This week, the Paris Review let us in on a little secret — an illegal, speakeasy-style bookstore right here in our fair city of New York. While we try to hunt down the exact coordinates in hopes of a good read (and a good story), we thought we’d tally a few of our favorite unconventional and unusual bookstores from around the world, whether they be aquatic, underground, holy or just plain strange looking. After all, even us indie-bookshop devotees could use a little extra weirdness in our lives, and in our novels. Click through to see our picks, and let us know if we’ve left your favorite unconventional bookstore off the list!
A literary speakeasy of sorts, those in the know have been whispering about Michael Seidenberg’s secret for ages. After the rent at his Brooklyn retail space (that once employed Jonathan Lethem) shot through the roof, Seidenberg moved his secondhand bookshop to his first floor Upper East Side apartment, where it exists under the radar, unknown even to many who live in his building. “Secondhand bookshops have been banished from the city,” he says. “There’s no place for them. People say, ‘Oh, did Barnes & Noble put you out? No, real estate put me out.’” And as for the cachet of a secret bookstore? “This would have not been my ideal,” he says. “I wouldn’t have thought, ‘I want to have a bookshop in a that location no one knows about.’” True enough, though if you want to visit Seidenberg’s shop, all you have to do is call him and make an appointment. He’s in the phone book, if you can find one.
Photos by Andrew David Watson.