Saturday, November 16, 2019

A Book Lover’s Guide To New York

                                            A Booklover's Guide to New York

“New York – the epicenter of belletristic brilliance and cultured abundance.”

This is a sentence in a wonderful treat for those who treasure the greatest city in the world and adore books. It’s called A Book Lover’s Guide to New York, by Cleo Le-Tan. (Rizzoli).

It‘s the kind of book, that looks and feels like a gift, from its jacketless hardcover exterior to its colored paper and artful illustrations mixed in with inviting text about some of the iconic places to experience books in New York.

What the book does is it reminds you of – and opens your eyes to – the great places to enjoy buying or reading books from places like Strand, a century-old store of used and new books that’s bigger than any bookstore I can think of, to Poets House and the NYPL main branch.

It breaks the city and its outer boroughs into neighborhoods and showcases museums, libraries, bookstores, and other related locations.  Interspersed between these descriptive listings are interviews with some literary heavies such as mystery books editor, publisher, and bookstore owner Otto Penzler, Strand owner Nancy Bass, bestselling novelist Richard Price, Founder of MTV Tom Freston, former Vanity Fair Editor-in-Chief Graydon Carter Rizzoli, President Charles Miers, and National Book Award for Fiction winner Sigrid Nunez.

Here are a few excerpts from the book.  I highly recommend you fashion a copy of for yourself  -- read it and use it as a map to where you will go next!

What makes for a good mystery?
“What makes a good mystery is the same as what makes good literature:  poetic writing style, a fascinating character who comes alive on the page, writing that uses language or dialogue that you’ve never heard used to same way before, something original, interesting background, something colorful in the background, something colorful in the background…all the criteria that you would use for literature, you would use for crime fiction.  Except in additions to that, you need to have a serious plot. Often literature is superbly written but not much happens and there is sometimes no real plot.  Good mystery fiction is harder to write than general fiction.”

Book Row
“Circa 1890, the legendary bookseller George D. Smith opened a bookstore on Sixth Avenue, which marked the beginning what would soon become a world-famous territory of six blocks that went by the name of Book Row.  From that period in time up until about the 1960s, almost every shopfront on Fourth Avenue between Union Square and Astor Place – where the famed Astor Library once held court – was a secondhand bookshop.”

The New York Public Library Main Branch
“The atmosphere as you walk in the main doors up the majestic stairs on Fifth Avenue – or even if you decide to enter through the discreet side entrance at 42nd Street – is second to none.  Part intimidating and part expressive, the feeling of these giant palatial museum – like hallways is glorious, lavish, and monumental.  Feel free to step in for a quick wander, a more  in-depth (guided if you wish) tour, or a visit to its numerous and frequent exhibits.  Or if, life me, you are really keen, pick one of the many stately reading rooms to study and mediate in.”

The East Village
“The East Village is synonymous with the Beat Generation, and the streets still reverberate with the names and words of the many authors who stalked them – Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, John Clellon Holmes, and William S. Burroughs, to name just a few.  Decades later, the East Village is still very much a cultural cauldron – and its distinct place in New York’s literary history is forever cemented by acting as a setting for scores of critically acclaimed books from Patti Smith’s Just Kids to Lynne Tillman’s Weird Fucks.  Though very different from what it used to be, it is still a neighborhood full of life, students, bookshops, literary landmarks, and famous authors.”

“Bookmarc is absolute perfection in terms of finding a gift for anybody you like or love, or treating yourself to something exquisite that you never knew you needed.  Bookmarc is also ideal for discovering hidden treasures – nicer covers than in other shops), or a graphic design book on all the different typefaces in existence, or a unique signed edition of a photography book you’d never seen before, or some really rare imports from Japan or any envogue international destination.  The selection at Bookmarc is somewhere between intellectual, highly fashionable of course), sophisticated, culturally diverse, and really enjoyable.”

92nd Street Y
“Founded almost one and a half centuries ago, the 92nd Street Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Association was originally opened as a Jewish community and cultural center. It is mostly known for bringing people together and hosting an excellent series of author events in the fields of literature, art, and education. Today, the 92nd Street Y is a multifaceted cultural institution, which serves people of all races and faiths.  AS one of the city’s most prestigious venues, it offers countless activities in all fields of the arts, and specifically within literary ones.”

Brooklyn Literary History
“Culturally, Brooklyn plays an essential role within New York’s literary scene. Kings County’s literary pedigree is as remarkable and varied as the borough itself, and ranges from historic libraries to brand new bookstore owned by contemporary novelists.  It in fact could warrant its very own booklover’s guide! The very landscape of the place is replete with symbols of its literary past, both as setting for some of the most celebrated novels of the twentieth century and as home and muse to some of America’s greatest writers.  William Styron wrote Sophie’s Choice here; Michael Chabon’s Kavalier and Clay had all sorts of amazing adventures here; Paul Auster’s follies were here; Betty Smith’s tree grew here, in Williamsburg; and Jonathan Lethem built his Fortress of Solitude in Boerum hill.  The railings along the waterfront of Brooklyn Bridge Park are even inscribed with lines from longtime resident Walt Whitman’s poem, “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry.”

“With such a storied history, it should come as no surprise that Brooklyn is still home to a lively and engaging literary world, and to some of the city’s finest bookstores.  While Brooklyn itself is roughly world, and to some of the city’s finest bookstores. While Brooklyn itself is roughly twice the size of  Manhattan, a great many of the borough’s most historically important literary destinations are concentrated along what you might call the Brooklyn Riviera, the string of older and more commercial neighborhoods closest to the East River that divides Long Island from Manhattan.  So explore the historic houses of Brooklyn Heights (where Truman Capote and Norman Mailer wrote their masterpieces); roam the hipster haunts of Williamsburg and Bushwick, where independent bookstores perfectly reflect their communities, hear poetry in Prospect Heights or visit the borough’s largest library at Grand Army Plaza; and shop for novels written by your neighbors in Park Slope and Carroll Gardens.”

Rizzoli Bookstore
“Despite how majestic and special Rizzoli might feel, with its high ceilings, its wooden shelves, its marble floors, its intricate Fornasetti murals, and its thoughtfully laid-out book displays, there is also a very cozy and intimate feeling to the store. All the way in the back, there is a wonderful room – reminiscent of the big ballroom my grandparents never had, where I would have fantasized of secretly playing hide and seek, or of a games room with a beautiful billiards table and comfy armchairs to fall asleep in – which accommodates more ponderous shoppers by day and signings, launches, and other events by night. Yet again, despite all of its grandness and majesty, that room, along with the rest of the bookshop, has something intrinsically warm and comforting about it – perhaps because of the amalgamation of all the inviting piles and shelves of books on art, architecture, photography, cooking, and fashion that surround you.”

How do you envision the future of bookshops?
“For right now it seems pretty healthy – there seems to be more and more interest in publishing and books. Don’t get me wrong nobody’s going to get rich running a bookstore, but it’s definitely rewarding.  I based my initial interest in bookstores on a Japanese model after a trip there about fifteen years ago.  There were a few bookstores that  carried unusual, beautifully crafted books from small publishers all over the world.  The model for publishing came from the Koln-based bookstore Walther Koenig that began collaborating in the 1980s with artists like Hans-Peter Feldmann, Gerhard Richter, Boris Mikhailov, and Wolfgang Tillmans.  I think keeping things in-house, produced on a small-scale to control the quality, is where it’s at, and using the internet for this kind of product can be really useful-using the bookstore as a showroom.”  


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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2019. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America.

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