NYC: Tips for Bookworms and Stationery Fans

A recent trip to New York for the wedding of my lovely friends Kelly and Jens was also a great chance to play the tourist with Ste, whose first visit it was to the city. We did all the usual things and some less usual (more on those later), but the poor boy also had to put up with me dragging him round to places that, for me, are the real NYC.

Like the obligatory stock up on some quality basics at Century 21, or a browse around Wholefoods (yes, I know we have them in London too, but in America they just have different cool stuff okay?! Foreign grocery stores have always fascinated me, especially the size of the pasta aisles in Italy!), or some window furniture shopping at Pottery Barn or West Elm.

Given my lifelong obsession with pens and papers and everything stationery and craft-related, Paper Presentation on W 18th between 5th and 6th Avenues was top of my list.

Front of store

I spent a good 45 minutes browsing the colourful racks of paper and card stock, all with matching envelopes, and the pens and the ribbons and the wrapping papers and the inks!

coloured envelopes

I was like a kid in a sweet shop and too excited to even remember how to work my camera, so sorry for the quality of my photos!

Coloured stationery

Even more exciting were all the Christmas baubles on display, and it was all I could do not to take one of every kind, but I didn’t much fancy their delicate glass chances with Heathrow airport’s baggage handlers. In the end I was very restrained and came away only with one set of paper and envelopes with a contrasting envelope liner in a pretty pastel colour. I’m desperate to write lots of letters on it now, so please do give me a shout if you’d like me to write to you!

After Ste had been enormously patient with me for nearly an hour and then paid for my stationery (lovely boyfriend!), I treated him to something yummy at the City Bakery, which had been recommended by my AirBnB host and I was happy to notice was next door.

front of bakery

I loved the double-height ceilings with period features like the innately carved pillars contrasting nicely with the more modern industrial look of the fittings. There was plenty of space to sit, despite half of the city tapping away furiously at laptops while slurping on giant bowls of coffee.

Inside City Bakery coffeeshop

If I lived here, this would be the sort of place I’d come to write. Big enough to be anonymous, with a delicious selection of freshly made savoury food for a welcome periodic distraction (including some huge pizzas). Ste and I were both tempted by the decadent-looking hot chocolate, as well as an Apple streusel muffin and a cookie to share. It was cold out and thus the extravagance was justified. Almost!

When we had fully thawed out and sated by baked goods, we ventured out once more to another of my favourite shops in the city, The Strand Bookstore.

Strand Bookstore, New York

They advertise having 18 miles of books, which seems a pretty big claim until you visit, and then you think “only 18?!”.

Inside the Strand Bookstore

It is a mecca for book lovers. Not only do they sell practically every new release you could want, they also have aisles and aisles of cheap secondhand books which can be picked up for a dollar or sometimes less.

One dollar books at the Strand Bookstore

My favourite section is the old books – I just love the smell of their pages. I know to some it is musty and horrible, but to me it evokes the generations of people that have read it, and the hidden history of each volume. I love the tactile leather bindings too.

Strand Bookstore

I could have spent hours in there too, but I felt that patience with my geeky obsessions might be on the verge of running out, so we had a quick browse and I managed to leave empty-handed (having stocked up on their pretty canvas bookbags last time I was here!).

These are my two favourite places for books and paper products, but do you know of any more in New York? Or what about in your own city? (In case I am visiting!) I could write several posts on my favourite London locations….perhaps I’ll save that for another day!

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7 thoughts on “NYC: Tips for Bookworms and Stationery Fans

  1. Ooooh! Please do write a post on your favourite London locations. I’m always interested in hidden treasures around London. One of my faves for stationary apart from the obvious Paperchase and Muji is Present & Correct in Islington http://www.presentandcorrect.com/
    You may be hard pushed to find a cleaner more beautiful stationary shop in London.

    And if you really love stationary and want to see some beauties, you could follow my sisters Pinterest board “I will never grow out of loving stationary” http://www.pinterest.com/blue_butterfli/i-will-never-grow-out-of-loving-stationary/

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    1. Uh oh. New Pinterest obsession coming up!
      I love Present and Correct too! I used to live in Angel, so my London locations will be heavily Islington/Bloomsbury/Central London based unfortunately. Maybe I can get some friends from other areas in London to recommend their favourite local places…then I can go shopping!!

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    1. That is a great quote! And so true – some of my favourite books are ones which transport you to another place or era which you could never experience otherwise. Another post on favourite books might have to be written at some point!

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  2. First, for the City Bakery — no food is too much on vacation (and the calories don’t count) — For the stationary store, how could you bear to leave? I would have been lost for more than an hour there just looking at all the different paper, let alone the accessories. You might as well have given up and gone home rather than try to get me out of the bookstore. Now I am inspired to see what kinds of stores like these we have in Atlanta. Can’t wait for your list of London. I have never been, so when I do get a chance I would love to see all the “hidden” parts not just the touristy parts.

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    1. Another blog post on the best things to do in London off the beaten tourist track coming up one day then! I guess I am lucky to live in a city so many people want to visit, and one with such amazing cultural treasures (because stationery shops ARE cultural treasures to me!).

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