New York has everything. From food to fun, this city caters to all wants, needs, and even some guilty pleasures. But in a place that can offer so much, it can be hard to choose exactly what you want, where to get it, or how to even start getting to know the city. So upon entering the Big Apple, I decided that I would explore it through what I know and love best - books.
That being said, I took some time during the summer to research (i.e. Google) some of the best known, least best known, should be known, and esoterically known bookstores throughout the Manhattan area (I would have expanded my search further, but I am afraid of taking the subway alone and going to bookstores on weekends was not an adventure my friends wished to accompany me on). While I could have gone to the average Barnes&Noble (which I'm not at all knocking because I completely love Barnes&Noble), I wanted to visit places that weren't chains or corporations or establishments (entirely). Places that felt a little more personal and a lot more New York.
To kickoff my big bookstore saga (in collaboration with the Zayat Scholarship I was graciously granted), I ventured to Rizzoli Bookstore.
Located at 1133 Broadway, Rizzoli Bookstore is described as a "storied bookstore in a townhouse specializing in illustrated tomes, literature & European magazines" (or at least thats how Google described it). The townhouse setting is very nice, but since I wasn't wearing glasses it was a little hard for me to notice at first. So I accidentally walked into the building next door and before I could ask for correct directions, I had to witness a security guard argue with a man who didn't feel the need to continuously show ID upon entering the facility (welcome to New York?)
But, once I was pointed one door over, I was able to finally experience the grandness of Rizzoli.
*Mon-Fri: 10:30am-8pm, Sat: 11am-7pm, Sun: 11am-6pm*
Maybe I've been living under a rock, but I've never been in a bookstore that played music over the loudspeakers. To me, that kinda defeats the purpose. So I was surprised to find that I liked the music in the background. From Solange to something that sounded like a 90s indie track to be played during the climatic emotional scene of a rom-com, it was nice. A cool contrast to the aged opulence of the royal looking shelves and candelabras. I overheard someone say "Today is busy for a Friday” so I’m assuming it’s a little less crowded in there usually. Now maybe this is just me, but I was a little intimidated when I first walked in. I was experiencing a little “fish out of water” vibe. New York and its features can ignite that feeling in a person. But once I found a seat (which I feel like they could use more of), I was good to go. I liked how the store was split into two sections - erasing any feelings of crowdedness or suffocation. And, like Google told me, there was a great selection of books, from an Italian section (triggering memories of my year in Florence) to a cooking section (triggering memories of how I can't cook as well as I think I can) to a children’s section (triggering memories of titles I’ve been dying to read but wouldn’t let myself buy - the buying portion wasn’t about me). There was a tour going on, but I couldn't grasp if it was given by the bookstore or a random NY attraction. What I could grasp was the awkwardness when the crowd of people stopped right in front of where I was reading and I made eye contact with one of the people (again, welcome to NY?). The employees themselves were a little loud (so loud that I originally thought they were annoying customers) which surprised me because I’m always extra cautious to be quiet when I’m in bookstores. But maybe the policy there is different and the employees truly enjoy where they work and what they do. That’s awesome! The ambience of Rizzoli and its atmosphere felt like two completely different things (the old design vs the modern music/vibes) and I honestly enjoyed that. I even got a little homework done despite the constant sounds (reading Paradise Lost in a book paradise can be added and then crossed of the bucket list). Afterwards, I found out that a classmate from NYUFlorence had been in Rizzoli the same day (another trigger, but excusable enough to guarantee my return soon). - 9/10