Taschen – I love Benedikt Taschen. The firm he founded in Cologne in 1980 is the most innovative art book publisher of our time. Taschen not only publishes beautifully designed art books at popular prices, but its series of dedicated flagship stores – there's one in Beverly Hills – have the best Clearance Sales you can imagine. I left the last one with two full shopping bags of books and wish I could have carried more.
Taschen publishes books at all prices, but it is best known for its lavish, large-scale books and its signed/collectible/celebrity books. I have huge, almost-as-big-as-a-coffee-table Taschens on Diego Rivera, Hieronymous Bosch, Piranesi, the circus, and quite a few individual artists and photographers. They also reprint essential classics like the complete CAMERA WORK, Alfred Stieglitz's famous photographic journal, and Guy Peellaert and Nik Cohn's ROCK DREAMS.
Along with Abrams and Abbeville and Phaidon, they are my favorite art book publishers.
Eighth Street Bookstore – When I was a teenager and would go from my home on Long Island "into the City," one of my favorite places to go was Greenwich Village. And being in the Village for me meant going to the 8th Street Bookstore. That's probably where I bought my first "Coney Island of the Mind" and my first "Howl." Then maybe onto a show at the Bitter End.
The Eighth Street Bookstore closed in 1979, but its tradition of smart, revolutionary, Village-y thinking is being carried on by Sean Wilentz, the son of one of the founding brothers. This Wilentz is a professor of history at Princeton, staunch Democrat and Clinton defender, and a music critic with a special interest in the work of Bob Dylan.
The Gotham Book Mart – "Wise Men Fish Here." I can't believe the Gotham Book Mart is gone. It was such a "holy" bookstore, famous for hosting meetings of the James Joyce Society, the Finnegans Wake Society, and being a salon as much as a bookstore. Lately, its fame has been rekindled by Patti Smith's memories of working there as a clerk in JUST KIDS. Other writers who worked at the Gotham Book Mart include Allen Ginsburg, LeRoi Jones, and Tennessee Williams, though Tennessee lasted less than a day. There was something very comforting about its disarray, its dusty confines. A major loss for literary New Yorkers.
The Tattered Cover – I spent a week in Denver once and went to the Tattered Cover twice. Once at the main store on Colfax Avenue, and once at the store in LoDo. Both these are really nice places to spend some time and buy some books, but the main store is especially cozy, with lots of armchairs and nooks for extended reading. They really make a customer feel welcome.
They also project a sense of "Here we are, a literary oasis in the land of cowboys and yahoos." They know what they have.
Edward Hamilton's catalog – I had a big Edward Hamilton habit for a while. He's the biggest source for remaindered books that I know of. There are a lot of bargains here. Beware!
Remember to support your local bookseller.
And if you haven't read my novel WHAT IT WAS LIKE yet, why not?
(That's only partially a joke.)