In the latest in our series on bookshops around the world that academics should visit, LSE alumnus Ilana Rothkopf transports us to New York’s capital of cool: Brooklyn. If there’s a bookshop that you think other students and academics should visit when they’re undertaking research or visiting a city for a conference, find more information about contributing below.
While Manhattan streets are notoriously adorned with Starbucks, the avenues of Brooklyn are known as the home of everything independent. It is no surprise, then, that the borough of Brooklyn serves as home to some of New York’s largest and most eccentric independent bookstores.
The powerHouse Arena is located Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighbourhood; once an industrial centre, DUMBO is now home to a variety of art galleries, start-ups, and, of course, independent bookstores. powerHouse Arena exemplifies all of DUMBO’s eclectic, artsy characteristics. As both a large, open gallery space and as a boutique for publisher powerHouse Books, the Arena carries a unique array of books on photography and design, as well as new literature and non-fiction. The Arena also holds an abundance of high profile readings, literary events, and art exhibitions, and recently opened a satellite location in Park Slope, (powerHouse on 8th). powerHouse Arena is certainly a must-visit for any academic or literary enthusiast.
Greenlight Bookstore of Fort Greene opened in October 2009, and features an impressive collection of books across genres and disciplines. Their inventory includes fiction, law, business, mathematics, and more, and the shop often hosts readings from local writers. Of course, the neighbourhood boasts an impressive literary community as home to the New York Writers Coalition and some of contemporary literature’s most prominent voices, including Pulitzer Prize winners Jennifer Egan and Jhumpa Lahiri. Additionally, like the Park Slope Community Bookstore, Greenlight is a genuine community institution, and was principally funded by community lenders.
Just a hop, skip, and jump away from Greenlight is Unnameable Books in Prospect Heights. Though the shop is easy to miss among Vanderbilt Avenue’s coffee shops, bars, and restaurants, it is absolutely worth stopping by. Unnameable carries both new and used books, but its range of used titles really make this one of the best independent shops in the city. The store is small compared to the others on this list, and one often needs to hunt through the dusty floor-to-ceiling stacks. However, whatever one’s literary preferences, one is sure to walk away with a hidden gem. Additionally, the staff are smart, knowledgeable and always happy to offer recommendations.
Those who venture over to the ultra-hip neighbourhood of Williamsburg will not be disappointed by Book Thug Nation’s extensive selection of used literary fiction, philosophy, and film. Like PowerHouse Arena, this shop takes full advantage of the Brooklyn commodity that many Manhattan locations lack: space. Book Thug Nation also touts itself as a local event space, and regularly hosts lectures, screenings, and exhibitions that are just a bit more off the beaten path than some of its Manhattan or Downtown Brooklyn sisters.
Brooklyn has a lot to offer residents and visitors alike – academics who visit New York truly must journey over the bridge to explore the literary opportunities that abound!
Ilana Rothkopf completed an MSc in International Relations at the LSE in 2012, and holds an undergraduate degree in Political Science and Middle East studies from McGill University. Her research interests include foreign policy analysis, religion and international relations, political identity and the Middle East. Read more reviews by Ilana.
Do you have a favourite bookshop? If there’s a bookshop that you think other students and academics should visit when they’re undertaking research or visiting a city for a conference, then now’s your chance to tell us all about it.
As part of a new weekly feature on LSE Review of Books, we’re asking academics and students to recommend their favourite two or three bookshops in a particular city, with the aim of building an exciting online series for our book-loving community of readers the world over.
Bookshops could be academic, alternative, foreign language, hobby-based, secret or underground institutions, second hand outlets, or connected to a university. We’d like to cover all world regions too.
If something comes to mind, we’re looking for around 100 words per bookshop, detailing why this place is a must-see. Our editorial team can then find suitable photos and links to accompany the piece, though you’re welcome to supply these too. We only ask that you focus on just one city or region, and two or three bookshops within it.
Email us now if you’d like to contribute: firstname.lastname@example.org