- The Carts – Located in the center of the store are $1 & 50-cent carts. That’s right, for $1 or less you can pick-up some good books. Here’s how it works. People all over NYC donate books to the Housing Works. Some of these books are new-er releases, some are rare, or out-of-print, or valuable, OR some have been… let’s just say they’ve been “well-loved”. The latter, if they’re an interesting title (and a little worse for wear), go on the carts. It’s where I discovered Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban and Peter Alexeyevich Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution – two books I’d never have read otherwise (but am glad I did).
- Rare Books – Rare Books don’t always equal $$$. It could just be a book of no great value that’s hard to find or out of print. Either way, I’ve always found the prices at the Housing Works Bookshop to be reasonable and the books out of the ordinary. So be sure to check out the glass cases and the large format books behind the register.
- The 2nd Floor Balcony – Not only is it a great place to sit and wait for a friend (providing a strategic vantage point of everyone exiting and entering the store), the balcony is also where they keep the non-fiction. Go explore a section you wouldn’t normally think of. My personal favorite is religion: where books on Judaism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity sit spine-to-spine without conflict.
- Selection – All the books in this shop are donated. So, whereas most bookshops give staff recommendations, the Housing Works gets its recommendations from the residents of the city. The result is an eclectic and slightly eccentric collection of books which is constantly changing. (I’m not exaggerating, volunteers restock the shelves hourly). For my money, this is the best bookshop in the city for browsing – I never leave empty-handed. And, more often than not, the books I buy are by authors or in subjects I wasn’t even thinking about when I walked in.
- Café – I know, I know… every bookstore has a café now. But I still have a soft-spot for this one. It’s located in the back of the store right next to the fiction shelves (granted this probably wouldn’t be my first choice. It does get a little crowded back there). The tables and chairs are pretty beat up. Still it has a certain charm. Seating is limited and it helps to be open to sharing. If there’s an open chair at an otherwise occupied table – ask. You’ll usually get a seat, and maybe a decent conversation.
- “FIGHTING AIDS, ONE BOOK AT A TIME” – I love that slogan! The Housing Works operates the used book shop and multiple thrift shops all over Manhattan for a remarkably good cause. In their own words:
Housing Works is renowned for addressing the needs of people living with AIDS that other organizations deem “too challenging to serve.” By offering a comprehensive array of health, housing, AIDS prevention, legal and case management services, we help our clients to empower themselves and actively manage their HIV.
Money from every book you buy goes to help the people who desperately need it. It’s a unique opportunity to give back to the city you’re visiting – by indulging in something you love. It just doesn’t get any better than that.
The Housing Works Used Bookshop is located at 126 Crosby Street, right off of Houston Street.