There's a great bookstore in Manhattan about a mile from my apartment, called The Corner Bookstore. Though it looks like it might be a front for the Mob, run by Vinnie "Two PhD.s" Luciano, it's a real live bookstore. Not at all like the fronts in my neighborhood which I lovingly call, "the candy stores that sell no candy."
The Corner Bookstore is not vast like the Strand (eighteen miles of books) or specialized like Rizzoli's was (giant artbooks you needed a U-Haul to carry home) but it has three attributes that lead me to put it in the great category
1. It's small.
Unlike Barnes & Nobel, the Corner Bookstore doesn't have every book. They have a nice, concise selection of books in about five or six areas: Kids, Fiction, Non-fiction, Art and 'Quirky.' (I'll get to quirky in a minute.)
2. The staff actually reads and...
Back when I was in college, Salter's on Broadway between 115th Street and 116th Street was the campus bookstore. The staff was mostly angry-PhD's or even angrier PhD students.
They'd help you find what you were looking for and insult you--sometimes in Latin--at the same time. At the Corner Bookstore, the staff is well-read without being condescending.
3. There are places to sit and flip pages.
A bookstore should feel like a library, not a Gap.
Now to the quirky bit.
I was in the Corner Bookstore a couple of weeks ago and bought this book, above.
Not only is my ex-partner, the great typographer and art director Sid Tomkins coming to stay with me in April, but I had also just finished reading The Wandering Mind: What Medieval Monks Tell Us About Distraction.
I was therefore on a bit of an illuminated manuscript and incunabula jag. I might be the first person ever to have been on such a jag, or at least to put it in those words.