Bookstores in New York

by Bob Schwartz


Rizzoli Bookstore

Bookstores in New York
The gleaming rooftops at sundown
Oh, bookstores in New York
It lifts you up when you run down

Dreamers with empty hands
They sigh for exotic lands

It’s bookstores in New York
It’s good to live it again

Apologies to Vernon Duke, Autumn in New York, the greatest of all Manhattan songs

The New York Times ran a story this week, Literary City, Bookstore Desert: Surging Rents Force Booksellers From Manhattan .

If you’re interested, you can read the story yourself. If you’re paying any attention to New York, business, media, or culture, you already know the story. Bookstores under siege by the rise of Amazon and digital books. Manhattan rents skyrocketing. The number of people who care about or have actually had the bookstore experience falling. The number of people who associate the Manhattan experience with the bookstore experience falling faster.

Above is a picture of the Rizzoli bookstore on West 57th Street. It will be closing soon, as the building owner will be tearing down the building. It is not the only great bookstore, past or present, which has contributed to the specialness of Manhattan. It is, though, a good example of that. If you have not walked down 57th, and have not turned into Rizzoli, and have not walked up those stairs and past those shelves, you will have to imagine. The same goes for all the other big and small bookstores of Manhattan, some less grand on less grand streets, all of them filled with books. All of them places to get lost for a while, for a long while if the aisles are long and the shelves high, the way you get lost in a flirtation or a lifelong love.

This is not nostalgia. This is not romance, at least not the kind that constructs an unreal and unattainable dream. It is real, it is still there, for now, the bookstores, the books, the place and time to scan the titles, to pick up and pull out and leaf through and browse. A refuge from the Manhattan streets, or whatever streets you walk, a place and time to be yourself, to be anywhere, and mostly to fall in love. It’s still good to live it.