All book lovers know the siren call of the $1 book cart — that sidewalk treasure chest of 1950s etiquette manuals, out-of-print Baby-Sitter’s Club books, and stray bestsellers. For my fellow thrifty bibliophiles, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite carts (plus the odd table or rack) in New York. Feel free to add your own in the comments (anyone visit the new Bushwick bookstore?), and remember to keep your eyes peeled for those free stoop books.
Book Thug Nation (Williamsburg)
This is my personal favorite discount cart because its inventory changes almost every other day. I’ve found a handful of YA favorites from childhood, along with a couple of recent releases with pristine dust jackets. Tip for the truly thrifty: head across the street to Mast Brothers for free samples of their mind-blowing chocolate.
Unnameable Books (Prospect Heights)
Everything about this tiny bookshop is a book nerd’s wet dream: cramped shelves, a quaint basement for readings, and a big, comfy leather chair. If you're into art books or Penguin classics, these are the carts for you.
Argosy Book Store (Midtown East/UES)
This bargain table is as classy and refined as the store itself. I’ve found old paperback copies of Russian and English classics in perfect condition, all for $1-3. They also have a beautiful selection of discount art prints, each one begging to be displayed right next to your Weird Al poster.
Community Bookstore (Park Slope)
This store’s take on a sale bin is somewhat different: bring in an old book and swap it for another for just $1. Describe your taste to one of the employees, and chances are they’ll have the perfect selection for you. Bonus: check out the iguana in the back room. He’s obviously quite literary.
It’s not just a $1 cart — it’s free. On certain days, anyway. Some of the books are galleys and some are the real deal. Much of it is YA, so feel free to unleash your inner child while browsing.
Westsider (Upper West Side)
It’s always worth the trek to the UWS for this place, formerly known as Gryphon Books. Along with old paperbacks, they have records, tapes, and videos of obscure artists waiting to impress the music snob in your life. And it's another great spot to find the odd Penguin classic.
Though not exactly a discount shelf, this Goodwill sells most of its paperbacks for a $1, and you can usually find recent hardbacks for $2-5. Since the donations come from the surrounding neighborhood, expect everything from hilarious sex guides to the entire Danielle Steel canon.
The Strand (Union Square)
Not surprisingly, the Strand wins for Most Sprawling Discount Racks. Rain or shine, you’ll always find people scavenging the long line of shelves outside of the store. I make a beeline for the 49-cent shelf, home to hundreds of fine crumbling paperbacks with the most delightful covers.
Alabaster (Union Square/Astor Place)
This small shop is often overshadowed by its behemoth neighbor (see directly above), but its wonderfully cramped shelves are not to be missed. The discount stacks out front are sometimes dauntingly high. If you’re a fan of mysteries, consider this your all-you-can-eat buffet.
Spoonbill & Sugartown (Williamsburg)
With its recent cameo in Girls, Spoonbill is quite the hotspot lately. Thankfully, they have maintained their two discount areas: the table out front, overflowing onto a small shelf immediately as you enter the store; and a messy shelf just outside the back door, with books whose prices “depend on how the employees feel that day.”
The Thing (Greenpoint)
Neat freaks: abandon all hope upon entering. This junk shop sells all its paperbacks for a dollar, but you’ll often have to climb over old paintings and elliptical machines to reach them. I bought a complete set of Harry Potter books here, along with an old birdcage — one-stop shopping!