By el j ayala
Despite fears it might, reading has not died out. It has changed though; books are mostly bought online nowadays through venues like Amazon and Thrift Books. People go based on book recommendations; the days of aimlessly flipping through books seems to be behind us. There are few physical bookstores left, but even then it is hard to find hidden gems at your local Barnes & Noble, so we collectors must mine the shops of unsung proprietors: independent bookstores. These tiny shops hold more wonders than you might expect. Here are a few local ones: Arcade
Booksellers, 9 Theodore Fremd Ave, Rye, NY
I turned the around the corner into the little white building hiding alone on its own street. I was greeted by tall white bookcases with deep shelves. No bookcases were stacked with books in front of each other, but I saw large cardboard boxes on the floor behind the counter with new titles peeking out of the tops. I was greeted by the owner, Patrick Corcoran, who has run the shop himself for the past 30 years and so knows it like the back of his hand. Having recently developed a love of nature-based literature, he showed me an expansive collection of birding books. But after some browsing, I ended up opting for a romance called Funny You Should Ask by Elissa Sussman (great book by the way.) We talked briefly as I was checking out, and I talked about being in a moment of upheaval. He looked me over and recommended The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, a fantasy book about being lost in your own life, and the best recent contender for an instant classic that I’ve read. As I left, I found Patrick outside feeding a local dog and thought it best not to disturb him. Bronx
River Books, 37 Spencer Place, Scarsdale, NY
It was a Tuesday morning and people were bustling in and out, several of them stopping to talk to the owners, a lovely older couple named Mark and Jessica who told me a bit about the store’s history as I browsed. They recently celebrated the store’s four-year anniversary. At the time of their opening, they were the newest independent bookseller in Westchester by a decade. They’re still going strong, with a huge selection of around 17,000 titles, about 15,000 of those endorsed by customers. The owners showed me some investigative journalism on the IRA, as well as Fifty Inventions that Shaped the Modern Economy by Tim Harford, and Skippy Dies by Paul Murray. This place seems to have a slight propensity for UK literature, which I can’t help but find endearing. Under each of these titles, the owners had placed a handwritten review. But I was most excited to see that they had a sports section, specifically baseball. I walked out with The Ultimate New York Mets Time Machine Book by Martin Gitlin and another Mets-based So Many Ways to Lose by Devin Gordon, a perfect book for any baseball fan that likes to laugh or cry along with the losing team.
The Village Bookstore, 10 Washington Ave, Pleasantville, NY
This bookstore felt intimate, not only because of its cozy size, but because it heavily features local Westchester authors, and several signed titles. This place is especially well-suited for those who love YA, something underrepresented in many independent bookstores. It’s one of their biggest sections, even going so far as to celebrate the “new classics,” which is how I ended up with a copy of Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. Every section has at least a few handwritten book recommendations for the unsure reader, even among their puzzles section and children’s picture books. But the crown jewel of this bookshop is their curated poetry selection, where I found The Way Back Home by Courtney Peppernell, a novella told through a series of poems about coming together as a community to rebuild after a time of great separation.
Scattered Books, 29 King St, Chappaqua, NY
I saved my personal favorite for last. For those easily overwhelmed by choice, this is the place for you. Their collection is small, by select, every book a solid choice. There only have three sections: Penguin Classics, books on display, and books sorted alphabetically by author. It’s a great place for hidden gems. The atmosphere is cozy, with comfortable seating if you want to curl up and read. They have bunnies too! If you’re lucky, one much cuddle up while you’re perusing the shelves. They regularly have events with local authors, including book signings, Q&A’s, and launch events. The clerks are kind and happy to help you find a title you might not even know you’re looking for. A book I found there was Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, which employs jaw-dropping prose to pose an enthralling new take on the backstory behind Shakespeare’s classic, Hamlet.
I hope you found this local guide helpful. It is important, as participants in our local economy, to be aware of what businesses we are supporting with our patronage. I hope the next time your shelves are feeling empty, you opt for one of these smaller businesses to fill them.