This month, I’m super excited to feature an indie bookstore that’s brand new to me — and new to a lot of people, really, since it’s only been around for a little over a year. Books Are Magic opened in May of 2017, but you wouldn’t know it from anything about their business. They have a beautiful space with a great selection of books across all genres, a good-looking website where you can order most any book your heart desires, an impressive calendar of events, several different subscription services, and distressingly cute merch… and all of this in their first year of operation. Basically, the people at Books Are Magic have their shit together.
The store is located in the extremely adorable neighborhood of Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, where Emily and I paid them a visit a few weeks ago. Not only did we have a romantic photoshoot in front of their outside mural, but we also spoke with Books Are Magic’s Colleen Callery (Marketing and Communications Coordinator) about the store, which has quickly become a staple of its Brooklyn community.
Books Are Magic was co-founded by author Emma Straub and designer Michael Fusco-Straub as a solution to a very serious problem: the closing of their neighborhood’s only independent bookstore, BookCourt. Knowing their community would suffer without a gathering place for book lovers, the couple decided they would open a store of their own. As Straub wrote on her website in a post announcing the store’s opening, “A neighborhood without an independent bookstore is a body without a heart. And so we’re building a new heart.”
Colleen Callery, the very helpful staffer we spoke with, expressed to us the excitement of being a part of Books Are Magic from the very beginning. Having worked at other larger and older indie bookstores in the past, Callery told us that one of the advantages of being a new business is the ability to push boundaries, and in some ways rewrite the rules of indie bookselling.
Whatever the folks at Books Are Magic are doing, it’s working. We ended up staying at the store for way longer than planned, circling around and around the spacious layout and discovering new things to delight in every time. The store finds a perfect balance between being overstuffed and sparse, and the books are displayed with the loving care of people who appreciate not only the content of the books, but the way they look and feel.
This probably has something to do with the fact that co-owner Michael Fusco-Straub is a graphic designer (you can view his work here). To me, the thought that a person can be both a designer AND the co-owner of an independent bookstore is extremely thrilling, but I digress. The store’s other co-owner is the aforementioned Emma Straub, author of Modern Lovers, The Vacationers, and more. Her books are spotlighted in the store, and personalized signed copies of any of her books are available upon request! There are lots of other signed books scattered throughout the store as well, which is an added bonus when browsing through the stacks.
As you probably know if you listen to our podcast (or have read any of our other Featured Bookstore posts), we here at BSG are obsessed with book subscription services. Books Are Magic offers not one, but FOUR different subscriptions: Fiction, Nonfiction, and the more recently added Picture Books and Young Adult subscriptions. You can see their previous picks here, including future BSG podcast pick Circe by Madeline Miller!
Books Are Magic has also been hugely successful as an event space. The store has something going on every single night of the week, and from what I can see on the website, almost all of their programming is free. Holla, fellow poor people! Here are a few of the events I’m particularly excited about this summer:
- Jennifer Egan: Manhattan Beach paperback w/ Amor Towles
Monday June 18 | 7:30PM - 8:30PM
- John Hodgman: Vacationland paperback
Saturday June 23 | 7:00PM - 8:00PM
- Storytime with Jill Twiss: A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo
Saturday July 14 | 1:00PM - 2:00PM
- R.O. Kwon: The Incendiaries
Tuesday August 07 | 7:30PM - 8:30PM
Like most indie bookstores, Books Are Magic has a fantastic display of staff picks — but their website also features an online staff picks section where you can read a little about each staff member and get even more recommendations. This is one of the only times I’ve seen a personalized staff picks section on a store’s website, and I really dig it. Incidentally, Books Are Magic also offer a 10% discount on 15 weekly bestsellers (but like, good bestsellers, not ghost-written celeb memoirs).
If you can’t tell yet, I kind of love this store. I can’t believe it’s taken me a year to finally check it out, but now that I have, I will definitely be a regular visitor and a regular customer (and a regular taker-of-silly-mural-pics, too). If you find yourself in Brooklyn, be sure to stop in and check it out — and please let me know if you want to go to any of these events with me, because I want more book friends! In the meantime, if you find yourself not in Brooklyn, we will be linking our upcoming podcast books to Books Are Magic’s website so that you can support this wonderful indie bookstore from afar.