The Mysterious Bookshop

I went on a fun adventure yesterday in lower Manhattan. I only recently ran upon information regarding The Mysterious Bookshop. For the life of me, I can’t remember how or where but all I knew was that I needed to make a trip.

Because I’m a stone broke writer, I told myself that if anything, I may purchase one paperback. Of course, this did not happen and I walked out of the store with 3 books.

  1. What’s So Funny? by Donald E. Westlake — A few years ago, I read The Hunter by Richard Stark (a pseudonym of Westlake’s). It was fantastic. If you are really interested in voice and stripped down prose, check it out.
  2. Entanglement by Zygmunt Miłoszewski — I saw the author speak at the Center for Fiction recently and the moderator seemed really taken with this young writer and his novel.
  3. Hitler’s Peace by Philip Kerr — I am not familiar with Kerr but I do love a good WWII thriller. The clerk said that Kerr was great but I wasn’t sure if I could invest in his monumental trilogy called Berlin Noir. If I like this little novel, I will venture back to The Mysterious Bookshop and take a look.

from Google

The store only sells mysteries and crime novels. The walls are stocked from floor to ceiling with books, both paperback and hardcover. Some are signed by the authors and vintage books (read: pulp) are displayed in the center of the room. You will find no hipsters here. This is for real fans of the crime genre and newcomers who are interested in a suspenseful tale. If you tell the clerks what you are interested in or you are brave enough to admit ignorance, the knowledgeable staff can lead you in the right direction. When perusing the shelves, I noticed names that stood out instantly (Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett, Arthur Conan Doyle) but of course the walls were littered with novels I knew nothing of.

from Google

Unlike the conglomerate bookstore experience one could get from a Barnes & Noble, The Mysterious Bookshop felt like the owner’s private library. I was comfortable gazing through the massive inventory and I wasn’t approached by anyone asking if I had questions. When I did have a query, I went to the clerk’s desk and he happily helped me there with the aid of a computer (sorry, I’m a curmudgeon who doesn’t like to be bumrushed the moment I enter a store). There was no coffee shop, there was no decorative birthday card section. It was just pure books. Simple and to the point. Unfortunately, the only downer was that like most independent bookstores (at least in NYC) the new books were priced at retail. I’ll let it slide this time because I’m a firm believer in supporting local booksellers but it’s a hard price to pay on a regular basis.

Also, check out their publishing imprint, Mysterious Press, that brings “classic works of crime to digital reading formats.”

58 Warren Street, New York, NY, 10007 

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28 comments

  1. Thanks! I love mysteries, crimes and thrillers so it was a perfect Saturday afternoon. I definitely recommend a visit for any New Yorker who loves books or any travelers visiting our fair city. I updated the post with their address: 58 Warren Street, New York, NY, 10007

    1. Definitely a must. Lower Manhattan is all about Wall Street and upscale shopping, so it’s nice that an interesting independent bookseller still exists there. They also have readings featuring great writers. Check the schedule the next time you’re on a visit.

  2. I love NYC and their bookshops. From Forbidden Planet, to The Strand, to the Mysterious Bookshop… all wonderful.

    And as someone who works at a corporate bookshop as a consolation prize for not getting a job at Powell’s here in Portland… yeah, it’s a completely different feel. But the real joy is that makes those trips downtown all that much more special.

    1. The Strand is another dangerous place; it’s so difficult to walk out without at least 2 books. I’ve never been to Forbidden Planet but I’ve walked by it several times on the way to the Strand, I’ve always loved the film so I don’t know why I still haven’t dropped in. Maybe for another weekend bookstore adventure!

      I don’t mean to criticize corporate bookstores; I totally visit them because they are just another venue for me to enjoy books but the feel of a small store (especially, the Mysterious Bookshop) is just a completely different experience.

      **Also, for those visiting NYC, there are TONS of tiny, little bookshops in the east village around the Strand (Broadway & 12th). They are not unbearably packed like the Strand and you usually are the only one inside the well organized stacks. Have an adventure and walk around the ‘book district.’ **

  3. Nothing better than discovering quirky bookstores with unknown gems. The best store I ever found was down a quiet street in Paris where the books were piled almost to the ceiling and all the way down a narrow iron, spiral stairway.

    1. That’s so disappointing but at least you have one! A lot of our local, independent bookstores in NYC will ship to other parts of the country. I know the shipping is an extra bit (and probably are obscene NYC sales tax) but you would have a wider selection and be supporting our local booksellers. Here are a few I recommend:

      Westsider Books
      The Strand
      Bookcourt
      Center for Fiction bookshop
      Bookculture
      McNally Jackson
      HousingWorks (not sure if they sell online but they are a non-profit HIV/AIDS organization with only volunteers working in the store & cafe)
      Mysterious Bookshop (of course)

  4. Glad you enjoyed the tribute to George Whitman. If you would like to know more about him, look for the book, TIME WAS SOFT THERE by Jeremy Mercer. This young Canadian Journalist was a “Tumbleweed” at Shakespeare & Company and the book is about that time. A delightful read. In the UK it is published under another title: Books, Baguettes & Bedbugs.
    While I am not keen on Mysteries or Crime Novels, I never met a bookstore I didn’t like!
    Check out Montolieu. It is on my foundinfrance blog or you can just do a search of this magnificent village. Less than a thousand people and 18 bookstores, museums of printing, book-making, paper-making…

  5. This sounds like a good bookshop. I like it when they’re devoted to books, the staff read and they don’t jump on you like a guard dog as soon as you cross the threshold. Given time, readers will discover things to buy.

  6. I ended up here after getting a like of my blog. Enjoyed the Mysterious Bookshop and wish we had something similar in Savannah. We do have an independent bookshop that I need to revisit. I get lazy and run out of time…after reading this, I think I’ll head down there…thanks for a good read.

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