New York is a city still blessed with many excellent independent bookstores (although there seem to be fewer and fewer. RIP, Coliseum Bookstore). But I never knew until recently how excellent the two on the Upper East Side were. A couple of weeks ago, I dusted off my passport and headed uptown—way uptown, to the East 90s. It was a gloomy Sunday, but something about walking into The Corner Bookstore on Madison (around 92nd St.) cheered me up. The window display was so pretty, the wood of the shelves so polished, and the light so golden. It was tiny and crowded; there were even children being read to in the children’s nook. The selection of cooking, art, and travel books impressively thorough—given the size limitation. While the fiction area was on the small side, it had the feel of an enlarged staff recommendations area. I hung out for a while, until I was worried that I looked like some strange loiterer, and then paid for my purchase, and took off.
Sadly, by the time I hit Crawford Doyle Booksellers, some ten blocks south, it was about to close up for the evening. This place was a bit dustier than The Corner Bookstore, but no less cozy and inviting. I was amazed to see how many NYRB Classics they had on display, in their own special area. Talking with the enthusiastic sales staff, it seemed that Christmas sales were not as strong as they’d wished. I hope things have picked up since.
From what I can tell, neither store has a website. Somehow I’m glad for this lack of accomodation to the twenty-first century. It seems right, and somehow very Upper East Side.