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The Secret Bookstore

July 12, 2011 | by

Watch this beautiful video about Brazenhead Books, a secret bookstore that’s been tucked away in Michael Seidenberg’s apartment on the Upper East Side ever since the rent for his original retail space in Brooklyn was quadrupled. (Jonathan Lethem used to work there.) “This would have not been my ideal,” he says. “I wouldn’t have thought I want to have a bookshop in a location no one knows about.” But Brazen says it’s a continuation of being the kind of bookseller he wants to be—not on the street, not at book fairs, but inside, the shelves lined with first editions, knickknacks, and, one hopes, a cat. “I don’t know if it’s my familiarity with failure,” he adds. “I find ways to survive without it making enough money to be what you would call a successful business. If it’s all about money, there’s just better things to sell.” And how do those of us who’ve never been find him? He’s in the phone book, he says with a smile. Hiding in plain sight.

There's No Place Like Here: Brazenhead Books from Etsy on Vimeo.

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  1. Sa'am Winkfield | July 12, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    BRAVO & KUDOS to you Mr. Seidenberg. Great & novel idea! As the saying goes >> “Necessity is the mother of invention”.
    Would love to visit your bookstore. My hats truly off to you.

    Much Success to You,
    Sa’am Winkfield

  2. Patricia Ann McNair | July 12, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    Such a really great idea. And so generous of Seidenberg as well.

  3. Bryan Fuhr | July 12, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. My day just got brigher.

  4. Emily M. Keeler | July 12, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    There’s some really great stuff about Sidenberg’s bookselling adventures in Lethem’s essay “The Beards” (from The Disappointment Artist):

    “I’d wandered into Michael’s shop one day, attracted not only by the used books which had already become my passion but by the oddness of a ramshackle enterprise which surely reminded me of my parents’ millieu. For, improbably, the bookstore on Atlantic was also a puppet theater, and the home of a small, informal moving company…”

  5. Thessaly La Force | July 12, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    Thanks for reminding us about that essay, Emily. It’s terrific.

  6. Coe Douglas | July 12, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    That was so heart wrenchingly beautiful. Thank you.

  7. Packabook | July 13, 2011 at 5:39 am

    What a wonderful story. I love it when people decide to fight ‘losing battles’ just because it is a good thing to do.
    Thank you for sharing it….
    Suzi

  8. Dan Snydacker, Executive Director, Pequot Library | July 13, 2011 at 8:51 am

    Michael. I hope you know about Pequot Library in Southport CT. We are kindred spirits. Our booksale (coming July 22 – 26) should be of great interest to you.

  9. Ellsworth Adams | July 13, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    How refreshing to have watched a man, passionate about his books and NOT caving to the bureaucratic B.S. being dold-out by cities big and small!

  10. Dan Fallon | July 13, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    Another casualty of free market capitalism. Secret Bookstores sounds like something out of Farenheit 451.I went past the former site of Coliseum Books on 42nd St. today and it’s now occupied by two (count’em!) banks.Fran Leibowitz said “In the Soviet Union captialism conqureed communism. In the U.S. it conquered democracy”.

  11. Robert Schumann | July 13, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    The Singing Winds Bookstore is in a ranch several miles off the road by Benson, AZ. Southwest authors fill the shelves and the owner lives in the other part of the house. A charming find in cowboy country.

  12. Edward Wilkes | July 14, 2011 at 2:09 am

    I am a writer/poet – one day I would love to shop in through your collection.

  13. Dale | July 15, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Fantastic, since the so called famous second-hand store in the Village is not really that anymore, in fact they’re more expensive than B&N…
    Good Luck

  14. Frank and Joe Hardy | July 15, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    His bookstore, in a residential space, is illegal? And his name is in the phone book? And this video is now online? How soon will it be till he’s busted and forced to move his books? Isn’t is obvious? Or will the city officials just overlook his setup?

    Also, why on earth are used bookstores illegal in NYC? Or why have they been pushed out?

  15. CTM | July 15, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    What’s a phonebook?

  16. @EvilPRGuy | July 15, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    What an intriguing and fantastic piece. I spent many years working in Manhattan book shops, and every now and again I would come across a “hidden” bookshop like this, run out of someone’s home. Over the years, I was invited into 4 shops like this, on book buying missions for my employer, and every time I was floored by what I saw. One pace in particular, in the West Village, the woman who ran the place had the most impressive collection of children’s books I’ve ever seen. I love knowing that these places actually exist, waiting to get stumbled upon.

    Well done!

  17. Confused | July 15, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    Neat. What exactly does it have to do with Etsy though?

  18. Larry W. Bryant | July 15, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    == Another Hero of BiblioRescue ==

    Seidenberg’s story cum commentary reminds me of my visit, back in the 1970s, to a man’s basement in Prince George’s County, Md. I think his home-grown enterprise was called “Doc’s Things.”

    His main product: USED BOOKS. I came away with the purchase of a couple of UFO books — which still reside in my vast collection of UFOana.

    Doc used to advertise his operation in the book-review pages of the Washington Post.

    I always wondered how he managed to avoid detection by zoning inspectors. Nowadays, what with police crackdown on teens’ lemonade stands, how in the world could anyone dare market a basementload of books to the public? — Larry W. Bryant (15 Jul 11)
    http://ufoview.posterous.com

  19. Nicholas Whitehead | July 17, 2011 at 2:38 am

    Heartwarming to see someone being true to himself – even if it means staring-down that American bogey-man, failure. (No-one loves a loser, sonny!)
    I wish the project all the success it can handle … without losing its integrity.

  20. Peter Kadzis | July 21, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    After a day following the developments of the debt ceiling negotiations and the latest Murdochian twists of Hackgate it was a spiritual lift to: 1) find out about this bookstore, and 2) to watch this elegant video (nice camera work).

  21. Shprudl | July 26, 2011 at 10:59 am

    Maybe worth mentioning here: Carnegie Hill Books, once in a storefront, now in an apartment: 206 East 90th St. Ann Brockschmidt. The subject matter is restricted–to architecture, housing, decoration, etc.–but the charm is not.

  22. CC | July 29, 2011 at 7:45 am

    The man will have a place in heaven. Unless he’s a secret serial killer or something. I’m sure he’s not. Old school as hell, love you.

  23. Coffeehunter | August 2, 2011 at 11:35 am

    Another wonderful and unusual secondhand bookstore is The Bibliobarn in the Catskills. It’s literally a two-storey barn off a dirt road in the middle of nowhere that’s packed with books, couches, old printing presses and a few cats. http://travel.nytimes.com/2005/11/25/travel/escapes/25trip.html

  24. javier contreras | August 13, 2011 at 3:17 am

    Awesome!! all good things for you Mr. Book seller : )

  25. Margaret Watson | October 4, 2011 at 8:47 am

    I love the idea ofd abook shop no one ( or almost so) knows about. A favourite plac eis Hay-on-Wye on the Welsh border which probably has more book shops than any other place on earth , including large cities. You always get the impression that the book seller has all the time worl dand tha tyou are the only customer who counts.

  26. Samia | October 14, 2011 at 6:09 am

    anyone know the full address of this place?

  27. Namrata | November 20, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Loved the idea and the passion. Great to see that there still are people who prefer the smell of books and paper to the sheen of virtual screens. Thank you for sharing this. Means a lot!

  28. keren | November 22, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    My hero…………

  29. marjorie carnevale | January 18, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    How great to know that someone is following his passion. Warms my heart to know you are there in your secret bookstore. would love to brouse the shelves someday.

  30. Western Fiction 2012 | March 22, 2012 at 6:33 am

    Very nice video about Brazenhead Books. I found very valuable information here and I’ll try to convey it to each and every person as soon as possible.

  31. Paavo Kovanen | August 16, 2012 at 1:15 am

    I am glad that there are still a lot of people really love reading books,nice video anyway,in Finland i seen most of the bookstore a lot of interesting books,most of their book are for children but some of there book are spiritual books.

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    I want to know which kinds of books you have sold. Please describe about it completely.

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49 Pingbacks

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