Wall-to-wall shelves of books line the spacious interior while jazz music and the murmur of voices from the adjoining café waft through the air. The atmosphere may be light, but the subjects contained within the books are heavy—they range from poetry to metaphysics, from travel guides to classic literary masterpieces.
This is McNally Jackson, an independent bookstore in SoHo. An incredibly reader-friendly and well-stocked getaway, McNally Jackson is welcoming to everyone, from art lovers to bibliophiles, hipsters to magazine flippers. Entire sections of the store are available for readers to sit down and peruse a book. Its artsy-smarty staff is willing and eager. Its shoppers seem to exude a calm, downtown vibe, embodying literati status without even trying.
While author readings take place on weekdays, some of McNally Jackson’s more notable events take place during the weekends to offer bookish visitors some food for intellectual thought. Today at 7 p.m., McNally Jackson will host a panel discussion entitled “How History Was Made: Books that Inspired a President,” featuring Eric Alterman, Laura Miller, David Samuels, Colm Toibin, and Susan Jacoby. The discussion will focus on some of President Barack Obama’s favorite books and the influence that the intense scholastic experience he had during college may have on his time in the White House.
On Feb. 14th, Esther Smith will offer a do-it-yourself approach to bookmaking by running a Valentine’s Day paper craft workshop. All events at McNally Jackson are free and open to the public.
Regardless of how appealing panels about the president and paper hearts may be, one must admit that the trip down to McNally Jackson demands more justification than a free and open event. Why bother spending precious minutes of the weekend visiting a small bookstore?
“I always come down here to feel like part of a dose of New York,” one customer said. She may have been talking about the neighborhood, and it is true that, surrounded by clothing stores and coffee shops on pedestrian-friendly streets, one feels like part of a community. Looking around McNally Jackson, however, listening to music and snippets of conversation, smelling the faint aroma of coffee, or hiding behind a good potential next read, one cannot help but think that she was commenting on the bookstore itself.
McNally Jackson is located at 52 Prince St. between Lafayette and Mulberry.