I turned 35 this past weekend and celebrated with a fantastic trip to New York City. My husband and I dedicated most of the trip to eating as much pizza as possible. We succeeded on our mission! We ate at 6 different pizza places — 3 as a part of an official Scott’s Pizza Tour — and loved every bite. But when I’m in the city, I always try and take advantage of the rich literary offerings (check out my post on turning any trip into a literary one). Between all the NY slices, seeing The Band’s Visit on Broadway, and visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, I didn’t fit too much bookish tourism in, but what I did get to see was satisfying for my readerly soul.
My first stop was Books of Wonder, an absolutely enchanting children’s bookstore in the heart of Chelsea. Their selection was phenomenal! They had all the best new releases, tons of signed books (including copies of Harry Potter signed by J.K. Rowling and original illustrator Mary GrandPré), and a very robust backlist.
The store made me miss my time working in children’s bookstores, so it was pretty great when one of the booksellers couldn’t find Bink and Gollie for a customer and I was actually able to point out exactly where it was. Thankfully, the bookseller didn’t mind my butting in…I just couldn’t help it!
The next literary-ish place I checked out was CW Pencil Enterprise, a store that sells…you guessed it…pencils! This adorable shop just happened to be across the street from one our pizza destinations, Scarr’s Pizza. So, after some of the best pizza we’ve ever had (the mushroom pizza and grandma slice were to die for), my husband and I ambled over to CW Pencil Enterprise, which I’d heard about on the What Should I Read Next podcast.
I’ve found that most avid readers also have a penchant for writing utensils and notebooks. I know I do, and being surrounded by beautiful, unique pencils was a wonderful feeling. The ladies working there were lovely, and I think it may be the only brick and mortar store in the United States where you can buy a Japanese-made pencil that looks exactly like a cigarette!
The last truly literary spot I visited was The Strand. It is a very rare trip to NYC that I don’t make it to the “legendary home of 18 Miles of new, used and rare books.” Each time I go, I want to see if I can ask for a book they don’t have. In the 10 years or so that I’ve been a Strand customer, they’ve had every title I’ve requested. This year, however, they didn’t have the one book I wanted! They were sold out of Sabrina (the first graphic novel ever to make it on the Man Booker Prize long list), so I left empty-handed but a little proud of myself for choosing a book The Strand didn’t have.
It really hit me during this trip that New York City is my spirit city. It’s unlikely that my husband and I will ever move there (he doesn’t dig the crowds), but I will continue to make trips there as often as I can. There are innumerable literary sites I still have to see.
I have made it a personal goal to read as many books set in NYC as possible during my 35th year, at least one per month. I think my first book for this challenge will be The New York Trilogy, by Paul Auster, which has been sitting on my bookshelf for WAY too long. I can’t wait to get started!
What books set in New York City do you love and recommend I read? Please share in the comments below!