“Small Business Saturday” is this coming Saturday, a day to promote the independent retailers and other businesses that enrich our neighborhoods.
To help you help our local small businesses, we’ve compiled a list of books that we have featured this year at our free public programs, along with local bookstores where you can buy them — this coming Saturday November 24th, or any day!
Ours to Lose: When Squatters Become Homeowners
Though New York’s Lower East Side today is home to high-end condos and hip restaurants, it was for decades an infamous area of blight, open-air drug dealing, and class conflict—an emblematic example of the tattered state of 1970s and ’80s Manhattan.
Those decades of strife, however, also gave the Lower East Side something unusual: a radical movement that blended urban homesteading and European-style squatting in a way never before seen in the United States. Ours to Lose tells the oral history of that movement through a close look at a diverse group of Lower East Side squatters who occupied abandoned city-owned buildings in the 1980s, fought to keep them for decades, and eventually began a long, complicated process to turn their illegal occupancy into legal cooperative ownership. Amy Starecheski here not only tells a little-known New York story, she also shows how property shapes our sense of ourselves as social beings and explores the ethics of homeownership and debt in post-recession America.
A Bohemian Love Affair: Floyd Dell and Edna St. Vincent Millay
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten*
One hundred years ago, Bohemian author and editor of the radical Masses magazine, Floyd Dell, began a passionate affair with a newcomer to Greenwich Village – the yet to be discovered “girl poet” Edna St. Vincent Millay. In the years that followed, both Dell and Millay became symbols of early 20th century feminism, rebellion and literary freedom.
A century later, while poring over her grandfather Floyd’s papers at Chicago’s Newberry Library, Jerri Dell discovered hundreds of handwritten letters and an unpublished memoir about his love affair with Millay. Finding him as outlandish, entertaining and insightful as he was when she knew him fifty years before, she chose to bring him and his poet lover back to life within the pages of this book.
My candle burns at both ends
It will not last the night*
Admirers of Edna Millay, as well as Bohemian Village enthusiasts and readers interested in writers who famously influenced social norms, are sure to enjoy this eyewitness account of a fascinating woman and exceptional poet.
*Excerpts from Sonnet XLIII and First Fig by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Native New Yorkers: The Legacy of the Algonquin People of New York
The most complete history to date of the early Algonquin civilization that flourished in the area which is now New York City.
In this vivid and compelling novel, Tim Murphy follows a diverse set of characters whose fates intertwine in an iconic building in Manhattan’s East Village, the Christodora. The Christodora is home to Milly and Jared, a privileged young couple with artistic ambitions. Their neighbor, Hector, a Puerto Rican gay man who was once a celebrated AIDS activist but is now a lonely addict, becomes connected to Milly and Jared’s lives in ways none of them can anticipate. Meanwhile, Milly and Jared’s adopted son Mateo grows to see the opportunity for both self-realization and oblivion that New York offers. As the junkies and protestors of the 1980s give way to the hipsters of the 2000s and they, in turn, to the wealthy residents of the crowded, glass-towered city of the 2020s, enormous changes rock the personal lives of Milly and Jared and the constellation of people around them. Moving kaleidoscopically from the Tompkins Square Riots and attempts by activists to galvanize a true response to the AIDS epidemic, to the New York City of the future, Christodora recounts the heartbreak wrought by AIDS, illustrates the allure and destructive power of hard drugs, and brings to life the ever-changing city itself.
Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost Its Soul
For generations, New York City has been a mecca for artists, writers, and other hopefuls longing to be part of its rich cultural exchange and unique social fabric. But today, modern gentrification is transforming the city from an exceptional, iconoclastic metropolis into a suburbanized luxury zone with a price tag only the one percent can afford.
A Jane Jacobs for the digital age, blogger and cultural commentator Jeremiah Moss has emerged as one of the most outspoken and celebrated critics of this dramatic shift. In Vanishing New York, he reports on the city’s development in the twenty-first century, a period of “hyper-gentrification” that has resulted in the shocking transformation of beloved neighborhoods and the loss of treasured unofficial landmarks. In prose that the Village Voice has called a “mixture of snark, sorrow, poeticism, and lyric wit,” Moss leads us on a colorful guided tour of the most changed parts of town—from the Lower East Side and Chelsea to Harlem and Williamsburg—lovingly eulogizing iconic institutions as they’re replaced with soulless upscale boutiques, luxury condo towers, and suburban chains.
Propelled by Moss’ hard-hitting, cantankerous style, Vanishing New York is a staggering examination of contemporary “urban renewal” and its repercussions—not only for New Yorkers, but for all of America and the world.
The Street Gangs of the Lower East Side
With “The Street Gangs of the Lower East Side,” Jose Cochise Quiles and Clayton Patterson provide a brutally honest, self-reflective and moving account of one person’s struggle to break the cycle of violence and poverty since birth through creativity and compassion for others in the East Village / Lower East Side. Quiles pulls no punches about the experiences that took him from gang leader to an historian of gangs, artist, and author who creates with a joyous yet desperate edge, for the sake of sheer survival.
Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898
To European explorers, it was Eden, a paradise of waist-high grasses, towering stands of walnut, maple, chestnut, and oak, and forests that teemed with bears, wolves, raccoons, beavers, otters, and foxes. Today, it is the site of Broadway and Wall Street, the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty, and the home of millions of people, who have come from every corner of the nation and the globe.
In Gotham, Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace have produced a monumental work of history, one that ranges from the Indian tribes that settled in and around the island of Manna-hata, to the consolidation of the five boroughs into Greater New York in 1898. It is an epic narrative, a story as vast and as varied as the city it chronicles, and it underscores that the history of New York is the story of our nation. Readers will relive the tumultuous early years of New Amsterdam under the Dutch West India Company, Peter Stuyvesant’s despotic regime, Indian wars, slave resistance and revolt, the Revolutionary War and the defeat of Washington’s army on Brooklyn Heights, the destructive seven years of British occupation, New York as the nation’s first capital, the duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, the Erie Canal and the coming of the railroads, the growth of the city as a port and financial center, the infamous draft riots of the Civil War, the great flood of immigrants, the rise of mass entertainment such as vaudeville and Coney Island, the building of the Brooklyn Bridge and the birth of the skyscraper. Here too is a cast of thousands–the rebel Jacob Leisler and the reformer Joanna Bethune; Clement Moore, who saved Greenwich Village from the city’s street-grid plan; Herman Melville, who painted disillusioned portraits of city life; and Walt Whitman, who happily celebrated that same life. We meet the rebel Jacob Leisler and the reformer Joanna Bethune; Boss Tweed and his nemesis, cartoonist Thomas Nast; Emma Goldman and Nellie Bly; Jacob Riis and Horace Greeley; police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt; Colonel Waring and his “white angels” (who revolutionized the sanitation department); millionaires John Jacob Astor, Cornelius Vanderbilt, August Belmont, and William Randolph Hearst; and hundreds more who left their mark on this great city.
Store Front II: A History Preserved: The Disappearing Face of New York
James and Karla Murray have been capturing impeccably accurate photographs of New York City since the 1990s. In the course of their travels throughout the city’s boroughs they’ve also taken great care to document the stories behind the scenery. The Murrays have rendered the out-of-the-way bodegas, candy shops, and record stores just as faithfully as the historically important institutions and well-known restaurants, bars and cafes. From the Stonewall Inn to the Brownsville Bike Shop and The Pink Pussycat to Smith and Wolensky, the Murrays reveal how New York’s beleaguered mom & pop business stand in sharp contrast to the city’s rapidly evolving corporate facade. The authors’ landmark 2008 book, Store Front, was recently cited in Bookforum’s 20th Anniversary issue as having “demonstrated the paradoxical power of digital photo editing to alter actual views in order for us to see more clearly what is really there.” James and Karla Murray live in New York City and were awarded the New York Society Library’s prestigious New York City book award in 2012 for their last book, New York Nights.
A Generous Vision: The Creative Life of Elaine de Kooning
The first biography of Elaine de Kooning, A Generous Vision portrays a woman whose intelligence, droll sense of humor, and generosity of spirit endeared her to friends and gave her a starring role in the close-knit world of New York artists. Her zest for adventure and freewheeling spending were as legendary as her ever-present cigarette.
Flamboyant and witty in person, she was an incisive art writer who expressed maverick opinions in a deceptively casual style. As a painter, she melded Abstract Expressionism with a lifelong interest in bodily movement to capture subjects as diverse as President John F. Kennedy, basketball players, and bullfights.
In her romantic life, she went her own way, always keen for male attention. But she credited her husband, Willem de Kooning, as her greatest influence; rather than being overshadowed by his fame, she worked “in his light.” Nearly two decades after their separation, after finally embracing sobriety herself, she returned to his side to rescue him from severe alcoholism.
Based on painstaking research and dozens of interviews, A Generous Vision brings to life a leading figure of twentieth-century art who lived a full and fascinating life on her own terms.
Lou Reed: A Life
As lead singer and songwriter for the Velvet Underground and a renowned solo artist, Lou Reed invented alternative rock. His music, at once a source of transcendent beauty and coruscating noise, violated all definitions of genre while speaking to millions of fans and inspiring generations of musicians.
But while his iconic status may be fixed, the man himself was anything but. Lou Reed’s life was a transformer’s odyssey. Eternally restless and endlessly hungry for new experiences, Reed reinvented his persona, his sound, even his sexuality time and again. A man of contradictions and extremes, he was fiercely independent yet afraid of being alone, artistically fearless yet deeply paranoid, eager for commercial success yet disdainful of his own triumphs. Channeling his jagged energy and literary sensibility into classic songs – like “Walk on the Wild Side” and “Sweet Jane” – and radically experimental albums alike, Reed remained desperately true to his artistic vision, wherever it led him.
The Gargoyle Hunters
With both his family and his city fracturing, thirteen-year-old Griffin Watts is recruited into his estranged father’s illicit and dangerous architectural salvage business. Small and nimble, Griffin is charged with stealing exuberantly expressive nineteenth-century architectural sculptures—gargoyles—right off the faces of unsung tenements and iconic skyscrapers all over town. As his father explains it, these gargoyles, carved and cast by immigrant artisans during the city’s architectural glory days, are an endangered species in this era of sweeping urban renewal.
Desperate both to connect with his father and to raise cash to pay the mortgage on the brownstone where he lives with his mother and sister, Griffin is slow to recognize that his father’s deepening obsession with preserving the architectural treasures of Beaux Arts New York is also a destructive force, imperiling Griffin’s friendships, his relationship with his very first girlfriend, and even his life.
One Track Mind: Drawing the Village Subways
For decades, Philip Ashforth Coppola has meticulously documented the New York City subway in a series of extraordinary drawings, detailing the terracotta mosaics, faience, and tile patterns that millions of riders pass by every day. Coppola’s drawings are what Hyperallergic calls “the most encyclopedic history of the art and architecture of the New York City subway system.” Along with Coppola’s intricate ink drawings are anecdotes he assembled through painstaking research involving hundreds of hours poring through microfilms to discover the names behind the artisanship of what is rightly called New York’s largest public art work—its legendary subway system.
My Name is New York: Ramblin’ Around Woody Guthrie’s Town
Visionary Women: How Rachel Carson, Jane Jacobs, Jane Goodall, and Alice Waters Changed Our World
This is the story of four visionaries who profoundly shaped the world we live in today. Together, these women—linked not by friendship or field, but by their choice to break with convention—showed what one person speaking truth to power can do. Jane Jacobs fought for livable cities and strong communities; Rachel Carson warned us about poisoning the environment; Jane Goodall demonstrated the indelible kinship between humans and animals; and Alice Waters urged us to reconsider what and how we eat.
With a keen eye for historical detail, Andrea Barnet traces the arc of each woman’s career and explores how their work collectively changed the course of history. While they hailed from different generations, Carson, Jacobs, Goodall, and Waters found their voices in the early sixties. At a time of enormous upheaval, all four stood as bulwarks against 1950s corporate culture and its war on nature. Consummate outsiders, each prevailed against powerful and mostly male adversaries while also anticipating the disaffections of the emerging counterculture.
All told, their efforts ignited a transformative progressive movement while offering people a new way to think about the world and a more positive way of living in it.
And you may ask where you can buy any or all of these books locally.
Here is a list of book retailers located in Greenwich Village, NoHo, and the East Village:
Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books, 34 Carmine Street (2014 Village Award winner)
Mercer Street Books, 206 Mercer Street
Three Lives & Company, 154 West 10th Street (1991 Village Award winner)
Book Book, 266 Bleecker Street
Strand Books, 828 Broadway at 12th Street
East Village Books, 99 St Marks Place
And if you have been good this year, you should buy one (or more) of these books for yourself!