In honor of this weekend‚Äôs¬†Book Tourism event, I‚Äôm posting a a couple of reviews this week of stores participants can visit during their eight hours of exploring Greenwich Village.
The entire five days I spent in New York City, I exited the subway station to the street and turned in the correct direction only once. ¬†Even when I thought ‘my instincts say it’s to the right, so I’ll go to the left,’ I went the wrong way. ¬†I was so sure I heading the correct direction down 19th Street to Idlewild Books that I walked blocks and blocks away from the store. ¬†It’s a lovely neighborhood, I know because I’ve seen it at a pedestrian’s pace. ¬†Actually, a little quicker. ¬†On the way back it started to sprinkle, then it started to rain, then hard, and I started to sprint. ¬†When I entered Idlewild Books I was dripping. ¬†I literally shook myself off on the landing like my golden retriever.
David, the owner of the store, asked “Did you forget your umbrella?”
I said, “I’m from Los Angeles, I don’t even own an umbrella.”
I’m sure the store is beautiful in any weather, but it is perfect for a stormy day. ¬†It exudes warmth. ¬†Check out the picture with the wooden floors, huge front window and bookshelves everywhere. ¬†There is an alcove or two for curling up in. ¬†In fact, the entire time I was there a man was diligently working on his laptop in a corner. ¬†In Los Angeles, he would be a screenwriter, but since I was in New York I assumed he was writing the next Great American Novel (no, it wasn’t Franzen).
I hesitate to say that Idlewild Books is a travel bookstore because I fear that the title invokes the travel section at Borders with sloppy shelves of guidebooks. ¬†Idlewild Books has guidebooks (they looked neatly organized), but its charm is as an advocate for traveling with or through literature. ¬†In the last 18 months, I think I’ve purchased about a dozen books there (a set for each family vacation) and only one was a guidebook that David practically had to beg me to buy when he found out I loved Italian art. ¬†My experience has been to tell David where I’m going and what I’m interested in and he tells me the books that will add an entirely new dimension to the trip. ¬†I should add, it’s not just me, he recommends the books my teenagers will carry with them. ¬†[What we read on our latest family vacation, including David's suggestions, will be in a future post.]
The store is divided geographically with all the guidebooks, novels, YA, classics and non-fiction about the appropriate area in one location. ¬†By providing novels relevant to the literature, culture and history of various countries, the store is also a treasure trove of translated literature. ¬†When I was looking for books to read while traveling in Italy, it was from Idlewild Books that I found translated gems. ¬†Lately, they started offering language classes in the store. ¬†It’s one stop shopping-research traveling in a country, read it’s literature and learn its language-all at Idlewild Books.
If you can’t make it to the store, check out the website. ¬†I found the website focuses more on guidebooks than literature for some areas, for those countries I recommend calling the store directly and ask for recommendations. ¬†Give it a try, you’ll find that ‘you are there’ reading (to quote Anne Fadiman) enriches your trip.
12 W 19th Street
New York, NY 10011