Many people might guess Balthazar's (Second Most Dangerous Spot in SoHo). But for a book-lover? Alarms and sirens should go off in the vicinity of 126 Crosby Street.
How in the world has it taken me so long to discover Housing Works Bookstore Cafe ? I have been in search of a comfortable, welcoming, well-stocked second-hand bookstore since moving to New York three years ago. Bring up "second-hand bookstore" and everyone shouts "Strand!" Well, yuck. I hate Strand. It's crowded, disorganized, and has the surliest employees on the planet. Ah, but Housing Works - yes!
Housing Works is comfortable and well-organized, plus friendly volunteers are there to assist. It reminds me of one of my favorite specialty bookstores, Partners & Crime in Greenwich Village (not a second-hand shop - but, lovely and comfy). Not only does Housing Works have a fabulous range of fiction, non-fiction, art books, music, and movies, 100% - yes, so they say, 100% - of the profits go to Housing Works, Inc. supporting people living with HIV/AIDS and homelessness.
Today I hit the jackpot. All books, music, and movies were 30% off. I needed to stock up for my upcoming R&R in upstate NY the week after Easter, and I'm on a tiny, teeny budget. Please. Like a bandit, I made out. Ten - yes, 10 - great books, $22.00, including two hardbacks (a volume of JM Barrie plays and a really wacky short-story collection) and eight trade paperbacks. All fine stuff. I'm particularly excited that I discovered a Josephine Tey I'd never read. How did that happen? Anyway, the loot is so fabulous that I just don't know where to begin.
I did not sample the "cafe" portion of the bookstore, as I'd grabbed a ginger-citrus hot tea at Balthazar's before storming the doors of Housing Works at noon (opening time on Saturday), but I suspect it's as fine as the book-selling aspect of the establishment. Next time, maybe, though I hate wasting time eating and drinking when there are so many books to explore.
Book-lovers, stay away. You will not be able to resist all those rascally little manuscripts grabbing at your sleeve, crying "Try me! Choose me!" Scary. Treacherous. You have been warned. And if you travel the #6 line, as I do, it's even more dangerous. Exit SW Lafayette at the Bleeker Street station, hang a left just past the BP station onto brick-paved Crosby Street, and there you are. Terrifyingly easy.
Protect yourself. Come armed with a sturdy tote bag. Fair warning.