In this tour of the Mile High City, novelist Jenny Shank visits the sites, writing groups, organizations, and presses that keep her hometown’s literary spirit alive in the bootstrapping tradition of those “roaring drunken miners” who founded it.
Donald Herald Rare Books, Prints & Maps offers antiquarian books and prints in the areas of botany, ornithology, natural history, Americana and Canadiana, Native Americans, voyages and travels, maps and atlases, photography, and more. The shop was founded in England in 1972, and they are renowned for their extensive print inventory, including the complete print stock of Ackermann & Son of London, established in 1783.
Printed Matter, Inc., a nonprofit organization located in Chelsea, is one of the world’s largest publicly available sources for artists’ books. The organization has an open submission process, inviting artists and independent publishers to submit their books for sale, and maintains a busy programming calender featuring exhibitions of contemporary and historically significant artists’ books, talks, book launches, and more.
In 2009, Brian Leitgeb and his wife opened Mast Books on Avenue A in New York City’s East Village. The shop’s prices remain modest and affordable, and the collection of used books reflects Leitgeb’s personal taste—including literary fiction and poetry.
Pete’s Tavern, the oldest continuously operating tavern in New York City (founded in 1864), was famously the refuge of short story writer O. Henry (aka William Sydney Porter). He supposedly wrote “The Gift of the Magi” in a booth at Pete’s in 1905, back when the tavern was known as Healy’s.
Owner Sylvia Levy says her shop is both “the best book store and the worst in the neighborhood” because it’s the only one left. Since 1975, the bookstore has stocked new and used books for Sheepshead Bay locals catering to the over half-dozen nearby yeshivas and carrying another half a million books. A family-run business, the Levys provide a valet service delivering books to drivers on busy Coney Island Avenue.
The BookMark Shoppe was originally located in Dyker Heights before moving to the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn. Owned and operated by Christine Freglette and Bina Valenzano, who have been friends since junior high school, this independent bookstore specializes in fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books. Next day orders are available at no extra charge.
The City of Books, as the four-story flagship store in Portland, Oregon, is known, occupies an entire city block, and carries more than one million books. Each month, the Basil Hallward Gallery (located upstairs in the Pearl Room) hosts a new art exhibit, as well as dozens of author events featuring acclaimed writers, artists, and thinkers.
Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop is New York’s only all poetry bookstore. They sell poetry books and chapbooks, celebrate art, creativity, performance, and the handmade, and are a partner to many small presses local to Brooklyn, around the country, and worldwide. The shop is a place to read, to hear poets read, to meet poets and readers, and to join a community.
With the strong support of the Morningside Heights community and the faculty and administration of Columbia University, Book Culture is a true community bookstore. Founded in 1997, the store features new and classic fiction and nonfiction, cookbooks, mystery novels, graphic novels, home and craft books, and travel guides. They host numerous readings and literary events throughout the year.