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East Village Book Crawl

browsing outside Strand BooksMichelle RickBrowsing outside Strand Books.

I enjoyed the portrait of Mast Books by Brendan Bernhard we published yesterday because the clean, bright space has become one of my regular haunts on Avenue A. Not that I can claim to be a valued customer. I like to take my ten year-old daughter in there and point out the books I’ve already got. “I have that. I have that. I do have that, but in a different edition.” The problem for Mast Books, if not for me, is that its curation of titles is so close to my taste that the store’s bookshelves uncannily mirror my own.

Reading the piece, I mentally counted off the neighborhood’s surviving independent bookstores and paused to mourn a few long lost. Posman’s on University Place was somewhat west of the East Village but housed an extraordinary selection of academic paperbacks. This was a place to revel in critical theory, bask in sociology and drown in philosophy. Almost irreplaceable, but I get an adequate fix of Foucault and Badiou, together with the opportunity to browse improbably expensive glossy magazines, at St Mark’s Bookshop.

The Strand is the neighborhood giant, of course, and one of the largest bookstores in the world in terms of miles of shelving. Usually crowded, always hard to navigate thanks to crowd-sourced aisle dithering, it’s the place to find relatively new books heavily discounted as well as cheap used editions. The Strand has been easier to access since surveillance cameras took over from the bag check (like only people with large bags can steal books) and the store’s website, unlike aspects of the store itself, is a model of user-friendliness. Read more…