New Used Bookstore Opens in Williamsburg
Braving rainy, cold weather, over two hundred and fifty used book buyers, browers and bargain hunters attended the three-hour opening reception of Book Thug Nation, Williamsburg’s newest bookstore—and its first real used bookstore. While some attendees simply passed through, the majority of them stuck around, leafing through old paperbacks, sampling free wine and snacks and discussing anything from Bernhard to Paley to Lorca. Located on the ground floor of a new, modern-styled building on North 3rd Street between Wythe Street and Berry Avenue, the bookstore itself is small—the size of a very large bedroom—but substantive. Boasting “one of the best used fiction sections in NYC” on its website, the store backs it up with fervor: a quick glance at the DIY-constructed recycled wood bookshelves produces three copies of Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, old paperbacks of Kobo Abe, Knut Hamsun and Djuna Barnes, a nearly complete bibliography of Philip Roth, used copies of surprisingly recent releases such as Joshua Ferris’s Then We Came to the End and Jonathan Lethem’s Chronic City, as well as sections for Philosophy, Poetry and Mystery/Noir (just to name a few), used records, and a specially-curated used Computer Science section.
“There’s too much good stuff here,” remarked one would-be customer, Ari Messer, 29, who, after browsing the shelves, was apparently daunted by the selection and left empty-handed. Of course, this wasn’t the case for everyone, and more than a few reception-goers were observed plastic cup of free wine in one hand, stack of used, almost free books in the other—a surefire recession-era recipe for a successful Saturday night.
In light of such an extensive collection, it is surprising to realize that, prior to the opening of Book Thug Nation, Williamsburg had only one bookstore, Spoonbill and Sugartown—an excellent bookstore in its own right, their selection of art books and new books from small and independent presses is well-curated and recommended—but S&S has always been somewhat lacking as far as used material goes. Other than on the tables of booksellers on Bedford, it is difficult to find cheap copies of used books in Williamsburg. The selection of such books is often minimal; tables filled with ubiquitous titles from Hemingway, Kerouac, Henry Miller. However, the addition of bookthugnation to the neighborhood’s permanent literary landscape helps change this.
Described by co-owner Corey Eastwood as “the place where the street meets Swann’s Way,” Book Thug Nation has a unique beginning—having started, quite literally, on the street. Indeed, for the past six years, Eastwood has sold books on the street in New York City and, for the past year, he has sold books out of a van on Bedford Avenue with partner Josh Westfal (there are four partners and owners of Book Thug Nation: Chris Ramos, Aaron Cometbus [yes, the Cometbus of eponymous punk zine fame], along with Eastwood and Westfal). After a failed attempt a few years ago to secure a space in Greenpoint, the partners had put off the idea of doing a store until only the last few months. But this time things fell into place and here they are, Book Thug Nation. An interesting side-note: the store’s unique name originates from the term “book thug,” a term of endearment used by the partners to describe their best customers, who are, according to Eastwood, “worn, bedraggled, nearly defeated by a life in books, but still resolutely passionate!”
While Book Thug Nation will also continue operations from their van on Bedford (simply put, selling books on the street is more economically-feasible, particularly in these dire times), one of the primary benefits of having a permanent store will be to provide a community space for literary events. “There’s not enough space for the literary arts in Williamsburg,” notes Eastwood. Along with regular readings, the bookstore hopes to carry a wide selection of work from local writers and to serve as a community space for literary events, with what Eastwood describes as an “open-door policy.” Weekly events at Book Thug Nation will include a lecture series every Thursday and a movie night every Wednesday. Jonathan Reeve and crew are doing a poetry reading on November 7th.
Looking toward the future of Book Thug Nation, Eastwood says, “We hope to be an unpretentious space where anyone can come in front the cold, have a free cup of tea, listen to a record and talk about books, politics.”
Book thugs rejoice.