Pages with Patel: Alabaster Bookshop

By Nishtha Patel

via the Examiner
via the Examiner

Decades ago, 4th Ave was known as Book Row and numerous second-hand bookshops lined the streets. Now, in the year 2015, only one remains.

Walking down 4th Avenue between 12th and 13th street, it would be easy to miss the entrance for Book Row’s lone survivor, if not for the four $2 discount book racks outside. These carts house anything from a dusty volume of the “Tales of Sherlock Holmes” to a vintage copy of “Walden” from the ’40s, or even a brand new hardcover “Life of Pi.”

Upon entering the small store, one is greeted with stacks and stacks of books lining the shelves, standing incredibly tall from floor to ceiling. There are even books stacked on the floor. In some places, there isn’t room for two people to stand comfortably shoulder to shoulder.

Book subjects range from occult to psychology, from recent fiction to rare first editions of classics. The smell of musty books wafts through the air and the sound of instrumental jazz plays through the loud-speakers. The employees are very friendly and greet customers when someone enters. Browsing the shelves, one may find numerous decently priced titles — anything from “Lord of the Rings” to “Madame Bovary.” A true book lover’s paradise.

The employees are well-read and well-versed in books. I asked one for recommendations and left the store holding a stack of some of his favorites after spending a good 15 minutes discussing numerous authors. It is this fondness for books that makes Alabaster Bookshop stand out from the rest.

One of the most special things about this store is that the books are very genuine. When people come to sell their books, the employees look through each book to make sure it is worthy to display proudly in their store. As a result, there are thousands to peruse, from post-modern titles to rare first editions of Dickens, making it difficult to leave the shop.

Although it is a few blocks from The Strand and Barnes & Noble, this tiny bookshop attracts many customers, from bookworms to the curious wanderer. If you want to ditch the bigger book stores for a while, step into the comfortable atmosphere of Alabaster Bookshop and get lost in the books. This 4th Avenue gem will not disappoint.

Nishtha Patel is a contributing writer. Email her at books@nyunews.com.

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