Frieze Week: Independent Bookstores

The Met’s Self-Styled ‘Museum Mammy’, Kimberly Drew reveals her top five

BY Kimberly Drew in Frieze New York | 26 APR 18

192 Books and Printed Matter, 192 10th Avenue, 231 11th Avenue
Nestled in Chelsea, 192 is where you’ll find that beautiful book that you may rarely read, but will most definitely post on your Instagram story. Founded by gallerist Paula Cooper and her husband, it has incredibly helpful (perhaps-too-helpful) staff, who’ll help you find that book you spotted on the L train between 1st Avenue and Bedford Avenue or the one you can send to your parents to prove the money you spent on your MFA paid off. As a bonus, it’s also a short walk from here to the altogether chiller Printed Matter.

Unnameable Books
600 Vanderbilt Avenue
Small, but mighty, this Prospect Heights gem is probably your favorite writer’s favorite bookshop. Stacks of books line the walls and floors: take time to look slowly, judge some books by their cover, and fall in love. When you’ve found the books you did not know you needed, but suddenly cannot live without, wander down Vanderbilt Avenue for lunch at Chuko Ramen  but first, don’t miss Unnameable’s top rank selections of zines on the way to the register.

Better Read Than Dead
867 Broadway
It’s unlikely that you’d casually find yourself at Better Read than Dead – but you’d be glad you did. For the rest of us, a bit of bravery is required to enter the nondescript alleyway tucked beneath the JMZ train at Myrtle Avenue, but once inside the repurposed shipping container that houses this teeny shop you’ll find an excellent (and intellectually generous) selection of “the classics” at prices that won’t break the bank. A place to be reminded of the sweet joys of the book hunt, it’s also the perfect store to hit for solace when your favorite author passes away  there’s every chance the owners and well-read staff will be mourning them too.

Revolution Books
As exhibitions of black radical artists like ‘Soul of a Nation’ and ‘We Wanted a Revolution’ travel to museums across the countries, it’s important to read these artists’ literary compatriots too. The selection at Revolution Books  a must-see stop if you’re heading uptown  speaks to the essence of black radical tradition: the urgency of recording black life. The libraries of black scholars begin in shops like this one. Look slowly and breathe in the decades of genius on each shelf. It’s just two blocks away from The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, too.

Housing Works Café
126 Crosby Street
If you’re not up-to-speed on the lifesaving services of Housing Works, the Housing Works Café probably stocks a book that can inform you. Just a few blocks from the New Museum, this revolutionary space has a programming alendar that will give your brain a ceiling to floor makeover. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll spend your Saturday nights trying to become a poet. Largely composed of donations, the café’s collection boasts artist books, LPs, and novels  and 100% of the profits goes to ending the twin crises of AIDs and homelessness in NYC.

Kimberly Drew is a writer, curator and advocate based in New York, USA. She is the co-editor, with Jenna Wortham, of Black Futures (2020).