Despite all the not-so-great news on the brick-and-mortar front, New York still has great bookstores. Some are household names even — from The Strand to McNally Jackson. If you’re prowling for books in the city, you’ll probably be able to find something to suit your interests.
It may be premature to herald a true renaissance of the printed page, but it does seem anecdotally like more and more people are getting interested in books again. Social media surprisingly has a bit to do with it, as Gen Z might have resuscitated the romance novel, while bookstores across the country have sections dedicated to titles that have gone viral. On TikTok you’ll find #booktok and on Instagram there’s #bookstagram, two niches on the Internet that have exploded in popularity during the pandemic and even skyrocketed some authors’ careers.
With all of this in the background, a newly opened independent bookstore is cause for celebration for both those who might have recently discovered the joys of print, and those who have always shared the passion. Troubled Sleep in Brooklyn’s Park Slope is the latest opening in the Big Apple that has us feeling much better about the state of the book biz in 2022. The shop, which opened this summer at 129 Sixth Avenue, sells both new and used titles and like other great bookstores in the city is just a great way to kill an afternoon. InsideHook spoke to Troubled Sleep manager Alexander Brooks, about books, community and the coolest book he’s sold (so far).
InsideHook: What’s been the response from the community since you opened?
Alexander Brooks: The community response has been amazing. The neighborhood seems to be filled with writers and readers, and they’ve definitely been enthusiastic about us coming into the neighborhood, they’re definitely happy to see us.
IH: And where did the inspiration for the name come from?
AB: I wish I could tell you I remember how the name came about but I really don’t. It seems like a hit, and people seem to love it. It is the name of a novel by Satre, so that’s one connection. We were also thinking of naming the store Dead Souls but we didn’t want to be offensive to the church across the street.
IH: What’s the importance of a bookstore to a neighborhood?
AB: This is also a community space, and that’s hugely important. There’s always bars and cafes where people can congregate but in a bookstore it’s also about creativity and expanding your mind with new ideas. Our customers certainly think that that’s important, and we’re also creating the city that we want to see by encouraging people to use this space as a place for the community.
IH: Social media has been calling reading a new “trend,” do you think that that’s fair to say?
AB: I’m not really involved in social media myself, but I think that accounts of readings demise over the years have been greatly exaggerated. The book business has always stuck it out, and I know that readers and book lovers have really leaned into books instead of things like streaming or other forms of entertainment because of how much they love it. If more people want to keep reading, then that’s more people fighting harder for it.
IH: Are there any unique challenges in selling both used and new books?
AB: Selling used is definitely more of a challenge. With new books you can place orders for the store, while with used books you’re finding the books, you’re foraging for them. In a new bookstore, you can walk in and know what you’re going to get, but real book lovers and book collectors love used bookstores, there’s a feeling of excitement in seeking something out.
IH: What’s the coolest book you’ve sold recently?
AB: We sold this book from a Zimababwean author named Dambudzo Marechera, who’s pretty obscure, he’s not really an author you’d be able to walk in and find anywhere. But we had a copy of one of his books, and a customer came in and saw it and said that it was the first time they’d ever seen a Marechera book in person. That was pretty cool.
IH: What would you like to see for Troubled Sleep in a year?
AB: I’d want us to have regular customers that come in and find what they want, and I’d also want to say that we’re always getting new stuff in, so come in and find something new that you didn’t know you needed.
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