Type of Place: Books
Description: Still cold out: check. Important moment in American history: check. Choice time to curl up with a good book that will help expand your historical and political knowledge, check, for sure; and the Alabaster Bookshop is here for you.
The shop is exactly what you'd imagine that a used-book shop in NYC should be, complete with a resident cat and a "Grandma's attic" kind of vibe (if Grandma's an avid reader who leans toward politics and art, that is). Though the place is small, there's a sense of treasures to be found on the crowded shelves.
Some that I found: "Benjamin Franklin, An American Life," by Walter Isaacson ($12, hardcover); "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" ($4 for a softcover in great condition); and "Pacific War Diary 1942-1945: The Secret Diary of an American Sailor," by James J. Fahey--Fahey survived the war, typed up his journals years later, and saw them published in 1963 (I seem to have been too caught up in the story to record the price).
If you need an entertainment break, there's Stephen Davis' "Bob Marley" Davis (softcover, $8.50); "Streisand, A Biography," by Anne Edwards ($7, softcover); and "I Put a Spell on You," the autobiography of Nina Simone ($9, softcover).
Fashionistas will love "Walking Dreams: Salvatore Ferragamo," a beautiful hardcover with biographical info about the Italian shoe guru and plenty of photos of his work (once again, I was apparently too wrapped up in the product to record the price, but I didn't see any price tags in the shop that did not strike me as reasonable).
Speaking of shoes: Carrie Bradshaw's godmamma, Candace Bushnell, has a few novels here ($5.50 for hardcovers). And if, like Carrie and millions of nonfictional others, you wonder how you're going to afford to live in this city and, say, also afford to eat, Steven Gaines' "Passion and Property in Manhattan" (hardcover, $9.50, in the shop's thought-provoking "New York" section) is a unsparing look at the money, status, and sometimes flat-out discrimination involved in NYC co-ops.
Longing for a classic? You'll never go wrong with George Eliot's "Middlemarch" (softcover, $6)--engrossing enough to be a quick read despite its length, and just right for winter nights.
On your way out (or in), take a chance on the outdoor book racks, where everything's $2.
If you've got your own stacks of books that you'd like to turn over, bring them in to sell--they may be just what someone else is looking for. Bundle up, happy hunting, and especially happy relaxing with a compelling read, preferably under a blanket. Who says winter doesn't have its charms? -Pamela Grossman; Jan 25, 2009
122 4th Avenue
(12th St & 13th Sts)
New York, NY 10003