Storytime on the Upper West Side
In an era where some neighborhoods do not have a single bookstore, the Upper West Side is a happy throwback. Along with a few general-interest bookstores, it boasts several specialty shops catering to kids and music aficionados, among many others.
2780 Broadway (at 107th Street)
Bank Street Bookstore originally served students at Bank Street College of Education on the Upper East Side, but today it specializes in books for the kids whom graduates of that college might be teaching. It carries roughly 30,000 titles, from picture books to young-adult novels, and is a good source for midlist and backlist books as well as those by buzzy authors. Recent best-sellers included the timeless “Goodnight Moon,” modern-classic “Wonder,” “Paper Towns” and “Turtles All the Way Down” by young-adult favorite John Green, and “She Persisted: 13 Women Who Changed the World” by Chelsea Clinton. Free story hours take place Thursday, Friday, and Saturday mornings for kids six months to six years old.
2289 Broadway (at 82nd Street)
Not so long ago independent bookstores looked upon nationwide chains such as Barnes & Noble as their primary threat. Today they and Barnes & Noble, the only remaining major chain, share a common threat in Amazon.com. The UWS Barnes & Noble, however, offers plenty that even the most comprehensive website cannot. For starters, you can order a grilled four-cheese sandwich, a cappuccino, and a slice of red-velvet cheesecake at the shop’s café, make yourself comfortable, and read a book on your Nook e-reader (or via the Nook app on another device) for free. You can also participate in the monthly book club and bring the kids to the Saturday story-time session, which usually includes some sort of craft activity. The store hosts readings too; National Book Award winner Tim O’Brien, actor/writer John Lithgow, best-selling author Nelson DeMille, and Heather Morris, author of “The Tattooist of Auschwitz,” were among recent guests.
450 Columbus Avenue (between 81st and 82nd Streets)
Having started as a seller of academic titles near Columbia University, Book Culture now operates four shops, including this one. You will not find textbooks here but instead a solid selection of fiction and nonfiction for adults and kids, along with whimsical gifts. Little ones and their parents can come to story times on Thursday and Saturday mornings. Those who want to join a book club can choose the fiction book club on the last Friday of each month or the Themes in Literature club on the second Monday evening of each month; past themes have included books inspired by Shakespeare and book about illicit love.
217 West 84th Street (between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway)
Although Books of Wonder is ostensibly a kids’ bookstore, it is not unusual to find adults losing themselves in a favorite from their childhood or buying a tote bag featuring the cover of a classic such as “Make Way for Ducklings” for themselves. Among the walls adorned with framed prints of illustrations from books—many of which are for sale—you will find new, classic, and underappreciated picture books, chapter books, and young-adult books. Books of Wonder also hosts several readings, story times, and book launches each week.
144 West 66th Street (between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue)
The official shop of the Juilliard School and located in the performing-arts school’s Lincoln Center building, the Juilliard Store is nonetheless open to the general public. This is not the place to pick up the latest Stephen King novel, however. Like the school, the store focuses on the performing arts. Sheet music, plays, and books about conducting, composing, auditioning, and caring for music instruments are in abundance, but there is plenty to keep hobbyists and aficionados coming back time and again: biographies of Stravinsky and Leonard Bernstein, memoirs by Jacques D’Ambroise and Renee Fleming; fiction by Alexander McCall Smith and Kazuo Ishiguro set in the world of the performing arts; books about John Coltrane’s “Love Supreme” and ancient Greek theater.
2020 Broadway (between 69th and 70th Streets)
The sister store to the original Shakespeare & Co. on Lexington Avenue (and to an outpost in Philadelphia), the Broadway shop is bright and airy—not at all like the famed and famously cluttered Parisian bookstores of the same name. Selling a broad range of books for adults and kids, it more closely resembles Barnes & Noble; in fact, it even has a café where you can fortify yourself with a latte, a green tea, or a doughnut after you have exhausted yourself combing the stacks. Children’s story time is held every Saturday morning, there is a monthly book club (November’s book was “Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine”), and you can count on at least one author talk or book launch party a week; recent events included the launch of “Queen Meryl,” a biography of Meryl Streep, and a poetry panel celebrating Martha Collins’s 10th book.
2246 Broadway (at 81st Street)
With books stacked on stairs, carts, and every one of the floor-to-ceiling shelves, Westsider looks exactly like Hollywood’s version of a used-book emporium. In addition to first editions and other collectibles, Westsider sells plenty of fabulously priced books on just about every topic. It is all but impossible to leave without finding at least one title that you simply have to buy then and there.