Words and Illustration by Haley Houseman.
With a lively social media presence and supportive atmosphere, McNally Jackson is out to save the bookstore scene in Manhattan. As high rents and slow business have forced older, well respected bookstores to close on the island, McNally Jackson thrives downtown in the Village. The space is perpetually busy, filled with bibliophiles of all ages and tribes. You’ll be lucky if you can snag a table in their small but well stocked cafe area, appointed with book-themed mobiles and furnishings. Even if you do manage to get a seat, don’t plan on camping out. McNally Jackson is resolutely wifi-free; anyone working on their computer or device is typing away madly, or reading offline. Instead of checking your email, use the cafe to comb through a tall stack of the many publications the cities “friendliest book mongers” have to offer.
On the first floor, aside from the cafe, readers can find fiction organized by the author’s country of origin. An excellent section dedicated to literary travel writing and travel guides takes up the back of the store. Not just stocked with Lonely Planet and other standard guides, there are shelves of literary travel writing from prestigious anthologies and individual writers. Find everything from classics Pico Iyer and Paul Theroux to more unusual pieces like Alain de Botton’s Art of Travel. Other sections upstairs include a well curated selection of contemporary fiction, nonfiction, and art books, as well as one of the best selections of imported and independent magazines in the city.
Downstairs features a large kids’ section, including a small playhouse which doubles as puppet theater, and a variety of book shelves organized by grade. Aside from housing the poetry, science fiction, and nonfiction books, the downstairs also has a large worktable for patrons to use. The community-focused space is host to children’s readings, and various literary events including author lectures and signings.
Alongside the bookstore, the space houses a cafe and something quite unique: an Espresso bookpress, allowing patrons to print books on demand, as well as self-publish literature in small or large runs. The bookstore stocks a selection of these next to the press, and elsewhere in the store you can find large selections of chapbooks and small literature. If you can’t visit the store in person, the website is filled with recommendations and lists. Thanks to the savvy of its owner, Sarah McNally, the store is also active on social media sites such as Tumblr and Facebook, making it a great resource to the remote reader.