novel and I wanted to shake it up with something more poignant. Even though their non-fiction selection skewed a little political, I found a beautiful Joan Didion gem, The Year of Magical Thinking. 

IMG_8357I bought it, having a simple transaction conversation with the clerk and realized that they had been hoarding some seriously cool books at the front. I would recommend starting there if you’re to visit. There are paperbacks and hardcovers there, unsegregated.

Overall, the atmosphere is quiet and soothing. It’s rare that you can find a store in the city that you can browse in near silence. Even though I felt a little lonely, I was appreciative of the fact that the staff just let me do my thing. I was there for the books, not new friends. It was a wonderful way to spend a Friday afternoon and forget about everything else going on.

IN THE STACKS // Kitchen Arts & Letters // New York, NY

Next up in our series of must-see bookshops is one close to home. Located on Lexington Avenue between 93rd and 94th, Kitchen Arts & Letters is a beautifully curated shop that only stocks books on food. A majority of the books are cookbooks but I also found three on the art of napkin folding and a collection of short stories all about meals.

Photo courtesy of Eater NY

The store has a certain allure for me. It’s close to my apartment, I walk by it every day, and I know that Alex Guarnaschelli loves it. But I never ventured in for one reason or another. Ever since Jeff and I started discussing doing blogging about bookshops, this is one I knew I had to profile. So one day last week I finally made the stop after work.

The shop is small but neatly organized into easily understood categories. I found gluten-free cooking near vegan books and cake books near ice cream books. I entered the store while an employee was explaining, what sounded like, a series of memoir-type books to a customer and his wife. Their baby was asleep in his stroller near the wine tasting books.

Photo courtesy of Eater NY

The employee spoke knowledgeably about several books and listened to the customers desires. It made me cringe thinking about the time I was in a Barnes & Noble and a staff member couldn’t even find a book that the computer told a customer was there. It is the human touch, the passion for books, and in this case a passion for cooking, that we miss out on when we shop online or visit a cookie cutter behemoth.

Kitchen Arts & Letters also has an extensive collection of out-of-print books that are as beautiful as they are old. When I came home after my visit to research the shop, I found an old Eater profile that mentions the vast collection of old and out-of-print books in the basement. The profile also told me that the shop’s customer base is 70% chefs. So I guess Guarnaschelli isn’t the only one.

I settled on a Michael Symon book. Not the coolest or oldest or most interesting book in the shop but definitely one that I need. I’ve been dying to find simple recipes for weeknights and every colorful page of this book caught my eye.

I can honestly say this shop made me question my Pinterest-ing ways. Why pin and forget when I can go and get expert advice on a book and then go home to experiment? The experience made me realize just how much I love food and how much I respect it.

Photo courtesy of Eater NY

On my way out I stopped to snap a couple pictures of the facade and was stopped by a gentleman who said he was an ex-cop who frequented the store, “I bought 10 of the last Finnish cookbooks in English. Finland won’t send them anymore!” He smiled and added, “I went there for a girl but I didn’t fall in love with her, instead I fell in love with the country!”

These are the customers that Kitchen Arts and Letters attracts. I urge you to make a trip uptown and experience the secret inspiration that chefs have known for years.

Thanks to Eater NY for all the pictures. Mine were corrupted! 

IN THE STACKS // The Mysterious Bookshop in Manhattan

Some time ago my boyfriend Jeff and I were talking about all of the amazing bookshops we frequent. In New York City, there seems to be one tailored to every taste. When we travel, we relish in new shops in weird corners and always come home with a stack of books to add to our already swollen bookshelf.

Our generation is leading the way of choosing convenience over authenticity, and printed books (and the stores that house them) are dangerously teetering on the edge of extinction. We want to feature these beautiful shops with their attentive and knowledgable staffs in the forefront of everyone’s minds. We want you to visit, we want you to remember, we want you to carry 400-page hardcovers on the subway.

Our inaugural post follows courtesy of Jeff, who chose one of his all time favorite shops.

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Walk down Warren Street, west of Church. The sun sets over the Hudson. A wooden sign waves in the wind. The Mysterious Bookshop. You made it. Kick back and feast your eyes on this place.

You’re looking for murder. They got it by the pound. Pick your poison: Chandler, Highsmith, MacDonald, Spillane.

Oh, you love The Wire? How about all the Pelecanos, the Price, the Lippman books you’ve never heard of? Grab a few off the shelf.

You’re lusting for domestic melodrama? Have no fear.

Nah, you know what? You want the tormented, psychotic stuff. Feast your eyes on that fat stack of Jim Thompsons!

Screen shot 2015-05-28 at 9.23.28 PMMaybe you’re chasing older gems, hard-to-finds. Say, a first edition of an Ellroy. WHAM! The Black Dahlia right there, in the same damn case as a James Crumley and In a Lonely Place.

You can get lost in the three packed walls of this place, founded by Otto Penzler 35 years ago. The old man, I’m certain, was behind the wooden door on the right wall for the entire time I visited; doing what is his business.

The beauty of this wonderful oasis is its simplicity: a large room, with thick green carpeting, fat leather sofas, and all the damn books about any and all human misdeeds you can imagine.

If you don’t know a thing about the genre, it don’t matter. Just talk to Steve at the register, he’ll set you up good; the guy used to run his own shop down in the Village a few years a back, and he knows every single book in the fucking store. And even the ones that aren’t.

Read more books. Read more crime. Buy more books from amazing stores like Mysterious. Celebrate the art of death by keeping these kinds of places alive.
-Jeff Winter

The Mysterious Bookshop is located at 58 Warren St. in Manhattan. They specialize in mystery books. They’re open Monday – Saturday, 11am-7pm.