Embark on a Literary Tour in New York City
It may be small, but many New Yorkers say Three Lives (154 W. 10th St) is the best bookstore in the city. In his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Hours, writer Michael Cunningham calls it ‘the most civilized place on earth.’ There’s a good selection of noteworthy new non-fiction and fiction, and a thorough choice of respected titles on the shelves. The staff are friendly and informed, and the atmosphere cozy. Browsing here is a book-lover’s dream.
The Strand (828 Broadway) and its ‘18 Miles of Books’ is one of the biggest and best-used bookstores in America. Negotiating your way among browsers and big tables piled high with books can try your patience, but most find it hard to leave without making a purchase.
The literary pedigree of Greenwich Village is undisputed. Over the last two centuries, the neighborhood has played a key role in American literature and is peppered with literary landmarks. Here are some to look out for:
The New School for Social Research (66 W. 12th St) opened in 1919 as a place for professors considered too liberal for the then-stiflingly traditional Columbia University. In the 1930s, it became a sort of university-in-exile for intellectuals fleeing Nazi Germany. Writers who have taught here include Joseph Heller, Edward Albee, WH Auden, Robert Frost, Joyce Carol Oates, Arthur Miller, and Susan Sontag.
Patchin Place is a pretty mews where e. e. cummings lived from 1923–62, entertaining the likes of TS Eliot, Ezra Pound, and Dylan Thomas. Djuna Barnes spent the last 40 years of her somewhat reclusive life here. In the early 1960s Edward Albee bought a converted carriage house at 50 West 10th Street where he wrote Pulitzer Prize-winning plays including A Delicate Balance. Historic watering hole The White Horse Tavern (567 Hudson St), where Dylan Thomas had his infamous drinking spree a couple of days before he went most un-gentle into that good night, is today a favorite among students and assorted literati. At 9½ft in width, 75½ Bedford Street is the narrowest house in the Village, and was home to poet Edna St Vincent Malley from 1923–25. She also founded the Cherry Lane Theatre (38 Commerce St) just around the corner, where Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot was first staged. A little further east at no. 11, Washington Irving wrote The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in 1931.
Other literary landmarks in the neighborhood include 7 Washington Square North home to Edith Wharton in 1882, while no. 19 was the home of Henry James’s grandmother and a setting of his novel Washington Square; Louisa May Alcott lived at 130−132 MacDougal Street and penned Little Women here in 1880. In the 1930s and ’40s, the nearby Minetta Tavern (113 MacDougal St), which began as a speakeasy became a favorite haunt among local luminaries. Following a Keith ‘Midas Touch’ McNally revamp, the picture-perfect brasserie is now a buzzing, fashionable (and hard to get into) restaurant.